Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Late Autumn, In a Park and Along a Reservoir

Although the late Autumn landscape can look a bit bleak - caught between the golden-hued foliage and crisp, clear days of October and the bright, snowy winter mornings  yet to come - this is actually a fantastic time to get outside and explore. While it is true that fewer species of birds are around at this time of year, for birders the lack of leaves and thick vegetation provide an opportunity to get a closer look at the avian life which is around. I was reminded of this during two recent outings, the first was in Hartford, Connecticut, where I walked part of the way around a large reservoir over the Thanksgiving weekend. The weather was nice, warm even, for November, and the  placid water in front of me proved irresistible to a large number of gulls, Canada geese and, to my delight, a raft of Ruddy Ducks, which came quite close to shore as they disappeared beneath the water and popped up again, searching for food.

A reservoir in Hartford, Connecticut offers spectacular views and the opportunity to see Ruddy Ducks, Canada geese and other water-loving birds. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2012.
During my walk at the reservoir I was also happy to spot several Juncos hopping around near some brush. According to the various guides I have consulted these vivacious little black and white members of the Sparrow family are present in New England year-round, but I've only seen them in the winter. The humble Junco holds a special place in my heart as it was one of the first birds I learned to recognize when I started my amateur birding career.

A little closer to home, this past weekend I stopped in at a favorite spot in Newton, Massachusetts, where the limited vegetation was immensely helpful in spotting a Red-bellied Woodpecker as well as a group of Green-winged Teal which have been hanging around this area for at least a week and a half now. Mixed in with the Green-winged Teal was a solitary male Eurasian teal. I have to admit some confusion here as to whether or not these are currently classified as two distinct species - ebird would not allow me to put in this bird as a Eurasian or Common teal, but I have noticed in the daily rarity report email that other people have been able to record their sightings (of what I believe is actually the same individual bird) as a Eurasian Teal. In any case, both species/variations are quite beautiful, and I was excited to see them.

Although parks and woodlands can look bleak in late Autumn it's worth remembering that wildlife, including many species of birds, are still present in the landscape. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2012.

In the past I haven't usually gone out of my way to chase reports of rare birds that I've read about online, but as I look at my year list, which currently numbers 88, I can't help but feel a little bit like chasing after something unusual in the closing days of the year. After all, with the trees bare and wintering ducks and owls returning, this is probably the perfect time for me to head outside and try to see something unusual.

Copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2012.

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