Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Ducks, Grebes, and Spring Along the Potomac

Late this afternoon I took a walk around Hains Point and the Tidal Basin to look for any water birds that might be passing through. Unfortunately the strong northwest winds continue to stall northbound migrants, but there were still some good birds around.

The Washington Channel had a pied-billed grebe and a few American coots in addition to the normal masses of ring-billed gulls and mallards. Gull numbers have been way down in the last few weeks. A couple of odd-looking mallards have started hanging around the channel. (I will post a few pictures of them later.) One is extremely dark and the other is very light; they seem to be a pair.

On the river side, there continue to be large flocks of lesser scaup, though not quite as many as a couple weeks ago. Near the bridges I spotted a couple of horned grebes among the lesser scaup, my first of the year for DC. A bad picture of the two grebes (along with some lesser scaup) is at right.

Some ducks continue to use the Tidal Basin, at least at times when the paddle boats are docked. A small flock of waterbirds near the western end of the basin included hooded mergansers, lesser scaup, and rakish red-breasted mergansers.

At the same time as migrants are passing through and departing, some newly-arrived birds are settling in and preparing to breed. Ospreys have returned, and they are busy repairing their usual nest at the western end of the 14th Street railroad bridge.

The trees along the Tidal Basin and the Potomac waterfront are breaking into blossoms. The famous cherry trees, like the one pictured at right, are still not quite in bloom. But the walkways along the river are now clothed with vibrant greens, reds, whites, and other colors. The photograph below is looking north along the Potomac River, with a cherry tree in the foreground, and weeping willows in the background.


Pied-billed Grebe
Horned Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
Canada Goose
Lesser Scaup
Hooded Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Coot
Ring-billed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
American Herring Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Downy Woodpecker
Carolina Wren
American Robin
Carolina Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
American Crow
Fish Crow
European Starling
House Sparrow
House Finch
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle