Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Lesson in Closer Observation

Yesterday I managed to get outside for a little while and do some birding - something I haven't had much time to do lately. The weather was beautiful, a clear, sunny autumn day with just enough chill in the air to remind me that winter is around the corner. Because I was a little short on time I decided to check out a spot in Newton where I have seen close to 70 different species of birds over the last few years - the park in and around Newton City Hall and the loop around Bullough's Pond. The latter has been an especially good spot in the fall and winter for Common and Hooded Mergansers and in the warmer months I routinely see Great Blue Herons, Cormorant and Belted Kingfishers along the water's edge.

I decided to take a close look around the wetlands and stream by the city hall park and was rewarded almost immediately with a sighting of a large flock of dabbling ducks feeding in the middle section of the stream. At first glance I thought they might be Mallards, but I quickly realized they were not and was very excited to realize I was looking at a group of a dozen Green-winged Teal. A few years ago I observed a Eurasian Teal in the same spot (and others noted its presence as well) but this was, as far as I can recall, my first sighting of regular Green-Winged Teal in this location. The birds seemed relatively calm as they made their way across the surface of the water, pausing to tip the front half of their bodies forward as they foraged.

I later encountered a small group of Mallards with another male teal mixed in - It's possible this bird was a Eurasian Teal, since someone reported seeing one in the same location on the e-bird rarity alert list for yesterday. Yet another reminder of the importance of not rushing or jumping to conclusions, and as always, to carefully study the field marks of individual birds,

As I was getting ready to leave I spotted an odd airborne animal moving in rapid , erratic circles over the water. As I peered through my binoculars I was quite surprised to realize I was looking at a bat - this was definitely my first day-time sighting of these winged mammals, and I was surprised to learn after doing a little research that it is in fact not unheard for these normally nocturnal creatures to make an appearance in the daylight. This particular bat clearly appeared to be feeding on flying insects. I watched it for a while and even got a fairly good look at it through the binoculars.

Once again I was reminded of the importance of close observation and of patience - the two most important things we can bring into the field when trying to learn from nature.

Thanks for reading.

Copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2012.