Saturday, August 19, 2006

Kestrels and Butterflies

This morning I did a bird walk at the National Arboretum as it had been a few weeks since my last walk there. Though the forecast was for a warm and sunny day, the sky was overcast and the temperature was mild. It was a relief, but at times the birds were hard to see as a result.

Blue grosbeaks are relatively uncommon in DC because of habitat considerations. But I have already seen several around the city this year, including twice at the Arboretum. The blue grosbeaks I saw this morning appeared to be hatch-year birds, because their breasts were a really rich cinnamon, as one might expect from fresh plumage. These two birds were in a pine behind the Capitol columns.

The busiest area of activity this morning was the stretch before and after the river trail gate closest to the golf course. The hemlocks held a northern parula that was still singing; admittedly the song was a weak one, but it was clearly a parula. Just past the gate, there was a flurry of flycatchers. Three species were represented here: acadian flycatcher, eastern phoebe, and eastern wood-pewee. (Later I saw a very yellow juvenile eastern phoebe in the hemlocks.)

In the same area I finally got a look at one of the bald cardinals that I have been reading about lately. Its head was almost completely bare except for a tuft of red feathers on the forehead. It is pretty funny to see.

An American kestrel flew in and perched on a snag right outside the gate. The heavy streaking on its breast indicated that it was probably a female. Unfortunately the light and angle made it difficult to see the normally bright orange of the back and tail. Kestrels are easy to tell in flight because they have the standard falcon shape but are smaller and more delicate. Like blue grosbeaks, kestrels are fairly unusual to see in the District.

There were many butterflies around the gardens this morning. Most seemed to be either eastern tiger swallowtails or monarchs. If other species were around, I must have missed them. A few photographs are presented below (click to enlarge). I find that monarchs tend to feed with their wings closed so that spread wing pictures are hard to capture, or at least harder than with the swallowtails. The last photograph is a wasp that joined me on the bench while I was waiting for the X6 bus.


Double-crested Cormorant
Canada Goose
American Kestrel
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Acadian Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Kingbird
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher
Eastern Bluebird
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
European Starling
House Sparrow
American Goldfinch
Northern Parula
Chipping Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Blue Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird


Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Cabbage White