Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Hunt for the Charles River Mystery Bird

I was on the hunt for a large gray heron-like bird with a short bill at the Charles River after one of my readers, John, wrote in about it. Here's the backstory, taken directly from my post at the Boston Birds Google Group:

A reader of my blog emailed me back on June 9th about a mystery bird he and his wife had seen. He wrote: "Looking for info on a pair of birds my family saw while walking along a Waltham section of the river this weekend. They were about the size of blue herons without the long beaks. Their beaks actually looked more like parrot beaks. They were grayish in color except for their heads which were more of a yellow. There were two of them together (another non-blue heron trait) on a tree that had fallen over the river."

I did a little bit of research and the best guess I could make was a Sora or some other type of Rail, although they seem to be pretty rare in Massachusetts.

Then this morning I was jogging along the Charles River headed toward Watertown Square when I saw a large gray bird sitting on one of the rocks at the edge of the dam there, along with the Canada Geese. The body shape resembled a duck but it had a very short bill. I didn't notice any yellow on the head.

Further down the river, beyond Watertown Square and headed toward Brighton, I saw what appeared to be two more of these birds swimming in the water. I found some images of Soras swimming and they looked very much the same.
Any thoughts? Thanks in advance!

I got some very helpful feedback from the Boston Birders, but none of the suggestions (Black-crowned Night Heron, Coots, Double-crested Cormorants) match up. I'm starting to think that what I saw was some type of duck. As for John's bird, I'm still not sure.

Needless to say I was even more curious now that I had all this feedback on the subject. Luckily I had jogged to work so that meant I got to walk home and pass by all the same hot spots from the morning, but much slower. I did jog in place when I spotted the gray birds this morning, but it's not the same.

Well, the dam at Watertown Square proved to be such great birdwatching I had to call my boyfriend and ask him to meet me there with the camera. There were tons of wading birds taking advantage of the abundance of fish caught in that area. Most notably, a Black-crowned Night Heron. The first time I saw one was on an epic hike on the Big Island in Hawaii:
I knew today I could get much better pictures since the birds were so close to the look-out point.

So while I didn't get a positive ID on this mystery bird, I'm glad that it prompted me to get out and bird today and I'm even gladder that my boyfriend saved the day and met me down at the river with the camera!

I'll post the pictures over the next few days.

1 comment:

Valentin Gribkoff said...

It was a black-crowned night heron