|A Red-tailed Hawk perches on a limb near the Chestnut Hill Reservoir, watching a nearby flock of Mourning Doves. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.|
One of the nice things about living in Newton is that within an hour's drive I can hit not only many different Mass Audubon Sanctuaries, State Parks and conservation areas, but an impressive range of habitats too, from forest to grassland to the coast. This morning I decided to start off at Newton City Hall - it's one of the places I go birding frequently and is usually a pretty productive spot. I also had a hunch that the American Green-winged Teal might still be around, and this is also a place where I routinely see Red-tailed hawks, two species I wanted to add to the list early. I found the teal with relative ease, and the Red-Tailed Hawk was also quite cooperative, posing perfectly still atop the city hall. There was also a boisterous flock of wintering American Robins and another of European Starlings. The robins were beautiful against the bright winter landscape - flashing warm orange as they moved noisily from one tree to the next.
I decided to head over to the Chestnut Hill Reservoir next. This has proven a great place in the past for large numbers of Hooded and Common Merganser, as well as relatively high counts of Ruddy Duck (20-25 birds). This was also my first attempt at chasing a rarity - for the past couple of weeks I've been seeing reports of Redhead ducks showing up on both Hammond Pond and Chestnut Hill Reservoir. The latest report put the group of 3 females and 2 males at the reservoir. Adding a Redhead to the list was something I really wanted to do, both for the year and for my life list. I could see from the car as I approached that the water was almost entirely free of ice, and there were lots of Canada Geese and ducks visible. The Common Mergansers were a little far out, but very nice to watch as they dove for fish, surrounded by larger group of Hooded Mergansers, also making frequent dives.
In addition to the mergansers, Canada Geese, Mallards, Ruddy Ducks and Ring-billed gulls, I also saw two birds which seemed a bit out of place. I studied them through my binoculars for a few minutes and it occurred to me that in terms of their overall shape and the shape of the bill, they reminded me very strongly of Pied-billed Grebes. After a few more minutes of study and consultation with my Sibley's guide confirmed that I was in fact looking at two of these birds, wearing their dull brown winter plumage. I even managed to get a photo or two - not my best work, but you can see the overall shape and coloring.
|A Pied-billed Grebe rests on the surface of Chestnut Hill Reservoir in Brighton, Massachusetts. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.|
I continued to follow the path around the reservoir, scanning the water for any sign of the Redheads. As I made my way to the other side there were fewer and fewer ducks to be seen, but I continued on anyway and was very excited to come around a corner and see 5 Redheads sitting together in a little cove. The birds were very beautiful - my photos defintiely do not do them justice.
|This small group of Redhead Ducks is an unusual sight in Massachusetts. These birds were seen feeding on the Chestnut Hill Reservoir. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2012.|
After grabbing a quick lunch I headed over to check out a new place, Cold Spring Park in Newton. I had heard it could be a good spot, but had never made it over before. I added one new species for the day while I was there (2 really bright red Northern Cardinals) and explored the area a bit. Aside from the fact that there is a dog park there (something not usually conducive to wildlife observation) it did look like it could be promising. There was a nice mix of wetlands, streams, small ponds, forest and brush, as well as a large open area with baseball fields, so I'm guessing that a large number of species make use of the park throughout the year and especially in the warmer months.
|Two Mallards take advantage of an open stream at Cold Spring Park in Newton, Massachusetts. Image Copyright Daniel E Levenson 2013.|
Copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.