Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Walking in the Two Kenilworths

My mother was just in town for a few days, so we visited a couple of prime D.C. birding spots. Yesterday it was Rock Creek Park, to see warblers and other songbirds; today it was Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, to look for some good birds that were reported on MDOsprey. As it turns out, we saw quite a lot today between the two locations, and some of the reports bore fruit.

We started in Kenilworth Park. As Nick noted a few days back, Kenilworth Park and Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens are not the same entity. The Aquatic Gardens is a special national park devoted to the propagation of water lilies and other aquatic plants, and also shelters Kenilworth Marsh, one of the few viable tidal wetlands in DC. Kenilworth Park is a public park with football fields, playgrounds, and a recreation center. Click the satellite image at right to see the locations (courtesy of Google Earth).

Several birds of interest for DC birders had been reported there: vesper sparrow, savannah sparrow, grasshopper sparrow, horned lark, eastern meadowlark, blue grosbeak, and glossy ibis. The grasshopper sparrow, horned lark, and glossy ibis did not make an appearance while we were at the park today, but the others did. The first, a couple of vesper sparrows, were with a flock of savannah sparrows in the grassy border between the second parking lot and the river. The two were squabbling with each other, as had been reported by two previous birders; the squabbling provided a clue to identification - while in flight, the two vespers gave a buzzy call note, unlike the savannah sparrows.

The blue grosbeak sat out on top of a short tree in the heart of the no-mow area and sang its heart out. My previous sightings of this species had always been backlit and poorly seen. This one was front light, with its deep blue body and rufous wingbars shining in their full glory. It was impressive even at a distance. Close to where we saw the grosbeak, a few meadowlarks flushed from the managed meadow and landed some distance away. These two birds and the vesper sparrow were all DC firsts for me. Also at Kenilworth Park were a singing white-eyed vireo and a singing blue-winged warbler, both in the remediated landfill beyond the concrete barriers (visible at the lower left of the photo above).

The aquatic gardens had quieted down considerably by the time we arrived there. Birds were still singing, but they had settled into their mid-morning routines. One juvenile red-shouldered hawk was being harrassed by crows near the building complex. Later this hawk was involved in an aerial confrontation with two adults (its parents?); having lost, it took out its frustration by harrassing a few turkey vultures that happened to be passing by.

In addition to the usual goose contingent, the marsh held four northern shovelers (three males and one female). This was a DC first for me. Near the end of the river trail, there were two blue-winged teal, another rare-for-DC water bird. Yellow-rumped warblers could be heard singing in both Kenilworths, and a few singing northern parulas and common yellowthroats were audible as well. Shorebird diversity is increasing; this week I saw my first spotted sandpipers of the year, first on the Mall on Monday and today at the aquatic gardens.

It was a gorgeous day despite a cold start. We had sunshine, blue skies, and plenty of birds.


Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Turkey Vulture
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Greater Yellowlegs
Spotted Sandpiper
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Belted Kingfisher
Downy Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Kingbird
Tree Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Barn Swallow
Cedar Waxwing
Carolina Wren
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher
American Robin
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Carolina Chickadee
Blue Jay
Fish Crow
European Starling
House Sparrow
White-eyed Vireo
Warbling Vireo
American Goldfinch
Blue-winged Warbler
Northern Parula
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Vesper Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Blue Grosbeak
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird