Sunday, June 10, 2012

Birding by Kayak: Lake Cochituate in Natick, MA

The view from a kayak on Lake Cochituate in Natick, MA.
Today I decided to take advantage of the brilliant blue skies and comfortable temperatures to explore Lake Cochituate in Natick, Massachusetts. The lake is actually a series of interconnected ponds which are popular with swimmers as well as recreational boaters and fisherman. This has been a good place to observe wildlife in the past as well, so I  rented a kayak from Charles River Canoe and Kayak, and brought along my camera and a small pair of binoculars to see what I could find.

Lake Cochituate is a popular destination for recreational boaters in the spring and summer.

I have been kayaking for about a dozen years now, and it’s one of my absolute favorite outdoor activities. Whether I’m fishing, bird watching, taking photos or just floating somewhere quietly, kayaking gives me a profound sense of peace and relaxation.  Being out on the water also brings back great memories of adventures I’ve had sailing in Boston Harbor, kayaking on the Pemigawasset River in New Hampshire or navigating my way through serpentine labyrinths of grass and mud on a thin black ribbon of water in a Cape Cod salt marsh. I first got into kayaking more than a decade ago when I became friendly with the owners of Onset Kayak which used to be located on the beach in the village of Onset, in Wareham, Massachusetts, just north and west of the Cape Cod canal. I had many paddling adventures with friends I made there, and having grown up spending a lot of time in small motor boats and row boats I loved the way that kayaking offered me a chance to be out on the water under my own power, in a vessel that was light enough to transport on top of my car. I also took quickly to kayaking because kayaks have a shallow enough draft  to allow for easy access to out of the way places and wetlands to explore and look for wildlife and are fairly stable platforms for fly fishing and photography.

A painted turtle relaxing on semi-submerged tree branch at Lake Cochituate, Natick MA.

During my time on the water I was lucky enough to see some great birds and other wildlife that relies on the lake for survival. In addition to several turtles, multiple species of dragonflies and damsel flies, bluegill and catfish, I also spotted Baltimore Orioles, an Eastern Kingbird, Common Grackles and this beautiful Green Heron shown in the photo below.

A Green Heron looks for prey at Lake Cochituate in Natick, MA. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2012.

Seeing this Green Heron and getting a photo of it is definitely one of the highlights of my spring so far. This is a bird I added to my life list earlier this year when I spotted one at the Mass Audubon Broadmoor wildlife sanctuary, also located in Natick, MA. That time, I only saw the bird as it took flight, but this time I was able to get a very clear look at it and see what a beautiful bird it really is. I was also impressed with the way in which its plumage, both in terms of color and pattern, functions so well as camouflage – in fact, if I hadn’t paddled closer to this semi-submerged tree to get a closer look at the Painted turtles, I probably would not have noticed the heron at all.

The Green Heron may not be a rare bird, but it can be quite secretive and difficult to find, so I feel lucky for having had the chance to see two of them so far this year. The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife has put together a great fact sheet on this fascinating bird, which you can check out by clicking here.
I'm excited to see more wading birds by kayak as the warmer months progress, and will of course be writing about whatever I discover, here on the New England Notes website. 

Thanks for reading.

Copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2012.

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed reading your notes. Have you been kayaking on Dudley Pond? Are mosquitoes an issues on the lake or the pond?