Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Field Trip: Roosevelt Island

Theodore Roosevelt Island is a 91-acre park near the Virginia shore of the Potomac River. A memorial to the former president sits at the northwest corner of the island; the rest of it consists of woods and marsh, with several trails running its length. In September, this small national park avoided a sale to developers engineered by Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Cal.) only after substantial public outcry at the local level. I suppose he thought he could get away with this because many do not know of the park's existence, but in fact many people do use the island - joggers, students from Georgetown, families out for a stroll, and birdwatchers.

This morning I made myself part of the last category on my walk around the island. It was another beautiful morning to be out walking; though I could see my breath at first, it really was not cold. There were several lively patches of bird activity in the usual spots near the southern bathroom building, around the bridge over the marsh, and then in the wooded swamp along the boardwalk.

Three or four male black-throated blue warblers gave great views at close range. I saw at least two in the first patch; one of these was foraging on the ground. The black-throated blue is one of my favorite warblers, and probably one of my favorite birds. A golden-crowned kinglet and a flock of yellow-rumped warblers (common throughout the island today) were in the same area.

A little further on, at the bridge, I found a singing Lincoln's sparrow. Singing seems a bit unusual at this time of year, but I have heard other migrants sing during the fall. The song initially confused me into thinking I was hearing a house finch, though it did not sound quite right; it was only after hearing the song a few times that I finally saw the singer. Another possible Lincoln's was a little further along the boardwalk, appearing and disappearing among the marsh grasses. In this area it became difficult to track the sparrow individuals because of a large number of red-winged blackbirds - now in winter plumage - and another flock of yellow-rumps.

Moving along, I found a black-throated green warbler and two or three blue-headed vireos in the wooded swamp, as well as more yellow-rumps. An eastern phoebe pursued insects near the northern end of the boardwalk. Finally a ruby-crowned kinglet near the Roosevelt memorial rounded out the morning.


Turkey Vulture
Ring-billed Gull
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
Tree Swallow
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Carolina Wren
House Wren
American Robin
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Blue Jay
American Crow
European Starling
House Sparrow
Blue-headed Vireo
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle