I and the Bird

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Sunday, April 23, 2006

Super Sunday

Got up excited to look for some birds, but unsure of where to go for them.

Money's tight as an intern, and so gasoline is a serious consideration. I wanted to go to Lilypons to look for the Anhinga, but the drive from my house is over an hour and I didn't want to go all the way up there if it was just going to rain on me. I decided to stick around the DC area.

When I got to my car, though, my earlier decisions (I thought my mind and body had agreed...) meant nothing, and I quickly found my way to the George Washington Parkway towards Potomac. Somehow I had reasoned to myself that going back up to Violette's Lock would be a happy medium, but after about an hour in the car I was forced to get gas anyway. Whatever.

I pulled into Violette's Lock and took stock. The trees were swarming with birds, but almost everything I got my binoculars on was a yellow-Rumped Warbler. There were tons of them. In fact, I was getting pretty frustrated that they were hogging my binocular space all the time. Nothing personal, I was just looking for some new birds. I did see a nice Nashville Warbler feeding in the brushy area between the lock and the river. Besides the Nashville, a couple Parula, some Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers and Brown-Headed Cowbirds it was the only Yellow-Rumps before the rain started.

And it rained hard. I was a little disappointed that I hadn't seen any life birds but had driven all the way up to Potomac instead of going for the Anhinga. I left Violette's and fully intended to come back home out of the rain and watch the NBA or something. It was working, too, until I came to a sign that said <-- FREDERICK-BALTIMORE / WASHINGTON -->. I suddenly remembered that Lilypons was just off the road to Frederick and yanked the steering wheel into that lane. Screw it, lets go.

About 20 minutes later I was pulling into Lilypons Water Gardens, a sprawling complex of ponds and wetlands...perfect for an out-of-place Anhinga. I didn't know exactly where to go to find the bird, but I figured there would be a bunch of birders that I could just follow. Whelp, after walking around for 40 minutes on muddy roads without seeing another birder I was ready to admit that I might have to go ask someone. I was a little worried, actually, that the bird had left. My luck turned, though, while I was stumbling back toward the office. I heard an unusual call from some dense vines and eventually saw it's singer: a White-Eyed Vireo, a lifer for me (believe it or not). Moments later I saw three people (one with a scope over his shoulder) tramping down a road I had yet to take...and I knew I had my Anhinga-ers.

The group said that the bird was seen "just a few minutes ago" (phew!), but was flying around and so could be anywhere. We watched and waited until, sure enough, the bird flew into view just over the treetops in front of us. I knew immediately that it was a not a DC cormorant, as it is sometimes confused with, as it's wings were set much more forward than cormorants. It looked almost like a large falcon with a pencil neck. Regardless, it was pretty radical. The bird soared, alternating flaps with glides, round and round over the pond, gaining altitude until it was nearly out of sight. I lost the bird in the clouds and sun and decided to head back, very satisfied.

Buuut I wasn't done. Getting back into DC the weather turned very sunny and I couldn't figure out what I would do at home so I decided to go check out the Arboretum for some warblers. I stuck around the Capitol Columns parking lot (well, I parked there and walked down through the orchard thing and to the pond and back) and saw a great many Yellow-Rumps (again!) as well as my year's first Pine Warblers and a surprising Eastern Kingbird. I've always wanted to see a Hooded Warbler, but apparently I should have been up by the Azalea Gardens since John from A DC Birding Blog had some good looks at one there. I've said it before and I'll say it again, maybe next time.
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