With unusually warm weather in New England this late fall and early winter, some of my go to places for ducks have not been as productive as usual. I'm guessing this has to do with an abundance of open water this year, while over the last few years most lakes and ponds have been frozen in December, thus helping to concentrate the birds in the few places that are not iced over. In any event, yesterday the temperature was hovering around an unseasonably balmy 60 degrees, so I headed to one place where I've always had pretty good luck, regardless of the weather: Chestnut Hill Reservoir in Boston, MA.
Although I don't go birding there perhaps as often as I should, I do find that whenever I make the time to walk around the reservoir I'm usually rewarded with lots of ducks and this time was no exception. As soon as I approached the parking area I could see several groups of different size ducks floating on the water, so I had a good sense that I would put together a reasonably diverse list. For whatever reason the reservoir was extremely low, exposing lots of rock formations which I had never seen before. Some of the birds took advantage of these newly exposed perches, including a solitary Great Blue Heron standing tall among a group of Canada Geese out toward the middle of the water.
While there were probably in excess of 150 Canada Geese in the area, the most abundant duck of the day were the Ruddy Ducks - I counted approximately 100 of these small diving ducks and I'm guessing there were likely more. They were clumped up in several rafts around the edge of the reservoir, sometimes mixing in with the Mallards and the occasional Hooded Merganser. During my walk I also ran into two other birders who were kind enough to alert me to the presence of an (American) Green-winged Teal and a male Northern Pintail. The teal was hanging out with a few Mallards in a little corner, and it was neat to see these two species side by side and observe the noticeable size difference between the two up close. The Northern Pintail was especially exciting to see - it was very close to the shore (maybe 15 feet away from me) and in gorgeous, bright plumage. While I've seen pintails before on Plum Island, I had never gotten this close to one.
All in all I spent an hour walking around the Chestnut Hill Reservoir, enjoying the strange weather and seeing some beautiful birds. Not a bad way to spend a December afternoon.
My complete list for this outing:
Green-winged Teal (American)
Great Blue Heron
Copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2014.