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Ponkapoag 3/16/16

I headed out just before noon on this relatively mild almost-spring day. Kayak mounted on the car, I drove to Ponkapoag and unloaded at the boat launch parking. I carried the kayak down to the pond, set it down at the waters edge and lifted my binoculars for a cursory scan. A scan revealed nothing as usual, but I didn't let this hamper my dreams of countless possibilities. For some reason, ducks on the water are almost impossible to see from any angle on land here, hence the kayak. For the first time I decided to follow the edge of the pond to the right instead of kayaking to the left. Common Grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds formed a small loose flock in a swampy area and a flock of Black-capped Chickadees and Golden-crowned Kinglets cavorted in the edge of the cedar bog.  I heard an odd gurgling, growling noise and looked straight ahead to see two small heads pop out of the water. My first thought was "River Otters!" but then I looked in my binoculars and was confused. I couldn't discern any features and they started to look more like the heads of large fish. But then one turned towards me and it couldn't have been more clear that it was an otter. One of them had something dangling out of it's mouth, which upon reviewing my photos later was definitely a crayfish.  The otters made their strange grumbling noises and continued to poke their heads in and out of the water, always resurfacing in a slightly different spot until they eventually went down and did not come back up.

Continuing on, I neared the cove by the cabins and noticed a large flock of ducks near a pair of Great Black-backed Gulls. In my experience here so far, I'd never seen a large flock of anything on the water other than Canada Geese. As I suspected, they were Ring-necked Ducks and after several careful counts I figured there were 33 of them. One of the birds stood out with very white sides and zooming into some photos I was able to confirm it as a Greater Scaup.  Kayaking now towards the much larger cedar bog, the Ring-necks scattered and there wasn't anything I could do about it. They were extremely skittish. A Common Raven flew by the far side of the pond and called several times. A Red-shouldered Hawk rose up from the small bog, mobbed by some crows. Several Bufflehead dove in an area towards the center of the pond, and three female Common Mergansers sat on a rock near the edge and became alert as I passed by at a respectful distance.  Nearing the bog I came upon the north corner of the pond and it's thicket-covered edge. Several chickadees and titmice called, so I stopped and pished a little to draw out the little guys. An American Tree Sparrow showed itself briefly at the back of the thicket and a kinglet popped into view closer to me. I expected a Golden-crowned but was surprised when I saw the clean and unmarked face of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. I spent some time with the bird, making sure to acquire a few useable photos for my eBird list.

As I began to traverse the edge of the bog I flushed two pairs of geese from the edge, both pairs having one obviously larger (male) and one smaller bird (female). Another flock of chickadees and Golden-crowned Kinglets greeted me. Some pishing drew in a Yellow-rumped Warbler from the cedars and he came in close to investigate. The bog held no more surprises for me and I turned back towards the boat launch. A decent-sized flock of geese loafing by the dam were the last birds of note I saw from the water.

I carried the boat back up to the car, strapped it on top, and drove to the golf course parking lot to take a short walk. I started on my favorite route up to the wood pile maintenance area at the north edge of the course. I figured I could add a few birds onto my list of 36 species and hopefully hit 40. It's often surprising after a couple hours of birding to take note of the common species you have missed. My first new bird was a Northern Flicker calling from up ahead. I soon found some House Finches, the pair of Fox Sparrows which have been frequenting the exact same spot for at least a week now, and a flock of White-throated Sparrows. The Carolina Wren began singing, and surprisingly a pair of Downy Woodpeckers were my last new birds for the day.

Please check out my eBird list for the day, I've added audio, photographs and more:

I'll leave you with a Woodcock photo I took on the golf course several nights back. It was a juggle keeping my headlamp aimed at the bird while taking a photograph at the same time. I would have liked to get a lower angle, but with my frustrating setup I won't complain. 

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