Located in the southwestern corner of New York State on Lake Erie?s
southeastern shoreline at the city of Dunkirk, Dunkirk Harbor and
Point Gratiot are approximately 53 miles southwest of Buffalo. The
harbor is formed and protected by Point Gratiot peninsula and is a
popular boat launching and fishing site from spring through fall. The
NRG Energy Inc. company operates a power plant that discharges
warm water into the harbor, keeping it ice-free during winter. This
proves attractive for gulls, ducks, and other waterbirds. Point Gratiot
has a shoreline with beaches and bluffs, and also houses the power
plant. Much of this site is municipally owned, but significant acreages
are corporately owned and some land is private.
Dunkirk Harbor supports a significant abundance and diversity of
waterbirds from fall through spring. Maximums include 300 Redheads
(1986), 300 Greater Scaup (1986), 2,000 Common Mergansers (1986),
5,000 Red-breasted Mergansers (1985), 8,000 Bonaparte?s Gulls (1987),
and 15,000 Ring-billed Gulls (1986). Because Lake Erie completely
freezes over in most winters, the open waters of the harbor attract
many wintering waterfowl. The harbor has also hosted many rare and
unusual species. Point Gratiot is a well-known migratory stopover site
for a great diversity of landbird species. It is one of few locations in the
state with breeding Red-headed Woodpeckers. Other at-risk species
using the site include migrating Common Loons (daily maximum of
nine individuals in 2003) and Pied-billed Grebes (daily maximum of
15 individuals in 1999).
Mixed species flocks One-day count totals:2,162 ind. in 1988,3,109 in 1987,2,297 in 1986.
One-day count totals:9,014 ind. in 1988,15,058 in 1987,15,029 in 1986.
Gulls:One-day count totals:
9,014 ind. in 1988,
15,058 in 1987,
15,029 in 1986
Development of boat docks and infrastructure to support more
recreational boating activities could impact waterbirds that use the
harbor. Water quality in the harbor is regularly monitored. Waterbird
monitoring has been carried out by the Lake Erie Bird Club and should
continue. Point Gratiot is managed as a public use/recreation area.
Natural shrub undergrowth is periodically removed from portions of
the site to the detriment of migrant passerines. Better inventory and
monitoring of migrant bird use of Point Gratiot is needed.