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Three hardy locals took advantage of a clear and sunny February morning to go for a walk
Even from the parking lot we could hear so many birds singing that the day promised to be a good one for finding birds. Bryan Knedler led the group of 9 (including a photographer from the Gazette) on a 3 hour meandering tour of the park that included sights and sounds of 33 different bird species. Many were singing and defending their territory – we watched one build a nest. There was much discussion of the plant communities in the park – in the fields and forests as well as down in the marshy areas. Arrow Alum, Pickerel Weed, and Cattails are three key native wetland plants that have good stands at the confluence of Dueling Creek and the Anacostia – some no doubt as a result of the efforts by Anacostia Watershed in wetland restoration.
We had a misty start to our walk as we sat and listened to the Indigo Buntings singing back and forth to each other. With the leaves mostly out on the trees it was clear from the start that we were going to have a hard time seeing every bird we could hear! Luckily out of the 28 birds we saw or heard, a few of the colorful little beauties made a brief appearance.
Indigo Buntings (males) are a brilliant iridescent blue, and nest in good numbers every summer in the park. I don’t have a good picture of my own, so I will borrow this one from Wikipedia
When they catch the light they are dazzling, and such a joy to watch singing. They like to sing from medium-height exposed trees, and they love the “edge” habitat of a park like Colmar Manor which has a nice mix of grass, small trees, bushes and large trees. In past summers I have been able to identify as many as 7 different males singing to defend their territories throughout the park.
Today was the most beautiful day we could have asked for to kick off our nature walk series!! Not a cloud in the sky, the day started cool and soon warmed. There were four of us from Mt Rainier and Cottage City to share the morning.
Starting at the top parking lot we headed down by the dredge ponds stopping often to share bits of history of the park and the bird sights and sound around us. It didn’t take long to spot one of our first early spring migrants – the Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher. This charming, tiny bird was calling all around us throughout the walk and we spotted maybe 5 of them.
I was exploring an area of Dueling Creek I hadn’t explored before – tough to get to, very rough and muddy and brambly – and also keeping an eye out for birds. Although it started out cold, the sun was warming things up and I soon became too hot for my coat. I stopped to take it off, and several birds caught my eye by a little tributary of the creek. There were 5 Song Sparrows pecking about in the leaf litter, but there was also a small gray bird perched on a branch. Through my binoculars I could see clearly it was an Eastern Phoebe, and then I had the pleasure of watching it “hawking” insects for a good while. Hawking is a feeding behavior where the bird (mostly in the flycatcher family) sits still on an exposed perch, periodically zipping off to grab a flying insect it spotted. Then the bird returns to the same, or a nearby perch, and waits to spot the next insect.Read more: First Spring Migrating Bird
When the snow was near its heaviest on February 22, I took a trek down to the banks of Dueling Creek where we would be doing the cleanup in April – how pristine it looks! All the trash is covered, and you can see the wide natural floodplain of the creek. Just out of frame of this shot to my left is a huge Sycamore tree. This area has so much going for it – I can’t wait to get in there and get some of the trash out in April!
It may be snowing but it’s the first day of spring. The birds are seeking shelter, and I hope to see our resident Ospreys back any day now!