Sunday, March 05, 2006

Pine Warbler, Not In A Pine

Despite the chilly March winds, spring was breaking out all over Washington. When I first arrived at the National Arboretum this morning, an exuberant house finch was singing nonstop. I relocated the red-headed woodpecker that has been lingering in the woods behind the Capitol columns fairly quickly. This time, with much better lighting, I could see the brilliant red of the woodpecker's head flashing in the sunlight. In the same general area, I also saw some field sparrows.

Unfortunately, the gate to the river path was locked so I was not able to check the Anacostia for waterfowl. However, my walk through the Asian Gardens was not without its rewards; I found that red-breasted nuthatches are still residing in the conifers there, and I got a great look at a pileated woodpecker as it flew across the river and into the woods on the near bank. (I still have trouble understanding how experienced observers could turn a pileated into an ivory-billed, but that is a story for another day.) The large Beech Spring Pond held a small group of hooded mergansers in addition to the larger flock of Canada geese.

As I checked around Fern Valley, I heard a trilling song coming from somewhere near the Youth Garden. (The song was almost like the sound of one of those old analogue train departure boards, but sustained on a high pitch.) I checked over around that garden and found a pine warbler. Oddly enough, it was foraging on the ground, instead of high in a tree where I am used to finding this species. There must have been two, because I could hear the song coming from a different direction at the same time as I had this one in my binoculars. It was really good to hear a warbler song again; I look forward to hearing more of them in a few short months.

Later in the afternoon I took a second walk along the waterfront. At the Washington Channel I saw a double-crested cormorant in the District for the first time since mid-December. In another month there should be hundreds of them. The channel also held a lone pied-billed grebe. When I rounded Hains Point and walked back up the Potomac side, I came upon raft after raft of lesser scaup, totalling many more than I have seen in the area through most of the winter. Presumably these scaup are staging here before resuming their northbound migration.

From the river, I walked across the Mall to Constitution Gardens. The lake that forms the centerpiece of the gardens has been drained for the most part, with only small portion still under water. This portion still held many mallards and ring-billed gulls, along with a pair of American wigeons. Large flocks of American robins and various blackbirds, including brown-headed cowbirds and red-winged blackbirds, foraged in the grass between the lake and the Mall's famous reflecting pool.


Pied-billed Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Canada Goose
American Wigeon
Lesser Scaup
Hooded Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Black Vulture
Red-tailed Hawk
Ring-billed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
American Herring Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Carolina Wren
Northern Mockingbird
Eastern Bluebird
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Blue Jay
American Crow
Fish Crow
European Starling
House Sparrow
House Finch
Pine Warbler
Eastern Towhee
Field Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird