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A Report from

Trip Report Washington, D.C. 19-29 August 2000,

Marian Alvarez

Marian Alvarez (Aviles)
Piluca Alvarez (Madrid)
Rafael Aguado (Burgos)
Mariano Miranda (Burgos)

This is the report of the trip that three Spanish birdwatchers (and another friend) made to Washington, D.C. and surrounding areas, written by Marian Alvarez. My sister Piluca and I are very keen, long-time, birders, but we had never done birdwatching outside of Spain, Portugal, France and the U.K. Rafael is just getting into this activity - he has done birdwatching with us for two years. And Mariano had never seen a bird through binoculars before.

I have prepared an account of this trip in the hopes that some of the information below will be of help or interest to others travelling in this area (as others’ trip reports were useful to us). Actually, we all went to Washington in order to attend the 220th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (as all four of us are chemists). Obviously, the number of observations are much fewer than a keen observer would see during a trip dedicated exclusively to birding but they do give an idea of what can be seen during ten days in a green city as Washington is and in the most accessible bird spots of the surroundings (we only used public transportation in the nearby city areas, but used private automobiles in the surrounding regions). Although this trip to Washington was not exclusively focused on birdwatching, we had a trip list of 87 species, with 75 species seen which were completely new for us.

Using the nowadays-easy accessible information on Internet, and contacting local birders by e-mail were of great help to optimise our trip. The Internet was very useful as we could learn which are (more or less) the most common birds in the area at that time of the year and improve our identification skills with photographs. We have had the Golden Field Guide Birds of North America. A Guide to Field Identification at home for many years, so finally we felt confident about identifying most of the birds we found without wasting time consulting the book in the field. But our ignorance of songs and calls was a handicap, as we knew only a few from a CD I had at home (and most of the birds on it are from western U.S.A.) and from Internet. We are very grateful to Mary Scott of, our first contact by e-mail, for various birding information about Washington, D.C. and for helping us to get in touch with some of her birder friends; to David and Jane Winer, for their help and kindness, and for taking us around; and we owe many thanks as well to several members of the Montgomery County Chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society: Mike and Joy Bowen, Bill and Jane Hill, Johnna Robinson, Lydia Schindler and Doris Brody, with whom we were privileged enough to spend time in the field. Especially we birded with David and Jane Winer, Mike and Bill, and we got very fond of them all.


Saturday, 19th August

Our group of four flew into Dulles International Airport at 12:00 a.m. We were looking forward to birding but we knew that day was almost impossible as we had to arrive in Washington, D.C., find the hotel, get some food, arrive on time for the presentation reception at the Chemical Meeting and above all, to telephone home in order to inform our families we were safe and sound. Nevertheless, we were able to watch American Crow, Turkey Vulture (as lifers) and many flocks of European Starlings from the taxi that took us all from the Airport to our hotel in D.C. Once in town, we heard a suspicious caw similar to the one of a Fish Crow but we couldn't catch a sight of the bird, we only could find American Crow all around. More interesting for us than American Crows were Chimney Swifts. They are much smaller than our Common Swift, with different shape, and a bat-like way of flying. Very cute. And very common, as we saw them every day we spent in Washington, in very good numbers. Very common were as well Ring-billed Gulls, which were flying over the city.

Sunday, 20th August

This day was the beginning of the chemical meeting. Rafael and I were bound to go to various lectures during the morning, which were supposed to be very interesting. Mariano and Piluca decided to go to the tourist area to have a look and find the most interesting places to visit. The morning was hard and the conferences pretty disappointing. And to make things worse, we met Mariano and Piluca at 12:00 and they told us that they had had a wonderful morning walking along the Mall and watching American Robin, Common Grackle, Blue Jay and very tame Grey Squirrels. Conclusion: no more conferences for the rest of the day. We went for some sandwiches and we ate them in the shade of a tree in Lafayette Park. There we saw Common Grackle, which Rafael and I still hadn't seen. After lunch, we walked to the White House and Washington Monument. There we had the first "shock" of the day (we had three shocks during the day): a Laughing Gull with a group of Ring-billed Gulls on the lawn surrounding the Washington Monument. Laughing Gull was one of the birds that we were looking forward to seeing on this trip. We were able to study the bird carefully and see the differences in shape and size compared with Black-headed Gull (which is very common in Europe). We are sure now, that if we happen to see one in Spain we won’t misidentify it.

Then we visited the Tidal Basin, where we saw Canada Geese, more Ring-billed Gulls and Mallards. We came to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, which was a very impressive site. There, we enjoyed Blue Jays very much; these were the first ones we could observe the way we are supposed to. Then we moved to the Jefferson Memorial. The first encounter at this place was with a pair of Mourning Doves eating on the ground. And then, on the shore of the Tidal Basin, beside the Jefferson Memorial, was resting the second shock of the day (known by Americans as Forster's Tern). Nice bird! It was a juvenile and the mask was so clear that we had no problem at all identifying it. Even Mariano was starting to get interested in this strange activity of birding! Then we visited the monument. Of course, we had photographs taken with the statue of Mr. Jefferson and when we were leaving the place, we heard unusual sounds from a nearby tree. The sound came from the top but the third shock of the day was a juvenile Brown Thrasher fighting with a worm under a bush!! This was a real surprise, as we didn't expect to be lucky enough to find one. We believed that they were fairly common in the area but we didn't know if we would visit suitable areas for them. We enjoyed the bird for a long time (not so the poor Common Grackle which the Thrasher started to chase), until Carolina Chickadees came out of the tree. And the funny noise was made by a group of Common Grackles. We also had a glimpse of a Mockingbird that didn't satisfy us at all. It was quite late when we arrived at the Lincoln Memorial, but still there was light enough to watch Mallards, Canada Geese, Blue Jays and a Fish Crow (whose caw alerted us of its presence and helped a lot with identification). After taking photographs with Mr. Lincoln we realised that we were starving and exhausted. We had walked a lot during the day. So we decided to go back to the hotel. Besides, we needed to rest as much as possible to recover for the next day. In conclusion, it was a very satisfying day, plenty of common birds, most of which were lifers for us.

Monday, 21st August

This day we spent most of the time at the Meeting and we didn't leave the Convention Centre till 17:00. As we hadn't much time, we decided to go to explore the way to get to Theodore Roosevelt Island. We took the subway which left us at Rosslyn and from there we walked to the beginning of Mount Vernon Trail. And there we started to get too excited again. As soon as we arrived at the trail we saw at last a proper view of a Mockingbird, which was most gratifying. We walked along the trail till we were able to see the Island. And there on the shore was a Great Blue Heron waiting very steadily for the moment to harpoon its dinner. The bird didn't move at all when we approached. We were partially hidden behind the bushes, so we could watch it thoroughly for quite a long time, until a Double-crested Cormorant emerged from the water. Obviously, the aim of our eyes changed to the Cormorant though it was a bit far away. After watching the Cormorant for a while we realised that very close to us, and almost at the border of the trail, there was a little Green Heron having its dinner. This was the best sight of the day, a real hit. We have a special memory of this first Green Heron, as it was one of the birds that we wanted to watch and we didn't know if it was common enough to find it in D.C. We spent quite a long time watching this nice bird until it flew to the shore of the Island. Then we continued walking along the trail. Soon we arrived at the beginning of the bridge connecting the Mount Vernon Trail and the island. There we saw three birds catching mosquitoes in the air and suddenly perching again on the branches of the trees on the shore of the island. They were far away but we saw something on them, which was the clue. Their black tails had white bands on the borders: they had to be Eastern Kingbirds. We hastened to get closer and we really got close: one of them got a fly 3 inches from my nose! I can say that I will never have a Kingbird as close as that! After enjoying the Kingbirds for a while, we had a look at the shores on both sides of the bridge and we watched more Mallards, Blue Herons and little ducks that could be Wood Ducks, but these were too far away to be sure and, of course, it wasn't a satisfying view. Then we decided to hasten to explore the island, as it was getting late (no more than an hour of good light left). We walked to the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial and on the path we saw more Carolina Chickadees, our first Tufted Titmice (which turn out to be a plague, a nice one though), and our first Northern Cardinal. It was a male and the sight was so impressive that Mariano again thought that birding was a nice experience. I felt terribly excited when it appeared because it was our third day in U.S.A. and still we hadn't seen any. Nevertheless, we assumed that they were very common in Virginia. We also heard a lot of unknown songs and calls that got to our nerves, as we couldn't catch sight of any of the birds. We were hoping for warblers as well but no luck. In the end we had to go back to our hotel but we were determined to come back to Roosevelt Island as it seemed to be a very interesting place and we only had time to walk along one of the trails (and there were several to explore). Besides, there was supposed to be a marsh somewhere that we didn't locate at all, probably on the other side of the island.

Tuesday, 22nd August

This day, conferences started at 10:30 in the morning. We concluded that it was a waste of time and opportunities not to take advantage of the first hours of the morning. So, we decided to go to Rock Creek Park very early in the morning, in order to bird for a couple of hours and get to the Meeting on time for the speeches.

And so we did. We got up at 5:00 in the morning, intending to be there at dawn. But it took us longer than we thought to get there by metro and walking. Still, we could bird for an hour and a half around the Nature Center, which is supposed to be one of the best places to bird in this huge Park. This yielded our first American woodpeckers (Downy and Red-bellied), Carolina Wren (a nice family) and our only House Wren in the whole holidays, as well as other common birds we had already seen the previous days, and one unidentified young bird because of the shape and size, we think it might be a Blue Grosbeak but I’m afraid we will never be sure. And after birding, we were able to arrive at the Meeting just on time for our first Conference of the day, sleepy but happy.

That was a hard day at the Meeting. But we had a break of two hours in the evening. As we were fed up with conferences by this time of the day, we decided to "run away" from the Meeting and spend the break outside of the Convention Centre. After a short deliberation, among the different possibilities of visits, our aim turned to the famous Arlington Cemetery that we had still not seen. We were extremely interested in visiting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Iwo Jima Memorial. So, we proceeded to Arlington, and we got there very easily by Metro. This place was a great surprise. There were plenty of minor but interesting and nice Memorials to see and to take pictures with. And the cemetery had nothing to do with our idea of a cemetery (a depressing dark place, plenty of dead flowers). I don’t know if all American cemeteries are like this. If it is so, I change my mind about cemeteries: this was not only a nice place to do a tourist visit but it had plenty of birds (and we didn’t count on this at all). In two hours we only had time to get to Arlington Cemetery, have a look around at those nice "minor" Memorials and go back to the Convention Centre. And still we came across, for instance, Blue Jays, American Robins and a couple of unidentified woodpeckers. And an Osprey from the Arlington Bridge! We decided to spend a whole afternoon in Arlington during the following days.

Wednesday, 23rd August

Another day of Conferences with a long breaks in the middle. But we were not willing to waste a minute, so we "organised an expedition" to the Arlington Memorial Bridge for a picnic at lunchtime, in order to survey the Potomac River. Along the way, we passed again through West Memorial Park, where we enjoyed greatly a bunch of noisy young Grey Catbirds, as well as other inhabitants of this Park, such as Carolina Wren, Eastern Kingbird, Mourning Dove, Ring-billed Gull and Common Grackles - sorry, I know Grackles are very common and shiny black and you (Americans) must be tired of them. But we, poor Europeans without a single representative of the Icteridae family, were anxious to find one and observe it for a long time.

Arlington Memorial Bridge didn’t let us down, as we found two unexpected and splendid adult Caspian Terns in alternate plumage. This bird is quite uncommon in Europe and we had never found one before. But in the D.C. area seems to be fairly common. Ospreys were flying around as well, and we took some (poor) pictures of them fishing. We spent quite a long time admiring these birds. Too long, I would say, as we had very little time left to have lunch and go back to the Convention Centre on time. But still, we had time to enjoy our first American Goldfinch, a lovely adult male that bewitched us.

After the last session of Conferences of the day, we rushed back to Arlington to spend the rest of the day there. We were very interested in seeing the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and that was our first aim. Fortunately, we arrived in Arlington quite early; otherwise we wouldn’t be able to get to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier before the last change of Guard. It took us to get to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from the entrance more than two hours! How was that possible? Because of birds, of course. On the way to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier we found American Goldfinch, Downy Woodpecker, Mourning Dove, American Crow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Northern Cardinal, Grey Catbird, Carolina Wren, Common Grackle and lots of American Robin, Mockingbird and Blue Jay (it’s absolutely impossible for us to pass by a Blue Jay and ignore it). But the highlight of the way was an adult Red-tailed Hawk having dinner perched on a bare branch not far away from us. When it finished its dinner, it flew around, showing its red tail and its wing pattern. Delightful!

Finally, we arrived at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to see the Changing of the Guard. And we had new surprises. While the ceremony of change went on, we realised Northern Flickers were flying from tree to tree just in front of us! It’s a hard work to keep silence and stiff (for not being disrespectful to the consideration that the place deserves) when your first flickers in your life are trying to catch your attention insistently. But we got it, it was difficult but we got it, and we are proud of ourselves. But when the Changing of the Guard finished, we rushed to try to find those flickers, and we found them. There were plenty of them in the fields around the Tomb. In these fields, there were lots of American Robins with the Northern Flickers, and a brown bird that at the very beginning we had no idea what it was. By its size and shape we inferred it might be a young Brown-headed Cowbird and we could confirm this sight days later (as you will see). And in the trees around the flickers’ field, we discovered a good bunch of small birds: chickadees and possibly warblers of any kind. But they were so high and the light so poor (sunset was near) that it was impossible to identify any bird.

Thursday, 24th August

At last! Last day of conferences! Fortunately, conferences were concentrated in the morning. So, from lunchtime we were definitely..... FREE!!! Alleluia!!! But Fate is sometimes a miserable and awkward thing, and that afternoon we had some rain. We decided to go to the National Air and Space Museum to wait for the end of the rain, but it was so exciting and interesting that we went out at closing time. As there were only two hours of good light left, we decided to go to Arlington again, this time to get to the Iwo Jima Memorial. After the experience of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier we doubted we would have enough time to get to the Iwo Jima Memorial in two hours. Our problem is we stop to have a look at any "flying object" with feathers, so it takes us ages to get to places.

As expected, we got to the Iwo Jima Memorial quite late, but we got there. Along the way we "only" found American Crow, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret (another lifer, quite rare in Europe but apparently not uncommon in the area), Eastern Kingbird, Osprey, Forster’s Tern, Caspian Tern, Common Grackle, Blue Jay, Wood Duck and Northern Flicker among others. The hits were an Acadian Flycatcher "catching flies" by the Cemetery and a radiant, brilliant, superb and flashing male Baltimore Oriole on our way back (no words).

Friday, 25th August

Our first whole free day was entirely dedicated to explore Theodore Roosevelt Island and the first part of the Mount Vernon Trail. We got up again very early, at 5:00 in the morning, to get there at dawn, as we wanted to try to find any warblers and that must be done with the first lights of the day. To our knowledge, warblers’ activity starts at dawn, slows about 9:00 in the morning and from then is very difficult to find them. We find warblers very interesting birds, not only because they are beautiful but also it’s a challenge to identify fall warblers. We had been studying their plumages very carefully and we were longing to check our skills. From the bridge connecting Rosslyn with the island we saw (more or less) the same birds we had seen on Monday in the area, so we suppose those are normal sights at this time of the year. We didn’t spend much time there; it was much more interesting to get to the Theodore Roosevelt Monument, because it looked like a perfect place for searching for warblers.

When we got to the monument it was about 7:00 in the morning, At the very beginning only Carolina Chickadee and Tufted Titmouse were moving around (and quite a lot of them, they are definitely very common). But after a while, a wave of birds rose from nowhere and that flock contained our first warblers. First to appear was a fall male Canada Warbler, which we didn’t expect at all, I think it’s not listed as one of the most common warblers in the area. We only saw it for a little moment but the sight was very good. Then, about 4-5 American Redstarts showed their beautiful pattern. The sight was again very quick, but that bird is easy to identify, even in basic plumage. Next bird wasn’t a warbler, it was a Red-eyed Vireo, and followed by others (we counted about 4). And the last new bird in the flock was a young Chestnut-sided Warbler. And that was all, no more warblers. We had expected greater variety but we recognise that it wasn’t the best moment in the year for warblers. Anyway, we were happy because we hadn’t any problem identifying the few birds we saw; we were lucky that those three warblers were among the easiest.

When the activity in the highs slowed down, we moved to change the habitat. We searched for the marsh, as we knew there was a good one on the island. We found it relatively easily and this place was one of the hits of the whole holiday. We came across a sort of observation platform going into the marsh and we spent more than three hours there. During that time we didn’t stop for a moment of looking through the binos and the excitement was growing as the minutes passed. The activity of birds was amazing there. We found most of the common birds we had seen the previous days and others such as Baltimore Oriole, Osprey, Eastern Kingbird and Green Heron. And the lifers were Red-winged Blackbird, House Finch, Great Crested Flycatcher, White-breasted Nuthatch, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher and.... Ruby-throated Hummingbird, our most strong desire of the trip. We saw it first quite far away, but flying and perched. But later on, we saw one a few meters away from us (perhaps it was the same bird). This was one of the most exciting moments of the holidays. But not everything was a pleasure while staying on the platform. For example, we could guess that there were a couple of Cedar Waxwings very far away; they were almost a dot in the distance; that sort of view is really frustrating. We also saw for an instant a big dark bird with white patches under the wing, that we had no idea at that moment what it was (now we know it was a Pileated Woodpecker). And we saw crossing over the marsh like an arrow, a raptor that looked like a young Cooper’s Hawk, but we are not sure at all about it. And it didn’t come back, so we couldn’t verify the sight.

We had lunch there, at the platform, sat on the floor, because we didn’t want to leave that place, so beautiful and so full of birds. It’s a pleasure to have a picnic surrounded by White-breasted Nuthatches, House Finches, Eastern Kingbirds and Great Crested Flycatchers, so close to us that we didn’t need the binoculars. But finally we had to move. We finished the tour around the Island and still we found a new species for our American list: Black-crowned Night-Heron. We had seen it before in Spain but not many times, so it was very welcome.

About 14:00 it started to be really hot. Actually, the temperature was high during all the holidays but this day we think it was the hottest. But high temperature is not a good reason to stop us from birding, so we started to walk south through the Mount Vernon Trail. It was very interesting. The shores of the Potomac had plenty of birds: Ring-billed Gull, Laughing Gull, Great Black-backed Gull (only one young bird), Caspian Tern, Forster’s Tern, another Black-crowned Night-Heron, many Mallards and Canada Goose, Great Blue Heron, several Double-crested Cormorants, a couple of Green Heron, Osprey.... We found here our first shorebirds. We saw many Killdeers (about 30, some on the mud, some flying and landing on the grass by the paths) and a single Greater Yellowlegs far in the distance. That was another identification challenge for us. It is always quite easy to tell apart Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs in the books, but in the field, in the distance, the bird moving and not knowing the calls... well, that can be very awkward. Fortunately, the bird finally flew and landed very close to us and we could see it properly. We also saw, perched on a branch of a tree on the island, a Belted Kingfisher. Again, it was so far away that we only could guess it was a Kingfisher, but no more than that. On the trees and on the grass by the paths we also saw several small birds, the Brown-headed Cowbird being the most interesting for us. There were several groups and in total we counted more than 200 birds. It’s interesting that there were birds in all kinds of plumage and it was here we realised the brown bird we saw in Arlington had been well identified as Brown-headed Cowbird. At the end of the evening we were absolutely exhausted, as we had been walking for almost 12 hours and the heat was heavy and humid. We had a nap in the shade to recover a little and we had to go back to the hotel. But still, we were happy as we saw 49 different species, 12 being new for us.

Saturday, 26th August

This was the desirable day of meeting our American connections by e-mail. We had an appointment with Jane Winer at 7:00 am and she took us in a Jeep to Rockville, MD. This village is surrounded by woodlands and we did a stop in a clear where there are supposed to be plenty of warblers in migration. Unfortunately, it was still too soon for migration and there were no warblers. But instead there were plenty of birdwatchers! We met very nice and helpful people there, who lent us binoculars and books. Birders felt very disappointed about the absence of warblers but still we enjoyed Northern Cardinal, House Finch, Brown Thrasher, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, Mourning Dove and again a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, that apparently came just to say to us "Hello!" and flew away.

As birds there didn’t seem very willing to satisfy us, locals decided to take us to other places to try to find some warblers. So, the group moved to other hotspots in MD, not far away from Rockville, called Little Bennett. Beautiful place! There were not many birds but at least we found some variety. In this place we had the opportunity to learn how to separate Turkey Vulture and Black Vulture when flying. We also found some American Goldfinch, Downy Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker and Carolina Chickadee. We suffered a frustrating glimpse of a flying Cedar Waxwing but in compensation a female Black-and-white Warbler showed up devouring a pretty big green caterpillar. That was a very exciting sight, not only for us Spanish but (apparently) also for the local birders. Another hit for us was a female Scarlet Tanager in the top of a sycamore tree, although it wasn’t a wonderful view, as it was quite high and not very close to us. On the other hand, we had better views of Red-eyed Vireo than the previous day in Theodore Roosevelt Island, and a relatively short but very clear glimpse of our only Hairy Woodpecker of the holidays (or, better to say, our only surely identified Hairy Woodpecker, as we think we saw it twice before). Another lifer we greatly enjoyed was the Eastern Wood-Pewee. We localised it first by the sound, which exceptionally we knew before from that CD I have at home. And then we saw it very well, singing from the top of a sycamore tree. Finally, we all had an encounter with a fall warbler with yellow rump and wing bars, which locals identified after some deliberations as Magnolia Warbler. Unfortunately I couldn’t see it was a Magnolia Warbler. I count it in my trip report as I trust local birders, but I can’t say I saw one. This bothers me a lot, as it was quite close but warblers move so quick... Never mind. We also heard Barred Owl and Yellow-billed Cuckoo, which we couldn’t find.

At lunchtime the group broke up after arranging another walk for the next day. Jane took us back to Washington in the Jeep. After lunch, we thought a bit of culture could do some good to the soul, so we went to the Art Gallery, where we spent the afternoon until the closing time. In the evening, we thought about going again to Arlington until the sunset, this time to try to find any Nighthawks, as it looked a good place for them. But no luck. I mean, no luck for Nighthawks, but we saw lots of birds, more or less the same as on former occasions, but in bigger numbers. Sitting on the top of the "Women in Military Service for America Memorial," we spent a lot of time observing a group of Flickers accompanied by a couple of Red-bellied Woodpeckers, while surrounded by dozens of American Robins, Mockingbirds and several quite tame Blue Jays. And we saw our first Brown Thrasher and American Redstart in Arlington.

Sunday, 27th August

This turned out to be one of the best days of the holidays, absolutely unforgettable. Activity started at 7:30 in the morning, when Jane gathered us at the hotel and took us to Pennyfield Lock, MD. This is another beautiful place on the C & O Canal (if somebody is interested, you can know more about this place at Mary Scott’s "Birding America", When we arrived the others were already there with scopes, and we started our walk by the canal. We saw 20 different birds in the 2 hours walk, the most exciting were Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, Eastern Wood-Pewee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Red-eyed Vireo, and specially Pileated Woodpecker and Belted Kingfisher. Our Pileated Woodpecker was very close, just over our heads, hanging from a branch. We saw it beautifully. This was out of the main trail, and we noticed that  a White-tailed Deer came to pay us a quick visit. And the Belted Kingfisher was quite close as well, but still it was worth having a look at it with the scope. The view was magnificent. It was very exciting too when Mike Bowen started to play the call of the Eastern Screech Owl in order to attract warblers. There was a White-eyed Vireo calling as well, and we hoped it would come out of the foliage too. But it was not possible. Instead, waves of Carolina Chickadees and Tufted Titmouse moved, searching for the non-existent Owl, accompanied by a single Carolina Wren and a confused hummingbird.

Later on, the group moved to Hughes Hollow, MD, a sort of marsh covered with vegetation and surrounded by woodland, but in the way there we still had new surprises. On the wires over the roads, a collection of about 75 Northern Rough-winged Swallows were waiting for us. When we stopped to have a look they didn’t fly away, and we could look at them though the scopes. Besides, a couple of Cedar Waxwings came and sat on the top of a tree by the road, and we saw them properly (at last!), with the scopes too.

In Hughes Hollow we saw again Ruby-throated Hummingbird (very close), Turkey Vulture, Red-winged Blackbird and Eastern Wood-Pewee and had beautiful views of Belted Kingfisher and Green Heron with the scope. We saw our only Eastern Bluebird of the holidays through the scope, a male perched in a branch. We also found one young Eastern Phoebe, which at first we thought was an Eastern Wood-Pewee, but thanks to the scope it was finally well identified. Anyway, after struggling with the scope and the Field Guide for a long time to clarify the sight, finally we came across an adult Eastern Phoebe, wagging its tail desperately (so, no shadow of doubt left).

After lunch, the group was reduced to Mike Bowen, Bill Hill and these four easily excitable Spanish. Mike was aware of somewhere visited recently by 5 Upland Sandpipers and he thought it was a good idea to try to find them before going to Lilypons, MD, our next target. Besides, we realised that after a week in America we still have not seen a Song Sparrow or a Common Yellowthroat! In fact, Mike had been trying to find them for us since we met him, but no luck. Lilypons was a place with high possibilities of finding both Song Sparrow and Common Yellowthroat, and swallows as well, as we were very interested in finding Purple Martin and Tree Swallow, for example.

So, we reached the field of the Upland Sandpipers... and they were there! First we only found one, but later we found the second, and then the third and finally a fourth. And that "was all." We missed the fifth, but we don’t complain... We were visited by a flock of Horned Larks but only Mike and Bill had time to recognise them. And later, we found a Loggerhead Shrike by looking through the scope, but very far away (that was a pity, although we could see it quite well). That excited Mike very much, as it’s not a common bird in the area.

After all that excitement, we came to Lilypons, where the excitement continued. Just by the bridge there was a wire covered with the 5 possible different Swallows to find in the area (many Barn, a few young Bank, many Tree, many Northern Rough-winged and about 5 Cliff) plus Purple Martins, all together. It was much more than our desires. We had never dreamt of seeing a Cliff Swallow this holiday as we thought they were quite rare in the area. But it has been our favourite American Swallow since we knew about it, so handsome with its white front and its reddish colour. So it has been one of the highlights of the holiday for us. But there were many more birds than just Swallows in Lilypons. We found Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Green Heron, Belted Kingfisher, Mourning Dove, Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Indigo Bunting, (the first and the last of the holiday, and not very well seen, I confess), Canada Geese, Chimney Swift, Red-winged Blackbird and... Song Sparrow! At last! If we came back to Spain without seeing a Song Sparrow nobody was going to believe us. We got very good views of this Song Sparrow, very close, flying from the ground to the vegetation, perching for a while, and flying to the ground again. We also heard a Least Flycatcher but nobody could find it, what a pity!

As the weather was getting stormy, we decided to go back home just in case, and we were very lucky because it started to rain as soon as we got to the hotel. It was very painful to do enclosed life since five o’clock in the evening. But we didn’t want to complain because we had had a wonderful day, with 41 different birds seen during the day, 12 of them being lifers.

Monday, 28th August

This was our last day of birding in America (as we were leaving next day in the morning). But this day will be for us the day that we finally met David Winer. We had to wait until the last day to meet him, and that was a long wait. We will never forget all that David and Jane, Mike and Bill did for us.

The activity started at 8:00 in the morning when David and Jane came to the hotel in a Cadillac to gather us, and we headed for the famous Huntley Meadows Park, VA. But on the way we stopped for a breakfast with coffees and delicious doughnuts (that was David’s idea). At Huntley Meadows we met again Mike and Bill with his wife Jane, and we did together the walk through the woods to the marsh. I will not mention all the bird we saw, but I tell we saw 25 different birds and the highlights were Common Yellowthroat (at last!!! and plenty of them), Belted Kingfisher, Ruby-throated Hummingbird (again very close, and for a little while), Great Egret, Greater Yellowlegs, Red-shouldered Hawk (seen quite high in the sky but it was possible to distinguish the wing pattern through the scope), Fish Crow and Red-winged Blackbird. I had to mention separately the most shocking experience of the holidays, I think: King Rail. When we arrived at Huntley Meadows we were informed of the possibility of finding King Rail, but my experience with Rails (at least in Europe) is you should not count on them at all, even if they are very common (that they are not). So, we didn’t expect to find one. But we did. The shocking experience was not just finding the King Rail, but it was one meter away from us, absolutely ignoring us, as if we were not there. Mike had told us they were very tame, but for us that behaviour was more than tame. Even when a horde of children came near the bird, it continued its personal "toilette" without taking any notice of them. We took several pictures; otherwise nobody was going to believe us at home.

The next point to visit in this marathon day was Hunting Creek, near Dyke Marsh, VA. We went there in order to find any waders and perhaps Bald Eagle. We got the waders but we failed to find the Bald Eagle. But we saw not only waders. We saw the closest Double-crested Cormorants of the holiday and through the scope, Osprey, Ring-billed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Turkey Vulture, Canada Goose, Caspian Tern and Forster’s Tern. We found as well unexpected American Coot and Pied-billed Grebe, both far away, but we got very good views of them thanks to the scopes. The mudflats yielded Killdeer, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Least Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher and a single Pectoral Sandpiper (which we have already seen in Spain twice as vagrant, but not at all ignored for that).

After lunch we went to Accotink Bay, VA, because Mike was told that some young Bald Eagles had been seen in the area. And they were still there! We saw one chasing an Osprey and others were perched on the trees or on the mudflat. This place had plenty of birds, there were about 20 Great Egrets, several Great Blue Herons, lots of Gulls, Forster’s Terns and ducks. Besides the widespread Mallards and Canada Geese we found a couple of Wood Duck, about 10 American Black Duck and 2 Blue-winged Teals in eclipse (American Black Duck and Blue-winged Teal were lifers for us). There were many Northern Rough-winged Swallows and a single Laughing Gull. Not bad at all.

We had to say goodbye to Bill and Jane Hill at this point, but we continued birding with Mike, David and Jane. Next stop was the last, and that was in Maryland, along the C & O Canal, about two miles below Great Falls Park. Here, Mike, David and Jane knew where a couple of Barred Owls had their territory. But we were not lucky, because the owls were not there and because a shower started when we were getting into the forest. We will never forget this experience, never in my life was I so wet with my clothes on. Evidently, the rain couldn’t stop us from trying to find the Barred Owl, but it didn’t work. Anyway, we did our best.

Here by the canal we had to say goodbye to Mike, and on the way home David and Jane took us to the Wild Bird Centre, in Bethesda, MD, where we spent a long time looking around and spent a pretty amount of money in books and that kind of stuff.

It was very sad when we had to say goodbye to David and Jane too. That was an awful moment that I don’t want to remember. In order to console ourselves, we decided to do something that Mike had suggested to us: go to the Washington Monument at sunset, as he had seen the day before several Common Nighthawks at the lamps light catching insects. So, we went to the Washington Monument at about 8:00 p.m. but there was still too much light and we didn’t see any of them. So we decided to walk along the Mall for half an hour trying to find some, but no luck. But at 8:45 we saw some birds flying by the light of the lamps on the top of the Monument. We had a look through the binoculars... and they were the Common Nighthawks! At last!! There were about 15! We could see some of them flying lower around the monument and we were able to see the white spots under the wings and the shape of wings and tail by the light of the lamps. It was really a wonderful view, much better than we expected. That was the best end of the holidays we could dream of. And the perfect end for a great day, with again 50 different birds, 12 of them lifers.

Tuesday, 29th August

Departure day. As we were not in a hurry to go to the airport, we spent the morning in a long and well-deserved rest. A taxi took us to the airport and after a plane change in Frankfurt we arrived at Barajas Airport (Madrid) on August 30, at 11.30 am, as established.


We are very happy with the yield of the trip, if you bear in mind that during 5 days we were doing birdwatching only for 2-3 hours per day. And in those 5 days we saw 40 different species, without leaving Washington, D.C (or, better to say, the city area, as we birded at Arlington too). In our only free day being on our own, we saw 12 new different ones (and that was still the Potomac River around D.C.); that means we identified about 50 different species in Washington, and I think that’s a very good number for a city. But still, in the whole 9 days we managed to miss some species such as Herring Gull, Wood Thrush, Chipping Sparrow and Prairie Warbler, that are supposed to be very to fairly common in the area. Nearly missed were Song Sparrow and Common Yellowthroat, seen only once each, which we found amazing considering the amount of apparently suitable habitat we passed through. The star birds of the trip for us were: Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, because never in our life had we seen an alive and wild hummingbird and this was our most intense desire; Cliff Swallow, as it is one of our favourite American birds (we find it very pretty); and King Rail, Upland Sandpiper and Loggerhead Shrike, because they are rarities in the area and rarities are always hits. And, of course, those birds belonging to endemic American families (Parulidae, Icteridae, Mimidae, etc) which we were anxious to see.

In the trip list we included only species positively identified. I haven’t included those birds we are not sure of. Species in brackets ([ ]) are species only heard. Species in black but without number are species that somebody in the group saw them well, but we (the Spanish) couldn’t see or couldn’t see in good conditions. Any other species (with a number) are those we saw properly.


    1.   Pied-billed Grebe (Podylimbus podiceps)
          At least 3 in Hunting Creek (28th).

    2.   Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)
          Seen by Theodore Roosevelt Island (1 on 21st and 2 on 25th), 1 from the Arlington Memorial Bridge (23rd), 3 by the Mount Vernon Trail (25th) and 7 (beautiful views) in Hunting Creek (28th).

    3.   Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)
          The most widespread Heron, seen always in small numbers (1 -4) but at almost every location visited: Theodore Roosevelt Island, Rock Creek Park, Pennyfield Lock, Huntley Meadows Park, etc.

    4.   Great Egret (Casmerodius albus)
          1 seen from the Arlington Memorial Bridge (24th), 1 in Theodore Roosevelt Island (25th), 7 in Lilypons (27th), 6 in Huntley Meadows Park (28th), 15 in Hunting Creek (28th) and about 20 in Accotink Bay (28th).

    5.   Green Heron (Butorides striatus)
          1-2 at Theodore Roosevelt Island (21st and 25th), 2 by the Mount Vernon Trail (25th), 1 in Hughes Hollow (27th), 1 in Lilypons (27th) and 6 in Huntley Meadows Park (28th).

    6.   Black-crowned Night-Heron* (Nycticorax nycticorax)
          1 in Theodore Roosevelt Island (25th) and 1 by the Mount Vernon Trail (25th).

    7.   Canada Goose* (Branta canadensis)
          Very common at water habitats: Potomac River, Huntley Meadows Park, Accotink Bay, etc. Seen almost every day in high numbers.

    8.   Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)
          Seen 2-3 birds in Arlington Cemetery (24th), by the Mount Vernon Trail (25th) and in Accotink Bay (28th), commoner at Theodore Roosevelt Island (7-10 on 21st, 15-20 on 25th).

    9.  American Black Duck (Anas rubripes)
          About 10 very well seen at Accotink Bay (28th).

  10.  Mallard* (Anas platyrhynchos)
          Present in good numbers in every aquatic habitat. Seen every day.

  11.   Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors)
          2 unexpected eclipse males at Accotink Bay (28th).

  12.   Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)
          6 in Little Bennett (26th) and 1 in Lilypons (27th).

  13.   Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)
          Seen 1 around the motorway from Dulles International Airport to Washington (19th), 22 in Little Bennett (26th), about 10 in and around Hughes Hollow (27th), 3 in Lilypons (27th) and 1 in Hunting Creek (28th).

  14.   Osprey* (Pandion haliaetus)
          Seen at diferent places in Washington (1 at the Arlington Memorial bridge (22nd), 1 at Tidal Basin (23rd) and 1-2 from the Arlington Memorial Bridge (23rd and 24th)), 1 by the Mount Vernon Trail (25th), 5 in Hunting Creek (28th) and 10 in Accotink Bay (28th).

  15.   Bald Eagle (Haliaetus leucocephalus)
          4-5 young birds, at Accotink Bay (28th).

  16.   Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)
          2 young birds in Huntley Meadows Park (28th)

  17.   Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)
          One adult in Arlington Cemetery (23rd) and 2 again in Arlington Cemetery (26th).

  18.   King Rail (Rallus elegans)
          Stunning view of a bird at Huntley Meadows Park (28th)

  19.  American Coot (Fulica americana)
          Just a solitary bird in Hunting Creek (28th).

  20.   Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)
          About 30 by the Mount Vernon Trail (25th) and about 25 in Hunting Creek (28th).

  21.   Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca)
          1 by the Mount Vernon Trail (25th), 1 in Huntley Meadows Park (28th), about 5 in Hunting Creek (28th) and 1 in Accotink Bay (28th).

  22.   Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes)
          At least 5 in Hunting Creek (28th).

  23.   Upland Sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda)
          4 birds, on a field, near Lilypons (27th)

  24.  Semipalmated Sandpiper (Calidris pusilla)
          At least 1-2 in Hunting Creek (28th).

  25.   Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla)
          At least 6 in Hunting Creek (28th).

  26.   Pectoral Sandpiper* (Calidris melanotos)
          Just one in Hunting Creek (28th).

  27.   Short-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus griseus)
          Just one bird, in Hunting Creek (28th).

  28.  Laughing Gull (Larus atricilla)
          2 around the Washington Memorial with a flock of Ring-billed Gulls (20th), 1 seen from the Arlington Memorial Bridge (23rd), 1 by the Mount Vernon Trail (25th) and 1 in Accotink Bay (28th). We thought it was more numerous than that.

  29.   Ring-billed Gull* (Larus delawarensis)
          Very common at every salt-water habitat. Seen every day.

  30.   Great Black-backed Gull* (Larus marinus)
          One young among Ring-billed Gulls by Theodore Roosevelt Island (25th) and many (adults and youngs) at Hunting Creek (28th).

  31.   Caspian Tern (Sterna caspia)
          Seen from the Arlington Memorial Bridge (2 on 23rd and 1 on 24th), 5 by the Mount Vernon Trail (25th), about 20 in Hunting Creek (28th) and 2 in Accotink Bay (28th).

  32.  Forster’s Tern (Sterna forsteri)
          1 young bird in Tidal Basin (20th) plus other 2 possible, 1 seen from the Arlington Memorial Bridge (24th), about 10 by the Mount Vernon Trail (25th), 1 in Hunting Creek (28th) and Many in Accotink Bay (28th).

  33.  Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)
         Widespread. Recorded in small groups (2-4) at almost every location visited. Seen every day.

–––    [Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus)]

          Only heard, in Little Bennett (26th).

–––    [Barred Owl (Strix varia)]

          Only heard, in Little Bennett (26th) and near Great Falls Park (28th)

  34.  Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor)
          About 15 flying around the Washington Monument at 9:00 p.m. on 28th.

  35.  Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica)
          Many seen every day at every location.

  36.   Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)
          1 in Theodore Roosevelt Island (25th), 1 in Rockville (26th), 1 in Pennyfield Lock (27th), 1 in Hughes Hollow (27th) and 2 in Huntley Meadows Park (28th).

  37.   Belted Kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon)
          1 by Theodore Roosevelt Island (25th), 1 in Pennyfield Lock (27th), 1 female in Hughes Hollow (27th), 2 in Lilypons (27th) and 1 male in Huntley Meadows Park (28th)

  38.   Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)
         Common. Seen in Rock Creek Park (3, on 22nd), in Arlington Cemetery (1 male, on 23rd and 5 on 26th), in Theodore Roosevelt Island (2, on 25th), 1 in Little Bennett (26th), 3 in Pennyfield Lock (27th) and 1 male in Huntley Meadows Park (28th)

  39.   Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)
         Common. 3 in Rock Creek Park (22nd), 1 male in Arlington Cemetery (23rd), 2-3 in Theodore Roosevelt Island (25th), 1 in Little Bennett (26th), 4 in Pennyfield Lock (27th) and 2 Huntley Meadows Park (28th)

  40.   Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus)
          Only one positively identified, at Little Bennett (26th). Also 2 probable in flight, at Rock Creek Park (22nd) and Arlington Cemetery (23rd).

  41.  Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)
          Many seen at Arlington Cemetery on several dates (23th, 24th and 26th).

  42.   Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)
          2 in Theodore Roosevelt Island (25th) and 2 in Pennyfield Lock (27th)

  43.   Eastern Wood-Pewee (Contopus virens)
          3 in Little Bennett (26th), 3 in Pennyfield Lock (27th) and 2 in Hughes Hollow (27th).

  44.   Acadian Flycatcher (Empidonax virescens)
          Only once, one bird in Arlington Cemetery (24th).

–––    [Least Flycatcher (Empidonax minimus)]

          Only heard (identified by Mike Bowen), at Lilypons (27th).

  45.   Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe)
          1 adult and 1 young in Hughes Hollow (27th).

  46.   Great Crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus)
          8-10 in Theodore Roosevelt Island (25th).

  47.   Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus)
          Seen 5-8 birds in and around Theodore Roosevelt Island (21st and 25th), 6 in West Potomac Park (23rd) and 4 seen in Arlington from the Arlington Memorial Bridge (24th).

–––    Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris)
          A flock of 6, identified by Mike Bowen and Bill Hill, near Lilypons (27th).

  48.   Purple Martin (Progne subis)
          4 young in Lilypons (27th).

  49.   Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)
          Several in Lilypons (27th).

  50.  Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)
          Seen about 75 in the way to Hughes Hollow (27th), many in Lilypons (27th) and about 30 in Accotink Bay (28th).

  51.   Bank Swallow* (Riparia riparia)
          5 in Lilypons (27th).

  52.   Cliff Swallow (Hirundo pyrrhonota)
          1 adult and 3 young birds in Lilypons (27th).

  53.   Barn Swallow* (Hirundo rustica)
          Seen many at Theodore Roosevelt Island (21st), 3 in Pennyfield Lock (27th) and many in Lilypons (27th).

  54.   Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)
          Seen almost every day in family groups, especially in Washington: Arlington Cemetery (22nd, 23rd and 24th, and 26th), 2 around the White House (20th) and 3 in Tidal Basin (20th).

  55.  American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
          Common and widespread. Seen on every date at every location in variable number.

  56.   Fish Crow (Corvus ossifragus)
          Always identified by its voice. Single birds in Washington, D.C. at several dates (19th, 20th and 24th), and another one at Huntley Meadows Park (28th). Probably overlooked.

  57.   Carolina Chickadee (Parus carolinensis)

          One of the commonest birds in the area, widespread and sometimes very numerous (as in Theodore Roosevelt Island and Pennyfield Lock). Seen almost every day and at every location with trees.

  58.   Tufted Titmouse (Parus bicolor)
          Seen many in Theodore Roosevelt Island (21st and 25th), 10 in Arlington Cemetery (23rd), many in Pennyfield Lock (27th) and 1 Huntley Meadows Park (28th).

  59.   White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)
          3 in Theodore Roosevelt Island (25th) and 2 in Pennyfield Lock (27th)

  60.   Carolina Wren     (Thryothorus ludovicianus)
         Widespread and seen almost everyday. Seen (usually in family groups) in Arlington Cemetery (23rd), Little Bennett (26th), Pennyfield Lock (27th), Huntley Meadows Park (28th) and many times in Washington (in Rock Creek Park, West Potomac Park and Theodore Roosevelt Island).

  61.   House Wren (Troglodytes aedon)
          Only one bird seen, at Rock Creek Park (22nd).

  62.   Blue-grey Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea)
          4 in Theodore Roosevelt Island (25th), 1 in Rockville (26th) and 1 in Pennyfield Lock (27th)

  63.   Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)
          Only once seen, 1 male in Hughes Hollow (27th).

  64.  American Robin (Turdus migratorius)
          Very common in every park of Washington and especially in Arlington Cemetery. But we hardly saw any out of town, only 2 in Huntley Meadows Park (28th). Perhaps overlooked.

  65.   Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis)
          Seen in West Potomac Park (20th and 23rd), Arlington Cemetery (23rd), Theodore Roosevelt Island (25th), by the Mount Vernon Trail (25th), in Rockville (26th) and in Huntley Meadows Park (28th). Always single birds or little family groups.

  66.  Northern Mockingbird (Mimus poliglottos)
         Widespread but only sometimes very numerous (as in Arlington Cemetery). Usually single birds seen, but at many locations: Tidal Basin (20th) Rosslyn (21st). Rock Creek Park (22nd) and Lilypons (27th) for example.

  67.   Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum)
          1 in Tidal Basin (20th), 1 in Rockville (26th), 2 in Arlington Cemetery (26th) and 1 in Lilypons (27th).

  68.   Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)
          Very poor views in Theodore Roosevelt Island (2 far away, on 25th) and in Little Bennett (1 flying, on 26th) and finally 2 very well seen in the way to Hughes Hollow (27th).

  69.  Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus)
          One unexpected bird, near Lilypons (27th)

  70.  European Starling* (Sturnus vulgaris)
–––    [White-eyed Vireo (Vireo griseus)]

          Only heard (identified by Mike Bowen), at Little Bennett (26th)

  71.   Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus)
          4 in Theodore Roosevelt Island (25th), 1 in Little Bennett (26th) and 2 in Pennyfield Lock (27th)

–––   Northern Parula (Parula americana)
          Two birds, identified by Mike Bowen, at Pennyfield Lock (27th)

  72.  Chestnut-sided Warbler (Dendroica pensylvanica)
          Just one young positively identified, at Theodore Roosevelt Island (25th).

–––   Magnolia Warbler (Dendroica magnolia)
          1-2 birds, seen by several members of the group, at Little Bennett (26th)

  73.   Black-and-white Warbler (Mniotilta varia)
          Stunning view of a female, at Little Bennett (26th)

  74.  American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla)
          4-5 in Theodore Roosevelt Island (25th) and 1 in Arlington Cemetery (26th).

  75.  Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)
          Only seen in Huntley Meadows Park (28th), but very well observed: at least 1 adult male, 1 young male and 3 female.

  76.   Canada Warbler (Wilsonia canadensis)
          Only one fall male at Theodore Roosevelt Island (25th)

  77.   Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea)
          Only one female, at Little Bennett (26th).

  78.  Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)
         Widespread, although apparently not very numerous. Seen almost every day, for example on Theodore Roosevelt Island (1 male on 21st and 6 birds on 25th), in Arlington Cemetery (2 on 23rd), 1 female in Rockville (26th) and a couple in Huntley Meadows Park (28th)

  79.   Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea)
          Only one male, in Lilypons (27th).

  80.   Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)
         Surprisingly, only once seen, 2-3 at Lilypons (27th).

  81.   Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)
          12-15 in Theodore Roosevelt Island (25th), 1 female in Hughes Hollow (27th), about 50 in Lilypons (27th), 1 female in Huntley Meadows Park (28th) and 2 in Accotink Bay (28th).

  82.  Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)
          Common in the parks of Washington: seen 6 around the White House (20th), in Tidal Basin (4 on 20th and 1 on 23rd) and in West Potomac Park (2 in 20th and 2 in 23rd). Seen as well 7 in Arlington Cemetery (23rd), 2 by the Mount Vernon Trail (25th) and 6 in Huntley Meadows Park (28th).

  83.   Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)
          2 young birds in Arlington Cemetery (23rd) and about 200 (adults and juveniles) by the Mount Vernon Trail (25th).

  84.  Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula)
          Stunning male, in Arlington Cemetery (24th) and 7-8 (adults and youngs) in Theodore Roosevelt Island (25th).

  85.   House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus)
          3 males and 5 females in Theodore Roosevelt Island (25th) and one flock of 3 males and 1 female in Rockville (26th).

  86.  American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis)
          4-5 in and around Arlington Cemetery (23rd), several in Theodore Roosevelt Island (25th), 1 male by the Mount Vernon Trail (25th), 2-3 in Little Bennett (26th), 3 in Pennyfield Lock (27th), 2 in Hughes Hollow (27th) and 3 Huntley Meadows Park (28th). Surely some more females and youngsters overlooked.

  87.   House Sparrow* (Passer domesticus)
          Very common in town, but we missed it at many “wilder” environments. Probably overlooked.

* Birds which were not lifers.

And here is a little list of other animals we managed to identify during our holidays:


–        Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) every day seen in the Parks of Washington. Very tame.
–        White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in Pennyfield Lock (27th)
–        Woodchuck (Marmota monax) (3) at Accotink Bay (28th).


–        Five-lined Skink (Eumeces fasciatus) on Theodore Roosevelt Island (26th).
–        Black Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta) on Theodore Roosevelt Island (25th)
–        Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon sipedon), in Huntley Meadows Park (28th)
–        Eastern Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta picta), in Huntley Meadows Park (28th)


–        Bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) at Lilypons (27th).


–        Monarch (Danaus plexippus) in every Park in Washington, D.C., in Arlington Cemetery and in Huntley Meadows Park (28th)
–        Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus) in Washington, D.C.
–        Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) in Arlington Cemetery (23rd).
–        Atlantis Fritillary (Speyeria atlantis) in Little Bennett (26th)
–        American Painted Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) in Hughes Hollow (27th).

and many others, but we are still struggling with books in order to know what on earth they were.

I welcome your comments and/or questions. Please contact me if you have any.

Marian Alvarez
Aviles (Asturias)

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