Wednesday, January 30, 2008

New England, U.S. - January 2008 (8)

Quabbin Reservoir, Western Mass.

Less than 20km north-west of Warren (the idyllic rural village where we were based for much of the trip) lies the Quabbin Reservoir, a huge, man-made waterbody providing water supplies for much of Mass., including Boston. After an overnight storm left a good 30cm of snow on the ground, we drove to the nearest entrance of the reservoir the following day, by the old police atation at the Quabbin's South-west tip.

The temperature and wind chill dictated a brief visit, but it couldn't have been scripted any better. Within a minute or so of getting out of the car, we were looking at a ridiculously accomadating adult Bald Eagle perched in a tree overlooking the frozen water's edge... The species is something of a local speciality, and although the chances were slim at best, I was hoping to catch up with one. Having an adult at such close quarters was a treat indeed.

Even with serendipity guiding the trip, the next events were far from expected. Being aware that this year was a Grosbeak Year in New England (ie, a rare winter when this beautiful sub-arctic species ventures further south than usual and 'invades' the northern fringes of the U.S.), it was one of the few species I was very much hoping to come across; but the nomadic nature of Grosbeak flocks dictates that luck and timing are everything, and it was with heavy doses of both that I looked up and temporarily away from the Eagle to find a flock dropping into a fruiting tree immediately in front of us.

For the best part of 15 minutes they devoured the fruit, almost oblivious to my presence only a couple of metres away; and after spoiling us with perfect views, they were off, high over the reservoir to the north.

Pine Grosbeaks, Western Mass.