Monday, September 19, 2005

Field Trip: National Arboretum

This morning I took a short walk in the National Arboretum to try to find some of the birds that were on the move last night. Since I was most successful on the hill near the entrance on my last trip to the arboretum, I started out on the hill this morning.

Near the pond at the bottom of the hill I ran into a mixed flock of thrushes, containing mostly robins, but also a veery and a Swainson's thrush. A black-and-white warbler and a scarlet tanager were also in the mix. One rose-breasted grosbeak still had a bright red and white breast, but its head had turned to the drab fall colors. Unfortunately that party ended when a sharp-shinned hawk flew in and landed on a prominent perch. It did not stay there long, but no more songbirds were to be seen in that area.

On the way up the hill I came across another area of activity. When I pished a little, Carolina and house wrens appeared and started scolding. These were followed by a magnolia warbler and red-eyed vireo.

At the top I stood and waited for a bit while I watched some eastern wood-pewees hunt from their perches. Eventually some warblers started to appear. A northern parula and magnolia warbler showed themselves quickly; a few blackpoll warblers required an extra look for proper identification. When I pished to draw out more birds, another birder appeared.

After the activity at the top appeared to have ended, I started down the southern slope of the hill. Almost immediately I ran into another birdy patch. Nashville and chestnut-sided warblers were there along with more blackpolls. One warbler was similar in most respects to the blackpolls, but had stronger streaking on its breast and a more apparent eye-ring; this leads me to the conclusion that it was a pine warbler.

The prize of the day was a Philadelphia vireo. It was among the jumble of warblers just below the top of the hill. I decided that it was a vireo from the shape of its bill, which was too heavy and curved for a warbler. It had a gray cap and white supercilium like the red-eyed vireo, but unlike the red-eyed vireo, its eye-line was more gray than black and a yellow wash ran all the way from its neck down across its belly. I usually see about one of these per year, and today was the day for it.

Fern Valley and both ponds were fairly quiet. One belted kingfisher flew back and forth across Heart Pond. In the same pond there was also a rather large koi whose dorsal fin was sticking out of the water. It appeared to be in water too shallow for its size.

One non-bird note: I saw several Monarch butterflies cruising southwest well above the tree line. I assume these were migrants relying on winds and updraft on their way south.


Canada Goose
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Eastern Phoebe
Carolina Wren
House Wren
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher
Swainson's Thrush
American Robin
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
American Crow
European Starling
House Sparrow
Philadelphia Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
American Goldfinch
Nashville Warbler
Northern Parula
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Pine Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Scarlet Tanager
Eastern Towhee
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak