Sunday, May 07, 2006


I finally caught up with a cerulean warbler, and the sighting was a great one indeed. This morning I headed out to Pennyfield Lock, in mile 19 of the C&O Canal, for a morning of springtime birding with the DC Audubon Society. The towpath west of Pennyfield Lock is good for a variety of songbirds and water birds as it combines marshy areas with bottomland woods.

The most noticeable birds on the canal were bright orange Baltimore orioles. These were so numerous in places that they seemed to drip from the trees. The males aggressively sought to stake out territories with their constant whistled song. One female was busy building a nest. Several orchard orioles, including a dark orange adult male, shared the sycamores with the Baltimore orioles.

The woods along the towpath here provide breeding grounds for prothonotary warblers. These brilliant yellow birds are cavity nesters, and frequently will use nest boxes. One that we saw was checking one out. Several prothonotaries sat out in the sun where we got great looks at them.

A little past the second impoundment, we started hearing buzzy upslurred calls that were not the same as the northern parulas that sang all along the towpath. It sounded like the cerulean call, which repeats several notes at the same pitch and ends with a rising buzz. We scanned the treetops without success until one member of the party pointed out a little blue and white bird about twenty feet off the ground on a tree behind us. It was the cerulean warbler. The bird stayed at that relatively low level long enough for most to get a satisfying look, and then it flew across the canal, where it flitted from one branch to another in full view, singing all the while. This look at the cerulean was on par with my cape may sighting last week in terms of visual quality; one could not ask for a better look at a bird.

At about the same area, someone spotted a nest high in a tulip tree. The nest owner turned out to be a yellow-throated vireo; one bird was feeding chicks in the nest while another was singing close by. Also in about the same place we heard a barred owl hooting in the distance. Lots of hawks and vultures were out by midday, including a broad-winged hawk soaring very high up. Several Louisiana waterthrushes were singing along the canal, but unfortunately none came out for a look. After hearing scarlet tanagers all day, the few of us left finally got a look at a bright red male towards the end of the walk.


Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Green Heron
Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Hooded Merganser
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle
Red-shouldered Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Solitary Sandpiper
Mourning Dove
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Barred Owl
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Acadian Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Tree Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Cedar Waxwing
Carolina Wren
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Blue Jay
American Crow
Fish Crow
European Starling
Yellow-throated Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
American Goldfinch
Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler
Cerulean Warbler
Prothonotary Warbler
Louisiana Waterthrush
Common Yellowthroat
Canada Warbler
Scarlet Tanager
Swamp Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole
Orchard Oriole


Zebra Swallowtail
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Question Mark