My Witt's End

The Thrill of the Falls

… And We Lived to Tell the Tale


Oscar Wilde said, “Niagara Falls is the bride’s second disappointment of marriage.” Well, to my knowledge, he was not a birder, nor was his wife, so her disappointment is understandable—for several reasons. Before this gets too complicated I think I’ll move on to our latest adventure.

Susan and I, along with birding buddies Karin and Pat, are freshly back from a trip to the wilds of Niagara Falls, Canada. The falls is viewed as the place to go for sighting gulls in winter. Any wife who is a birder, as is mine, and picks up three life birds as Susan did, would hardly consider a trip to Niagara Falls a disappointment.

Our trip was weeks in the planning and seemed like a good idea at the time. However, when we were trying to keep warm in 37-degrees, fog and rain so hard we couldn’t keep the binoculars clean, no one would admit they were first to suggest this holiday.

Going all the way to Canada did seem a bit peculiar. Currently, here in northeast Ohio, we have some great birds visiting from the Arctic. Adventure, however, can be like a drug, the desire for which increases with the habit.

I was particularly excited about going. A Razorbill, a bird of the high Atlantic regions, had been seen off and on for a couple weeks. It would be a lifer for me; one I missed this past spring while working on Project Puffin in Maine.

One requirement for these kinds of adventures, along with checking the weather, is to constantly check updates on the rare bird alerts. I’m beginning to think neither is a good idea after all. First, the weather promised to be about as miserable as it can be. Second, the day before we left, the Razorbill was seen—floating belly up in the Niagara River. These were not exactly good omens.

I’ve been at the birding game long enough to know, however, like the line from that great Rolling Stones tune says, you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need. And, to keep the musical metaphor rocking and rolling, you get by with a little help from your friends. We ran into a mixed flock of birders from New York and Canada. They helped us spot some rare gulls—Iceland and Franklin’s to name two. They also gave us great directions to find the Little Gull.

And, while we might not have logged the species we were hoping for, in the end, after we dried out and stuffed ourselves full of food and Guinness in a great Irish pub, we got what we needed—a great time.

There was one last thrill to be had. Coming back into America from that foreign country to the north, with all the current border security these days, Customs Agents are definitely no-nonsense kind of people. So, when the serious-faced agent, wearing a gun belt with more tools hanging from it than a house carpenter asked if we had anything to declare, I was more than relieved he did not hear the quip from one excited person in our car, “Just a Black-legged Kittiwake.”


Leave a comment:


Purchase My Books At

You can purchase all versions of Lost in the Tallgrass and A Clouded Life at

Join the email list!

My Witt's End

Non-bird Tweets

Look for me at Goodreads

Lost in the Tallgrass