Yet another warm weekend in the Washington D.C. area (after a November which was nearly the warmest on record for many cities), so I decided to take some strolls while it lasted.
Saturday morning saw me at Huntley Meadow Park, a small wetland habitat near the city of Alexandria. With a pond in its center, this place attracts many wintering waterfowls. Sure enough, I saw many American Wigeons, Green-winged Teals, Northern Pintails and the funny-looking Northern Shovelers (with their oversized, spatula-shaped bills), not to mention the ubiquitous Mallards and Canada Geese.
I also saw a Belted Kingfisher, perches high on a tree branch. But the most striking birds were the Hooded Mergansers, in their magnificent breeding plumage.
Later in the afternoon I decided to pay a brief visit to Riverbend Park, a county park along the Potomac, adjacent to Great Falls National Park. I did not see much here, except some Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice and White-breasted Nuthatches busily feeding on a bird-feeder.
Sunday morning I decided to venture into our nation’s capital; my destination: the Butterfly Pavilion at the National Museum of Natural History. Actually the real reason was that I acquired a macro lens recently and wanted to try it out with some close-ups of butterflies. As it turned out, I was rather disappointed with the “Pavilion”: it is tiny and gets very crowded in a hurry. This makes me rather miss the Cockrell Butterfly Center at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, which is truly a state-of-the-art facility. Normally I only show pictures I take in the wild on this blog, but in order to complete my story, I post just one, of a Blue Morpho butterfly here.
I then took a walk around the Tidal Basin. There were a lot of birds there, the overwhelming majority are Mallard Ducks, Canada Geese and Ring-billed Gulls, only a couple of Pied-billed Grebes and a Double-crested Cormorant added a little to the diversity. Needless to say, I was a bit disappointed — to be sure, I am glad to see ducks and geese and seagulls too, but after a while you need some novelty. But just after I rounded the Vietnam Memorial, I saw a Red-tailed Hawk perched on a tree. This is just another proof (as if I needed any!) that you just have to get out there; you never know what you will get.
As I walked toward my car, to my utter astonishment, I saw two Japanese cherry trees in bloom! But Cherry Blossom is still almost 4 months away! This is very unusual to say the least. No doubt the recent warm weather had a hand in this. Is this a sign of the effects of global warming? Of course, weather is not equivalent to “climate”, it is tempting but probably not scientifically correct to infer too much from this. Nevertheless, I was genuinely surprised by this observation.
Last stop: Dyke Marsh. This is a place that Louis Halle raved about in his book, Spring in Washington; unfortunately, I never had much luck in this place — to be sure, I did observe many birds here, but they were all birds I had seen in other places before (in other words, no “new birds” for me here). This time, although I saw Chickadees, Great Blue Herons, and even a Bald Eagle in the distance, still there was no “new bird” … that is, until just before I left. I saw a small yellow-green bird flitting in the understory. The light was dark in the tangled bushes and the bird was active. But patience eventually paid off: I followed it for a little while, and finally, it flashed a yellow patch on top of its head. There! That is my new bird! A Golden-crowned Kinglet.