Sunday, March 25, 2007

Morning at Hughes Hollow

Today DC Audubon made its annual spring trip to Hughes Hollow in Maryland. The choice of dates turned out of be fortuitous, as the day was absolutely gorgeous. We finally got a break from the yo-yo temperatures mixed with rainy days. The early dense fog lifted to reveal blue skies and a mild morning.

Hughes Hollow is part of the McKee-Beshers WMA, a mixed-use conservation area managed for hunters, hikers, and birders. The portion we covered today comprises only about one-sixth of the WMA; in the distance we could hear dog trials in another part of the WMA and shots at a nearby gun club. Because of the hunting pressure, waterfowl in the impoundments tend to be very jumpy. Nevertheless, the refuge offers diverse habitats that attract many species of birds.

This field trip is timed to coincide with the return of tree swallows to the area, and sure enough, swarms of tree swallows were flying over the impoundments when we arrived. A large raft of ring-necked ducks was in the left impoundment. The ring-necked ducks were joined by a pied-billed grebe and a few chicken-like American coots. Songbirds were also plentiful. Flocks of red-winged blackbirds croaked their song, while eastern bluebirds and yellow-rumped warblers foraged in the trees along the sides of the dike. Towards the end of the dike, a few of us saw a red-headed woodpecker, the first of several. I think that in total we saw four, so most attendees got a good look at this striking species by the end of the day.

After leaving the impoundments, the main trail winds its way through fields, hedgerows, and wooded swamps. These areas are full of the characteristic wetland species. We got many good looks at all seven woodpeckers, noisily displaying red-shouldered hawks, eastern phoebes, and swamp sparrows. Some people saw rusty blackbirds, which I missed. Waterbirds, as I noted, were a little harder to see; most sightings of wood ducks, black ducks, hooded mergansers, and northern pintail were brief, at a distance, or partially obscured by brush and trees. I and a few others had great looks at green-winged and blue-winged teal when we turned down a side path.

A later (unofficial) stop at Seneca Lock turned up a singing pine warbler (not seen), a bufflehead, and a few horned grebes, which are my first for the year. (Somehow I kept missing them despite ample opportunities.) Seneca also yielded a swarm of box elder bugs.


Pied-billed Grebe
Horned Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Green-winged Teal
American Black Duck
Northern Pintail
Blue-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
Red-breasted Merganser
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
American Coot
Mourning Dove
Belted Kingfisher
Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
Tree Swallow
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Northern Mockingbird
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Blue Jay
American Crow
Fish Crow
European Starling
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Pine Warbler
Eastern Towhee
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird

* These are my sightings only. The full trip list will be posted on the DC Audubon website.