I and the Bird

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Saturday, April 15, 2006

Violette's Lock

Straight up gorgeous day. GORGEOUS.

I was taking a flight out of Dulles a couple weeks ago and as we gained altitude over the DC metro area I noticed lots of wooded areas along the Potomac that, I assumed, would be good for birding. Although I thought I was the first person to discover these areas, it turns out that I was looking at a very popular, very beautiful national historical park: the C&O Canal. So today I took the quick trip up to Violette's Lock and walked the path between the canal and the Potomac.

What a paradise. The first thing that struck me about the area was the clean smell of the river. Living in the city you're subjected to a lot of smells and only a few of them are pleasant...even less of them are 'clean'. But that's exactly what violette's lock smelled like. Fresh water and wind and blossoms. Awesome.

The second thing that struck me was how many birds there were. The air was filled with songs...most of which I hadn't heard since last summer. Almost immediately I head the whurr-pop of a Northern Parula, my target bird for the day and No. 207 for me. Nice. I walked about 2 miles down the path encountering 10-15 Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers, lots of Yellow-Rumped Warblers, woodpeckers, Turkey and Black Vultures, singing Cardinals and Chickadees along the way. I also saw a water snake (or a regular snake swimming down the canal...) and another snake, which means I saw more snakes in 1 hour than my entire summer in the woods of NY. I also saw a large brown lizard on the far side of the canal...but I haven't been able to figure out what it was. It was probably a foot long and looked all brown without stripes or anything. I think it must have been a female Five-Striped or Broad-Headed Skink, but I didn't get a picture and don't know for sure. No matter.

I had heard Northern Parula but wasn't able to see any, which isn't a very satisfying feeling. I mean, it's still legal and all, but not the same. I had resigned to this until I was about 10 steps from the bridge across the lock and to the parking lot when I heard the whurr-pop startingly close to my head. Looked up, Northern Parula. Done and done, satisfied. (Except with the picture that didn't turn out...).

Made a stop at KAG before getting back to my house. Compared to Violette's, KAG was desolate. Very little singing, very little activity, smelled like muddy crap. I still love the place, though, and it still turns up some nice sightings. Two hunting Osprey made circles with big fish in their talons. Beautiful birds. On the way back down the river trail I saw my year's first Lesser Yellowlegs (although its legs were blatantly orange...Ruff? Huh? Again, the pictures didn't come out.)

Here are the only pictures that did come out:

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