Thursday, May 04, 2006

Hits and Misses at Rock Creek Park

Early this morning I headed over to Rock Creek Park for some birding. Apparently yesterday was a great day over there, with 23 species of warbler recorded. Today it was down to 18 species, with some gone and others moving in. The best bird that anyone saw was a golden-winged warbler in the maintenance yard. Unfortunately only a few saw it, and I was not one of the lucky ones. (Maybe I will catch up with one another time.)

Even though I used some bad strategy in not heading to the maintenance yard right away, I still managed to see a dozen of the warblers recorded today. The picnic areas were mostly unproductive for me. (Unless you arrive at the park before seven, it is probably not worth visiting them.) I did hear and see a few warblers along the way - ovenbirds and black-throated blue warblers along the trail - plus some black-and-white and black-throated green warblers at the picnic areas themselves.

The maintenance yard was much more productive for me. As I arrived, there was a blue-winged warbler singing by the pond; with the help of other birders I got a quick look at it. In the back corner I saw a few first-of-the-year warblers for me: Nashville, chestnut-sided, and magnolias. All three were singing as I watched them, so I got to get the aural lesson enhanced by a visual experience. (It really is much different listening to birds in their habitats as opposed to a recording.)

As I made my way out of the yard, I saw a Swainson's thrush on the bridle path; this was my first glimpse of this thrush for 2006. Catharus thrushes can be difficult to separate, but each is distinctive in its own way (aside from the gray-cheeked / Bicknell's mess). The key for Swainson's is the face. It has distinctive buffy eye rings that meet in the middle to appear like "spectacles," plus buffy coloration on the throat and breast; most eastern Swainson's thrushes will have a dull olive-brown back with little rufous coloration.

My last sighting for the morning was a nice look at a blackpoll warbler near the Nature Center.

Even on a day with little movement overnight, Rock Creek Park managed to produce a nice group of migrant songbirds. Many were probably hanging around overnight. By the way, if the current forecast holds, we should have southwest winds overnight, shifting around to northwest winds by morning. Tomorrow will be a good day to bird, if only for an hour or two early on.


Turkey Vulture
Red-shouldered Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
Carolina Wren
House Wren
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
Eastern Bluebird
Swainson's Thrush
Hermit Thrush
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Blue Jay
European Starling
House Sparrow
Red-eyed Vireo
American Goldfinch
Blue-winged Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Northern Parula
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Scarlet Tanager
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Indigo Bunting
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird