Today I took the bus up to the National Arboretum for a morning of birding. The air was crisp, but apparently did not get as cold as predicted in the forecasts, as I saw no signs of frost on the grass.
With the end of daylight savings time early this morning, we have shifted out of our summer routines. The natural world also is shifting into winter. For the last week we have had below-average temperatures, after a summer that persisted well into October. Here in Washington we are nearing the peak week for fall foliage. Many trees are already in full colors, while others have not quite turned. I saw some deep red sumac-like trees and several other species that had turned a golden yellow.
The local birdlife is also shifting out of the migration phase and the winter residents have become more abundant. White-throated sparrows and dark-eyed juncos are to be found everywhere. Other sparrows moving through included a couple white-crowned sparrows. At several points I saw sparrows that might have been savannah sparrows, but I never got a good enough look at them to be certain. We have had an influx of hermit thrushes; a few small flocks of these foraged on the hill near the R St. entrance. Both kinglets were in good numbers also, though not mixed together.
The real prize among the winter birds was a pair of red-breasted nuthatches in the pines near the Asian garden. This species, while somewhat more common up north, and even in Maryland, can be hard to find in Washington, D.C. The red-breasted nuthatches that I saw today were foraging by hanging upside down on pine cones and sticking their bills inside, presumably looking for seeds rather than insects. (See here for a DC Birding-endorsed ode to nuthatches.)
There were still a few lingering summer birds. One common yellowthroat was calling from the bushes near Heart Pond. Some yellowthroats will frequently linger in the area throughout the winter. An eastern phoebe hunted down by the river. About a dozen chimney swifts were in the air over the holly and magnolia collection. This is the latest I have seen chimney swifts here, but it would not surprise me if some stayed a little longer as temperatures this week are expected to stay relatively warm.
SPECIES SEEN: 37