Friday, April 11, 2014

Pied-Billed Grebe at Hopkinton State Park

This morning started out grey and cloudy, but I still hoped to get outside.  I opted for a stop at Hopkinton State Park.  Now, sometimes HSP is kind of quiet and boring, with nothing to show for it but Canada Geese.  Not so today!!

I was the only person there initially, and as I drove into the boathouse parking lot, I thought I spied the silhouette of a Pied-Billed Grebe pretty near the shore.  I parked on the opposite side so as not to scare it, quietly got out of the car and made my approach.  I thought I saw the shape of its head in the branches right at the shore and tried to move in closer.  Once there, I couldn't see a thing.  Nothing at all but branches.  Had my eyes played tricks on me?  I scanned the water.  It is a diving bird, so I figured it could have moved somewhere else.  I did eventually see it closer to the boathouse and approached it again.  It is kind of an ugly bird, but interesting in its ugliness.  It has a small body, short wings, practically no tail, a long neck and a blunt triangular bill.  It looks a bit squashed.  Because it's breeding season, the bill has a black ring around it.  I just learned that this bird builds a floating nest in shallow water.  Pretty cool!

I remember the first time I saw a Pied-Billed Grebe at Mass Audubon's Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary on April 1, 2012.  Prior to that, I didn't even have a clue that it existed.   Another birder there had asked me if I had seen anything interesting, and I explained to her that I had seen a bird that swam like a loon but didn't look like a loon, and that I didn't have any idea what it was.  She suggested Pied-Billed Grebe, and when I looked it up later, it was a match!

While I was standing out by the dock, I heard a soft twittering call and found a lone Tree Swallow perched on a post rising above the water.  Last year, both Tree Swallows and Barn Swallows nested on the boathouse.

I don't like to bother birds too long, so I decided to walk on the trail a bit.  I no sooner turned in the direction of the trail that I noticed an unusual dark shape in the trees.  Upon closer inspection with my binoculars, I discovered a male Wood Duck perched there!  Have I mentioned lately that I love Wood Ducks?

Wood Duck

Hopkinton State Park, although still dark and grey, was quite a birding bonanza!  I was getting ready to leave when the sun's rays started breaking through the clouds, making a very beautiful scene.  I rushed back to the boathouse to try to catch the view over the water.  You can scarcely see the rays shining through the clouds on the left and right of the photo.  It just doesn't look as pretty as it did in person.

Focus on sky

Focus on water

I couldn't decide whether the water or the sky as the focal point was prettier, so I included both.  I feel pretty lucky to live so close to such a wonderful state park!

At lunchtime I walked at Beals Preserve in Southboro.  I was shocked to find it was 69 degrees.  The sun was weak and intermittent, but I hoped for a butterfly sighting anyway!  I did see a Mourning Cloak towards the end of my walk on Lone Wolf Trail.

Mourning Cloak

 Downy Woodpecker

Black-Capped Chickadee

Also seen at Beals:

American Goldfinch
Canada goose (in channel)
Common Merganser (in channel)
Eastern Phoebe
Mourning Dove
Northern Flicker
Song Sparrow
White-Breasted Nuthatch

No comments:

Post a Comment