Saturday, November 20, Rock Creek’s North Branch Stream Valley. A second trip to this location was added and similarly we had temperatures starting off in the low 30’s and finishing in the mid 40’s. We walked the paved path and again had good views of a Kestrel on the edge of the large meadow. We walked up the hill and found a very birdy area with dozens of Robins and Cedar Waxwings as well as sparrows etc. At this point we turned around and headed to the northern edge of the park to check out a section of the North Branch of Rock Creek. A Common Raven was calling and being mobbed by the crows. Just short of the forest area, a hawk flew up in front of us and we were all thrilled to see a Northern Harrier. The harrier put on a fabulous display, allowing everyone to see the long wings and tail and the white rump. Shortly after that we flushed a Woodcock along the trail near the creek. We also had good views of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and lots of bluebirds. The Harrier was visible again as we exited the woods to end our trip. Thanks for the 7 birders who joined the 4.1 mile trip and helped ID 35 species and ~500 individuals. eBird checklist: https://ebird.org/checklist/S97821256
Sunday, November 14, Lois Y. Green Conservation Park. Leader: Mark England. Participants: 10 including leader, and a first visit to this park for eight in the group. Species: 42. This second trip was added due to a lot of interest, and starting at 8 am. probably helped us see more species than five days earlier. We had a well-seen Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Yellow-rumped Warbler and Hermit Thrush early in the trip, though only one of each. Mixed flocks of bluebirds and Cedar Waxwings were found repeatedly in tree tops, and we saw a pair of adult Red-shouldered Hawks roosting in a tree, with a singing Fox Sparrow not too far away. Waterfowl were scarce except again for Mallards and American Black Ducks, but the latter were life birds for some. We had satisfying scope looks at a perched juvenile Cooper’s Hawk, and later saw a Sharp-shinned Hawk harassing a Red-tail from above. Other highlights were a low and close Golden-crowned Kinglet, Savannah Sparrow (seen by some only), and a Common Raven spotted by Josephine Cox as we completed the circuit along Turkey Thicket Drive. A Hairy Woodpecker was spotted by some in the rear of the group, giving us six woodpeckers for the day, lacking only the Red-headed. (Thanks to Jo Cox for eBirding the trip.) The eBird list can be found here: https://ebird.org/checklist/S97581583
Thursday, November 11, Redgate Park. Leaders: Linda Friedland and Lydia Schindler. Participants: a very congenial group of 8 plus leaders. A beautiful fall morning. Right off the bat we were excited to see a Merlin sitting atop a pine tree. Soon thereafter we saw the/a Merlin again, this time on one of the tall poles that once lined the former golf course’s driving range; this time it was eating…a bird? The fields and trees remained awfully quiet. Eventually, we got good looks at a variety of our target sparrows: Song, White-throated, Field, Junco, and Towhee in the “sparrow tangle.” A small flock of Chipping Sparrows posed cooperatively in a bare tree. The eBird list can be found here: https://ebird.org/checklist/S97473812
Tuesday, November 9, Lois Y. Green Conservation Park. Leader: Mark England. Participants: 12 including leader. Species: 31. We met at 7 am. due to the recent change to Daylight Saving Time, but it was quite chilly and the birding was slow at first. (The leader vowed not to never repeat this mistake!). At the first pond, we found two Green-winged Teal in fresh breeding plumage, and some American Black Ducks mixed in with the usual Mallards. On the way to the larger pond we had good looks at a Hermit Thrush, bluebirds, and numerous White-throated Sparrows. At the second pond, we had great light on a Belted Kingfisher and more Mallards and Black Ducks, including a hybrid, but no other waterfowl as yet this season. A Barred Owl flushed out of a known roost grove of white pines, and we had great looks at several Field Sparrows in full sun. Just past the old farmhouse, we observed an adult Red-shouldered Hawk perched very low and close, one of at least three on the day. We completed the full 3-mile circuit of the park, in a little over three hours. Though we had mostly “usual suspects” on this walk, several of the group enjoyed their first visit to this park. The eBird list can be found here: https://ebird.org/checklist/S97582858
Saturday, November 6, Rock Creek’s North Branch Stream Valley. Leader: Josephine Cox. Participants: 8 total. Temperatures were in the low 30’s, but everyone turned up on this beautiful morning. The frost was sparkling on the soccer field grass and on the milkweeds, thistles, goldenrods etc that make this park welcoming to birds for food and shelter. To stay warm, we walked the paved path into the bright sun, and once we spotted birds, we put the sun behind us to better observe them. Many of the birds take advantage of the tall trees to warm up, this is where we saw the kestrel who was preening and occasionally flying off to chase after insects. The tree line has a lot of vines and we saw several bluebirds, robins and other birds foraging on the berries. A couple of us saw a fox sparrow and we also spotted what we thought were two cowbirds at the top of one of the trees. Mark Ross was taking photos and once he looked at the photos online, he realized that we had mis-identified the cowbirds and in fact we were seeing 2 rusty blackbirds. Lots of song and white-throated sparrows were hiding in the brush. Shortly after entering the woods, a turkey flew off, we also heard a couple more turkeys nearby. The rest of the woods was as pretty much expected with a variety of woodpeckers, a brown creeper and a couple of flocks of cedar waxwings. We also saw and heard red-shouldered and red-tailed hawks. This turned out into a long foray of almost 5 miles in 4 hours. Thanks to the 7 birders who joined the trip and helped ID 36 species and ~600 individuals. The eBird list can be found here: https://ebird.org/checklist/S97195558
Saturday, October 30, Redgate Park. Leader: Anne Mytych. Participants: 11, including leader. Weather: Partly foggy, clearing up with some sunshine, mid to upper 50s Species: 30. We focused on sparrow areas like the grasses near the main ponds, the sparrow tangle and the ampitheatre. In total, we saw 7 species of sparrow, including a lone Fox Sparrow toward the end of the walk, which was a highlight. Along the way, we also saw several Dark-Eyed Juncos, Eastern Bluebirds, and a couple of Ruby-Crowned Kinglets. The eBird list can be found here: https://ebird.org/checklist/S96880033
Saturday, October 23, MBC Presidents’ Walk at Blue Mash. Bird Club members enjoyed a great outing to Blue Mash Nature Trail on October 23 for the Annual Presidents’ Walk. A trip designed to see some good birds and also honor past and current Presidents of the Montgomery Bird Club. Current President, Evelyn Ralston and past President Lydia Schindler were in attendance along with 11 other members of the club. Weather was pleasant but somewhat cloudy for most of morning which tended to wash some of the color out the birds. We netted (figuratively speaking) 47 species for the day. Highlights included a female Bufflehead and a young male Gadwall on the “big pond” as well as a flock of Green-winged Teal and 4 American Black Ducks mixed in with a bunch of Mallards. Best passerine of the day probably would a cooperative Blue-headed Vireo, as well as plenty of looks at both kinglet species, Palm Warbler, Hermit Thrush, FOS Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, and Swamp Sparrows. A flyover adult Bald Eagle was an awesome sight occurring during one of the few moments in the morning that the sun poked through the clouds. Also, 2 Great Blue Herons “sparring” over fishing rights to the “small pond” was most fun to watch.
Wednesday, October 6, Oaks Landfill (private), Laytonsville, MD. Leader: Mark England. Participants: 17, including leader. Weather: Dense fog at the start, then only dark and overcast! On the positive side, the rain held off and temps. were mild. Species: 31. We went first to the big pond just to see something visible in the fog, and could dimly make out 14 Green-winged Teal on the far side of the pond, a Great Blue Heron, and the usual C. Geese and Mallards. We found a few Killdeer, but no other shorebirds due to the high water levels from recent rains. There were surprisingly few raptors this day, when I fully expected American Kestrels on this trip, at least. But, we did have fleeting looks at two Northern Harriers, an adult Bald Eagle, and 3 Red-shouldered Hawks. It was a very good morning for sparrows however, with the following species seen: Chipping, Field, numerous Song and Savannah’s, Swamp, 3 well-seen Lincoln’s, and a rare Nelson’s Sparrow at the top of the landfill hill, first spotted by Laura Berkson, who noted a “very orangish bird” perched on the Himalayan Blackberry bushes about 70 feet away. We got a scope on it quickly and noted key field marks that differed from a Le Conte’s Sparrow, which has also been seen (Oct., 2018) at the landfill. Not everyone got on the Nelson’s, unfortunately, before it flew off, but for others it was a great life bird. There was some debate about a “flat-headed sparrow” spotted by Lydia Schindler, which may have been a Grasshopper Sparrow. On the way out, some people saw a Dark-eyed Junco to add to a nice morning. The eBird list can be found here: https://ebird.org/atlasmddc/checklist/S95678725
Sunday, October 2, Little Bennett Regional Park. Leader: Gemma Radko. Saturday’s walk started at the Wilson’s Mill trailhead. We had 5 participants. Weather was superlative. Highlights were many winter bird arrivals: both kinglets, Winter Wren, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Warbler numbers were low – only 8 species, with low numbers. I am hoping this means that the birds had a nonstop migration over our area and just passed us by! The eBird list can be found here: https://ebird.org/checklist/S95479565
Sunday, September 26, Woodstock Equestrian Park. Leader: Scott Young and Dave Roberts. Today was a lovely early fall day at the Woodstock Equestrian Park – West (Greenberg) area. Eight eager birders joined Dave Roberts and Scott Young as they led an exploration of this eBird hotspot. Although it was relatively quiet morning, unexpectedly only revealing 4 warbler species, 30 other species were observed, including a ruby-crowned kinglet, a brown thrasher, an eastern towhee, numerous cedar waxwings and field sparrows, and several indigo buntings. The eBird list can be found here: https://ebird.org/checklist/S95192590
Saturday, September 25, Croydon Creek. Leader: Anne Mytych. Participants: 14, Total Species: 31. We started at the feeders, which were lit up by the sun and had a lot of activity, especially in the vines above. We saw four Tennessee Warblers, a Magnolia Warbler, an American Redstart, a Brown Thrasher, a Red-Eyed Vireo, and an Eastern Wood Pewee. We also heard a Rose-Breasted Grosbeak and saw it fly overhead. After pulling ourselves away from the busy feeders, we walked along the Heritage Trail, which was very quiet – only a few of the usual suspects. Out into the meadow area, we saw a large group of Brown-Headed Cowbirds milling about in the grass. All in all a beautiful fall day with lots of lovely birds to see. The eBird list can be found here: https://ebird.org/checklist/S95141813
Sunday, September 19, Pennyfield to Violette’s “Bird Stalk”. Leader: Jim Nelson. Participants: 12, including leader. Weather: Sunny, 69-80 F. Total species: 25. This walk is for folks who generally cannot get out as early. We met at Violette’s Lock at 9:00, carpooled down to Pennyfield Lock, and walked upstream along the C&O Canal towpath back to Violette’s, ending after noon. The total species count was down considerably from prior years of this trip — one vireo species and no warblers, tanagers, thrushes, or orioles. The second impoundment was nearly dry and bird free. The low point of the trip was missing the Wood Stork that was being seen regularly around the area of the Pennyfield lockhouse in the days before this trip. Then, rubbing salt in the wound, a person overtook us as we walked upstream and told us that it was seen by others a few minutes after we left Pennyfield Lock to walk upstream (some participants returned to Pennyfield after our walk and saw the Wood Stork then). Highlights of the trip were a Spotted Sandpiper in the river, Red-shouldered Hawks flying high overhead and at treetop level, a few Broad-winged Hawks seen by some participants at Violette’s before the walk, and an immature Bald Eagle. The checklist from the walk (minus Broad-winged Hawks at Violette’s) can be viewed in eBird at https://ebird.org/atlasmddc/checklist/S94889879
Thursday, September 9, Wheaton Regional Park. Leader: Woody and Rae Dubois. The Birdcast for the night before Sept. 9 was moderately good but the morning itself was heavily overcast after rain. Ten of us gathered at Wheaton’s carousel parking lot, then began slowly walking the railroad tracks to Pine Lake. There were Ruby-throated Hummingbirds on the jewelweed and one person saw a Least Flycatcher on the big willow tree by the spring. Two Baltimore Orioles and, as usual, many American Robins were in the heavy vines draping the trees by the tracks. Wheaton always provides plenty of wild grapes, porcelain berries, Virginia creeper berries and other food for thrushes, orioles and tanagers in the fall. There were no Scarlet Tanagers today but Northern Flickers and Red-bellied Woodpeckers love the fruit as well and we saw several of them. Though the lake itself was unoccupied except for our reliable Belted Kingfisher, we heard two Warbling Vireos singing nearby. This area of Wheaton Park hosted a number of breeding Eastern Wood Pewees this summer but today we saw or heard only two rather than the usual six or seven. In spite of the cloudy conditions we did eventually see four species of warbler: a Black-and-White, a Common Yellowthroat, two American Redstarts and a Magnolia. The highlight was an American Goldfinch nest that one sharp-eyed participant saw at the end of a pine branch near the gate to Brookside Gardens. It was occupied and visited while we watched by a second goldfinch. Our final count was 34 species, which was a little disappointing but was probably reasonable for such a cloudy day. A couple of people were new to Wheaton so it was nice to be able to introduce them to the park. The eBird list can be found here: https://ebird.org/atlasmddc/checklist/S94410372
Saturday, June 12, Patuxent River at Brown’s Bridge. Leader: Cheryl Hogue. After rain the day before, the morning of June 12 greeted birders with a dreary gray sky at Brown’s Bridge along Montgomery’s border with Howard County. This was the club’s first field trip in some years to this site along the Patuxent River. The 10 participants, including one of the four on the trip’s waiting list, had great views of the target bird for this trip – Cliff Swallows. Binoculars and camera shutters were busy as we watched them forage along the river entering and exiting their jug-shaped mud nests. We also saw Belted Kingfishers, Green Herons, Great Blue Herons, and, under the bridge, a fluffy fledgling Eastern Wood-Pewee and a nearby adult. Next, we ambled into the woods of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (the water utility serving much of Montgomery County) northwest of the bridge. The Brood X cicadas were fairly quiet and so were the birds! We did clearly hear the quick song of Acadian Flycatchers and the teacher-TEACHER-TEACHER of Ovenbirds. The trail took us to a secluded part of the river upstream of the bridge where we enjoyed views of an Eastern Kingbird and a singing Baltimore Oriole. The last bird of the morning was a delight: a Yellow-throated Vireo, heard and seen in glimpses at the parking lot. Club member Diane Durham captured an image of the bird as seen on this eBird checklist: https://ebird.org/atlasmddc/checklist/S90043077. We also had a short checklist viewed from the Howard County side of the bridge: https://ebird.org/atlasmddc/checklist/S90057555. Thanks to club member Paul Orsinger for tallying our 30 species and for taking up the rear of the group.
Thursday, May 13, Blue Mash and Oaks Landfill. Leader: Mark England. Participants: 11. Weather: Exceptionally nice, with clear sunny skies, 48-65 degrees. Species: 59. We took our time going around Blue Mash, as we were enjoying good looks at many types of birds. We saw a White-eyed Vireo over the gravel road early on, and then had good looks at Common Yellowthroats, a male American Redstart, Northern Parula, Yellow-rumped, and Black-and-White Warblers on the way to the landfill pond fence line. Here we saw a Yellow Warbler, Swamp Sparrow, singing 1st-year Orchard Oriole, a “brownie” Purple Finch, and a Northern Waterthrush, which Donna Sturm had immediately identified by its song. We saw some shorebirds at the Zion Road pond, including Least, Spotted, and Solitary Sandpipers. We heard at least two Yellow-breasted Chats and Prairie Warblers, but could not find one in view, though we did have brief looks at a Western Palm Warbler and a Magnolia Warbler in the same area. In the wooded far corner of Blue Mash, we had a good look at a perched Ovenbird and heard only a fairly close Veery and Black-throated Blue Warbler. At the landfill, we had good looks at Savannah Sparrows, Red-shouldered and Red-tailed (RTHA) Hawks, and at the end, finally had a great look at a nicely-perched male Blue Grosbeak, to everyone’s satisfaction. Incidentally, on my Saturday atlassing at the landfill two days later, I saw a female Northern Harrier (NOHA) come up out of the grass around ten in the morning. It was starting to soar when an adult RTHA attacked it in the air, before locking talons as both birds spiralled to the ground out of sight. This may have been the same female NOHA that I had seen the previous week, and I had been considering the possibility that it might be attempting to nest at the landfill, which would have been a first in my experience there. The eBird checklist for the trip can be found: https://ebird.org/atlasmddc/checklist/S88015771
Sunday, May 9, Rickman/Woodstock Equestrian Park. Leader: Scott Young. A small group met at 6:30 a.m. to first explore the west side and then the east sides of the Equestrian Park. At a leisurely pace, we spotted 37 species on the west side and 29 on the east. Highlights on the west side were the four Eastern Kingbirds gathered together and the many Tree Swallows visiting their nest boxes. On the east side, we were treated to an Indigo Bunting, a Blue Grosbeak and a White-crowned Sparrow. All told, we encountered nine warbler species and a couple of Yellow-breasted Chats.The eBird checklists for the trip can be found at: https://ebird.org/atlasmddc/checklist/S87624533 and https://ebird.org/atlasmddc/checklist/S87608668
Sunday, May 9, Rock Creek Park, DC. Ten people joined leader Gerry Hawkins on a field trip to the Rock Creek Park Nature Center area on May 9, 2021. Highlights during a circular route that included the Maintenance Yard and forest trails on this generally slow chilly, cloudy morning included nine warbler species, several Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, an adult male Baltimore Oriole, an adult male Scarlet Tanager, a photogenic singing Yellow-throated Vireo, Wood Thrush, Veery, Swainson’s Thrush and a late Red-breasted Nuthatch. Noteworthy breeding activity included a Downy Woodpecker feeding a nestling in a tree cavity and recently fledged House Finches.
Saturday, May 8, Little Bennett Regional Park. Co-leaders: Woody and Rae Dubois. Starting shortly after 7:00 a.m., the group of ten began by following the Wilson Mill Trail to the Stoneybrook Trail, then onto the Western Piedmont Trail. Our most numerous single species on this leg of the trip was a flock of approximately fifteen Yellow-rumped Warblers, but by the end of the walk we also had a number of Black-throated Blue, plus Chestnut-sided and Yellow Warblers, American Redstart, Common Yellowthroat, Northern Parula, Prairie, Magnolia, and the Ovenbird. One person also saw a Nashville. The highlight on the Stoneybrook trail for some participants was not a warbler at all, but the Swainson’s Thrush, which was both heard and seen.
Steady rain and cold were factors through a good part of the morning, though luckily, by the time we circled back to Clarksburg Road the rain was tapering off a little. A few of the group left to go back to the parking lot at this point, understandably cold and wet and needing a hot drink. The remaining participants forged ahead to the Kingsley Trail where we heard Louisiana Waterthrush and saw a Northern Waterthrush picking up food in the water at the side of the road. We also saw a pair of copulating Scarlet Tanagers, coding them quickly for the Atlas! As we reconvened back at the parking lot at 11:00, our final bird was the Common Raven which soared overhead. Our final count was 43 species. We would like to say that the good humor that this group showed in the face of adverse conditions was amazing. The eBird checklist can be found at: https://ebird.org/atlasmddc/checklist/S87442246
Friday, May 7, Birding by Ear at Hughes Hollow. Leader: Paul Woodward. Participants: 10. As usual we walked around the impoundments. Weather was more like late winter than spring which probably reduced bird song. We had a composite list of about 50 species. Highlights were an Anhinga which had been here the past few days and 2 flyover Sandhill Cranes. Other birds of note were Blue-winged Teals, a Common Gallinule (they probably nest here every year), 3 Great Egrets flying over, and 5 Green Herons. We briefly heard a Barred Owl. The vocal highlight was a nesting female Hooded Merganser flying around calling. Most people haven’t heard this before or at least haven’t identified it. We spent time listening to Great Crested Flycatchers, Warbling Vireos, Orchard Orioles, Northern Waterthrushes, Prothonotary Warblers, and a Yellow Warbler. The eBird checklist can be found at: https://ebird.org/checklist/S87368496
Sunday, May 2, Izaak Walton League, B-CC Chapter, Conservation Farm. Leader: Jim Nelson. Participants: 10. Weather: Sunny, starting in the mid-40s and rising to upper 70s. Species: 56. Thanks to the IWL-BCC, our group once again enjoyed access to this prime private property near Poolesville with a great mix of habitats. IWL-BCC member Larry Anderson acted as our escort. Many of our birds were heard only, and not everyone got to see or hear each species. We had only 5 species of warblers – Black and White, Common Yellowthroat, Northern Parula, Yellow-rumped, and singing Prairie Warblers. Among the specialties at this site, we had at least 30 Purple Martins at the martin housing complex on site, and in the fields several singing Grasshopper Sparrows with two sitting up for relatively good views. We also were treated to three vocal Yellow-breasted Chats, one of which was singing from a very high perch in a tree giving all of us good views of this usually stealthy species, and three male Scarlet Tanagers in the woods all within a few feet of each other. Other good birds included Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue and Green Herons, Osprey, Cooper’s Hawk, White-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireo, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Wood Thrush, abundant Chipping and Field Sparrows, several stealthy Eastern Towhee singing, Orchard Oriole, and singing male Indigo Buntings. We also had Eastern Phoebe, Great-crested Flycatcher, and Eastern Kingbird. We tallied 30 Blue Jays and probably missed others as groups were moving through, probably migrants. Driving in along Izaak Walton Way just before the field trip started, the leader heard a singing Eastern Meadowlark in the large farm field to the south and saw a male Blue Grosbeak perched on a wire by the road. The two eBird checklists can be found at: https://ebird.org/checklist/S86940164 and https://ebird.org/atlasmddc/checklist/S86927926
Sunday, April 25, Occoquan Bay NWR. Leaders: Gerry Hawkins and Mike Bowen. Participants: 11 plus leaders. Weather: Cloudy with a few bright periods, blustery, with a wind that occasionally felt cold, 50’s. Species count: 62. Highlights: A brilliantly bright, calling male Baltimore Oriole (first of the season for most of us), a raft of 17 Red-breasted Mergansers that, when seen well, turned out to be composed entirely of females – presumably on mid-migration to breeding grounds well to our North – and splendid views of Prothonotary, Yellow, Yellow-throated and Prairie Warblers and Northern Parulas, many of them singing lustily. We enjoyed watching lots of Bald Eagles and Ospreys on and around their nests and had a fleeting look at a flying King Rail, while others called “kek-kek-kek” from not far off. Out in the bay we had 4 species of gulls and terns. There were surprisingly few swallows – just a few Tree and Barn – and very few sparrows in this usually sparrow-filled refuge, although we did get great views of Swamp Sparrow. The timing of our MBC trip this year was once again a little too early for Yellow-breasted Chats, which breed at the refuge but which had not yet returned from the south. The eBird checklist for the trip can be found at: https://ebird.org/checklist/S86353062
Saturday, April 24, Croydon Creek Nature Center. Co-leaders: Emily Huang & Anne Mytych. The weather was cool in the upper 40s to low 50s with sunshine and light wind. We had 17 birders including the co-leaders, and we split into two groups after first visiting the feeders, where we saw 4 Purple Finches, as well as the usual suspects. Emily took her group on the Heritage Trail and saw 36 species, including a Louisiana Waterthrush and a Wood Thrush. Anne took her group along the Woodland Trail and saw 33 species, including Brown Thrashers and an Ovenbird. The two eBird checklists can be found at: https://ebird.org/checklist/S86258399 and https://ebird.org/checklist/S86244181
Sunday, April 11, Hughes Hollow. Co-leaders: Jim Nelson and Clive Harris. Participants: 21, including leaders. Weather: Overcast, then gradually clearing, temps started at 60 rising to about 70 by the end. This trip was very popular, and we were able to accommodate an extra 9 people when Clive Harris volunteered to co-lead. We birded in two separate groups going different routes to keep contact limited. Overnight rain stopped just in time for this walk. We had a nice variety of bird species, and the total of 51 between the two groups was just one less than the last trip in 2019. The highlight of the trip was a Glossy Ibis which had been present for several days. Other birds of note included an Osprey hunting over the large impoundment, three Yellow-crowned Night-Herons, a calling Barred Owl, two singing White-eyed Vireos, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers galore, a Hermit Thrush, two Brown Thrashers, Chipping and Swamp Sparrows (including a young bird singing a strange, House or Winter Wren-like song), a female Eastern Towhee, a Pine Warbler, and two singing Common Yellowthroats with one male sitting in plain view providing great views. Waterfowl included Blue-winged Teal, Wood Duck, Ring-necked Duck, Hooded Merganser, Great Blue Heron, Green Heron, Double-crested Cormorant, American Coot, Wilson’s Snipe, and calling Pied-bill Grebes. The two eBird checklists for the trip can be found at: https://ebird.org/checklist/S85329928 and https://ebird.org/checklist/S85323645
Wednesday, March 31, 2021, Pennyfield Lock
Leader: Dave Powell. Six people joined me on a walk on the C&O Canal at Pennyfield Lock. A total of 37 species were seen. The woods along the entry roads were full of White-throated Sparrows, which was our most common bird of the walk. Flocks were encountered all along the canal along with flocks of Yellow-rumped Warblers. Highlight of the walk was a Purple Finch (Brownie), which unfortunately did not stay long enough to be seen by everybody. Other highlights were a singing Eastern Towhee, pairs of Wood Ducks, and Common Mergansers. Best bird of the walk was a roosting Barred Owl! The owl allowed great looks and was seen by all. Nice morning for a walk.
Saturday, March 27, 2021, Cabin John Regional Park
Leader: Max Wilson. Participants: 6. Species: 40. We had a marvelous morning for our walk of the powerline cut bisecting Cabin John Regional Park. Sparrows, woodpeckers, and a pair of American Kestrels are the highlight here, and both performed. Even before leaving the parking lot, we had a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Once we were under the powerlines, we almost immediately had a group of sparrows, including half a dozen Field Sparrows that sat up well for the group. We hit the jackpot later in the walk when we found two red Fox Sparrows. Not everyone was able to get their bins on them, but one eventually sang several times for the group. On the return trip, we came across a female American Kestrel on the high-tension tower holding a snake. That bird eventually dropped the remainder of its meal and flew off. We later found a second female Kestrel enjoying another snake meal. At that point, about half the group carpooled to Locust Grove Nature Center, which had been hosting an adult Red-headed Woodpecker since mid-February. The bird was on its favorite limb when we arrived and was eventually spooked into a cavity by a Cooper’s Hawk.
Friday, March 12, 2021, Wheaton Regional Park for Beginners
Leaders: Evelyn Ralston and Susan Hunt. As predicted, Friday marked a change in weather from sunny and warm to gray and moderate. But no rain! Besides the co-leaders, there were 7 participants including grandparents with their 5-year-old grandson, who was the reason for their presence. At first it appeared eerily quiet along the mini-train tracks, but things picked up. Sparrows and ducks were down from previous days (gone was a Fox Sparrow, and only one Ring-necked Duck remained instead of 8 the day before), but Eastern Towhees were not only heard but also repeatedly seen, and two Ruby-crowned Kinglets surprised us. Pretty much all the common species were seen, with a total of 31 bird species, not bad for this between-seasons moment. The best was at the very end: as we were back at the parking lot, the young boy lifted his head and asked “What is this bird?” Indeed there was a large dark bird … a juvenile Bald Eagle! This little boy shows promise!
Wednesday, March 10, 2021, Gunners Lake
Leader: Mike Bowen. Participants: 6. Weather: Sunny and delightful, temps. in the 50s and 60s. Species: 32. This trip had been postponed for a month because of frozen and potentially dangerously icy conditions on the original February date. Fortunately for everyone, the lake was not only ice-free but offered a number of waterfowl that—typical for this small body of water—gave everyone really great views. For the first time that the leader can remember, Redhead was the most abundant diving duck here, with more than 20 easily seen and photographed at close range. Other diving ducks on the lake were Ring-necked Duck, Ruddy Duck, and Hooded Merganser. Two American Wigeons and 6 Gadwalls accompanied the usual numerous Mallards in the “dabbling duck” category, together with a drake Wood Duck in gorgeous plumage. Three Pied-billed Grebes were spotted just as we were finishing up. Bird(s) of the day were a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks that copulated in full view of the group, albeit briefly. The moment was captured photographically by our unofficial photographer and can be seen on eBird at https://ebird.org/atlasmddc/checklist/S83128814.
Sunday, March 7, 2021, Lois Green Conservation Park, Gaithersburg
Leader: Mark England. Participants: 7 including leader. Weather: Sunny but cold, 28-36 degrees. Species: 23. We did the full circuit of the park on this bright but cold morning, but birds were pretty scarce, as perhaps they were waiting for it to warm up. We had excellent looks at some waterfowl including 7 Green-winged Teal, 3 Canvasbacks, and good numbers of American Black Ducks and Ring-necked Ducks, among others. We had several good looks at Eastern Bluebirds in great light and glimpses of a few sparrows, including Field. Red-shouldered Hawks were the only raptors seen, but we saw both adults and juveniles. A Barred Owl flushed out of some white pines, and we saw it flying further into some woods. Surprisingly, we did not see a single woodpecker species but only heard a Red-bellied or two. Despite the relative absence of birds, the group enjoyed the introduction to the park, as none of them had been there before.
Saturday, March 6, 2021, North Branch and Kengla Trails
Leaders: Josephine Cox and Anne Mytych. Participants: 14 including leaders. Species: 35 for Jo’s group and 27 for Anne’s group. Weather: upper 20s to low 30s and sunny. We split into two groups; Jo’s group opted for the circular route along Rock Creek’s upper stream valley. They started off along the open area heading east toward the stream valley, which has a mix of small marshes, open fields, and wood edges. They heard the first of many Red-winged Blackbirds setting up their territories. They spotted an American Kestrel perched on a fairly distant tree, which then flew down closer to them for a better look. Once they entered the stream valley, they heard and saw the usual winter resident woodpeckers and other woodland species. They had good looks at 2 Red-shouldered and 2 Red-tailed Hawks before the end of the trip. There is a well-marked path that meanders back and forth near the creek, but at one point they followed a path right next to the creek with a grove of large sycamore trees where they had a flurry of activity including several Eastern Bluebirds, 2 Brown Creepers, an Eastern Phoebe, and an Eastern Towhee. As they headed out of the stream valley, a Wild Turkey ran across the path not far from them. They could also see several other turkeys scuttling along the brushy edge. Their luck continued near the end of the trip along the open marshy field area where they had a really nice photo op of a male kestrel, a Common Raven flew overhead, and they had close-ups of Black and Turkey Vultures sunning themselves. Just over 4.5 miles of walking and a respectable 35 species. Anne’s group did the shorter route focusing on the meadow areas. They saw several Red-Winged Blackbirds, as well as Dark-eyed Juncos, Chipping Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Field Sparrows, Swamp Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows, and a nice surprise of an American Tree Sparrow, who very cooperatively posed for photos. They also got a nice look at an American Kestrel and the two hawks seen by Jo’s group before finishing. Jo’s full list can be seen here (https://ebird.org/checklist/S82861510), and Anne’s full list can be seen here (https://ebird.org/checklist/S82859359).
Sunday, February 21, 2021, Hughes Hollow
Leaders: Nathan and Stella Tea. Species: 30. After the delay caused by the snow/ice storm, six brave participants joined us on a slippery, makeup walk at Hughes Hollow. Forecast predicted the temperature to be sunny in the mid-30s with little to no wind, and that is exactly what we experienced. The little wind and clear skies allowed us incredible views of some of the birds at this time of the year. The once full impoundments were mostly covered in a layer of ice, but a handful of ducks were present in a solitary pool of open water. In the flock were the continuing Redheads (a lower number than before but still pleasant to see), a couple of female Canvasbacks, a single Ring-necked Duck, and some Hooded Mergansers. We birded along the icy dike as many of the participants eagerly looked for good opportunities for photographs. Along the dike, we picked up an overwintering Eastern Phoebe, great looks at foraging Swamp Sparrows, a Winter Wren, and a Yellow-rumped Warbler. We continued to walk carefully down the dike toward the sunflower fields and eventually came upon a flock of fast-moving sparrows. Among them, a very cooperative Brown Thrasher and a Fox Sparrow offered excellent views and opportunities for photographs as they foraged near our group. Nearby we picked up some more foraging birds including a Brown Creeper, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and many other sparrows. Then, out of nowhere, one participant spotted a white, flat flying object swooping down right in front of our group and into a little crevice in a tree. It turned out to be a flying squirrel! We have not seen flying squirrels out in the wild, away from feeders, and during the day! Everyone got excellent views as it came in and out of the crevice. After a few minutes, it glided away into the forest. As we walked closer to another open field, we stumbled upon the same flock of sparrows and attempted to make our way through the snow-covered ground for a closer look at the Fox Sparrow only to be met by sharp burrs and a flyover Sharp-shinned Hawk. With exhilaration, we gingerly made our way back to the parking lot where we were delighted by another Ruby-crowned Kinglet, a Brown Creeper, and a Hermit Thrush actively bathing and foraging.
February 2021, Oaks Landfill: Highlights of five trips
Leader: Mark England. Because of a lengthy waitlist held over from January and the six-person limit on current trips, there were five late-afternoon MBC trips into the closed Oaks Landfill in February, primarily intended to see raptors and sparrows, which this site is best known for. The first trip on Thursday, February 4, was exceptional for raptors, with eight species seen, most notably a probable first-year Rough-legged Hawk (RLHA), which I had seen while scouting before the trip. We went directly to the top of the landfill and saw the RLHA very well, though it never perched very close. We also had four Northern Harriers, Cooper’s, Red-shouldered (RSHA) and Red-tailed (RTHA) Hawks, a Bald Eagle, a Merlin, and the male Short-eared Owl (SEOW) that had been present since January. The next trip, on February 6, had to be entered through the Blue Mash side of the landfill, as there had been a shooting on Rt. 108 in the morning and the road was closed for the police investigation. I saw the RLHA during scouting about 3:15 p.m., but it proved very elusive during the trip, flying away from us at one point over the big pond to Blue Mash and never allowing the group a good look. We did see 4 Northern Harriers, the continuing SEOW, an Eastern Phoebe, 4 Savannah Sparrows, and 7 Eastern Meadowlarks. On a heavily overcast February 9th trip, we saw the Rough-legged Hawk quite well, and some got good pictures, including one by Scott Young of a harrier buzzing the hawk as it perched in a pine tree. There were also RSHAs and RTHAs and good views of the hunting SEOW. A week later, on February 16, the Rough-legged Hawk was gone, possibly reappearing in some fields east of Clarksburg for two days, where it was flagged on eBird and seen by a number of birders. It seemed similarly marked to the one we saw at the landfill. On the windy 2/16 trip, we had great looks at White-crowned Sparrows and, later, American Tree Sparrows, spotted by Clive Harris. The harrier show before sundown was excellent as usual, and there were now Gadwall and Green-winged Teal in the mostly thawed pond, among other ducks. On February 27, we finally got in a trip that had twice been rescheduled due to snow and ice. The trip was for beginners and those who had never been to the landfill. With clear weather near 50 degrees, the large pond was finally ice-free, and a nice variety of waterfowl was viewed in great light, including two Northern Shovelers (rare at this location), 3 male Canvasbacks, 2 Wood Ducks, 2 Gadwall, 3 American Wigeon, 4 Green-winged Teal, a Hooded Merganser, Bufflehead, and assorted Ring-necked Ducks, Mallards, and a lone American Black Duck. Raptors included 3 RSHA, 2 RTHA, 1 Cooper’s Hawk glimpse only, and at least 3 harriers. We saw 2 juvenile White-crowned Sparrows and an Eastern Phoebe and were then treated to exceptional looks at 3 hunting Short-eared Owls well before sundown. As I was locking up the gate to leave, I heard at least two displaying American Woodcock adjacent to the landfill entry road, giving us 35 species for the trip, a particularly good number for this site in winter.
Sunday, January 17, 2021, Black Hill Regional Park and Gunners Lake
Leader: Gerry Hawkins. Nine persons joined the leader in a search for waterfowl at Black Hill Regional Park and nearby Gunners Lake on a mild, overcast morning. Notwithstanding unseasonably warm weather this winter, we saw 13 waterfowl species and other waterbirds at four stops. At the Black Hill RP Visitors Center, we observed Common Mergansers, Buffleheads, and distant Canada Geese, as well as Pied-billed Grebes and Great Blue Herons. Here we also enjoyed various songbirds at the well-stocked feeders, including a couple of beautiful Eastern Bluebirds. A short drive to the boat ramp area at Black Hill produced several Mallards, American Black Ducks, Hooded Mergansers, and a continuing female Greater Scaup, all at close range. A stop at the Route 121 bridge over Little Seneca Lake produced more Common Mergansers and Pied-billed Grebes and a distant adult Bald Eagle perched on a cell tower. A 10-minute drive brought us to Gunners Lake, a 20-acre, man-made lake in a sea of development in Germantown that is known for its winter waterfowl, and it did not disappoint. Here we walked part of the 1.25-mile paved trail around the lake to see a small number of Canvasbacks and Redheads, including males and females of both species, over 20 Hooded Mergansers, several male Ring-necked Ducks, several Ruddy Ducks, a pair of Gadwall, a solitary male American Wigeon, and a solitary Wood Duck standing on a log next to the trail, as well as Mallards, of course. Thanks to all participants for coming on this fun field trip during these difficult times.
Wednesday, January 6, 2021, Cambridge and Blackwater NWR
Leader: Mark England. Participants: 7 including leader. Weather: Mostly overcast, mid-40s, but stiff winds made it seem much colder. Species: 46 that I can remember. As on the December trip exactly a month earlier, we started on the bitter-cold bank of the Choptank River in Cambridge and made our usual several stops along the waterfront. Wind-driven swells and spotting scope instability made it difficult to scan the river, but we had the expected Surf Scoters for sure, Bufflehead, and Double-crested Cormorants. At the marina, we again found very close Long-tailed Ducks, both male and female. Unlike in December, there were at least 200 ducks at the end of Oakley Street, mainly Canvasbacks and Lesser Scaup, with numbers of American Wigeon, Redheads, and Ruddy Ducks as well. There also appeared to be a few Greater Scaup, based on close observation of head shape and bill details. The slow trip down Egypt Road was more productive than in December, with a well-seen eastern Palm Warbler at our first stop, a distant flock of about 100 American Pipits, some Eastern Meadowlarks in flight, and, surprisingly, two Pine Warblers perched together on a telephone wire at the intersection of Egypt Road and Key Wallace Drive. The refuge Life of the Marsh Trail through the loblolly pines was very quiet till the end, where we took the alternate path back to the parking lot through more shrubby habitat. We found a close Brown Creeper and then several Brown-headed Nuthatches very low down on nearby tree trunks, certainly the best looks at them that any of us had ever seen. At the Observation Point marsh overlook platform, we were able to look down on a puffed-up American Bittern stalking through the shallow water to finally catch and swallow a small minnow, one of the high points of the trip. We had more expected waterfowl on the refuge including Northern Shovelers, flying Northern Pintails, Ring-necked Ducks, Hooded Mergansers, American Black Ducks, and hundreds of Tundra Swans. Rather amazingly, we saw no kestrels, bluebirds, or Red-tailed Hawks this time, and only one distant Northern Harrier. Three of us did see harriers at the Bestpitch Ferry bridge near sundown but no Short-eared Owls as we had hoped since three had been seen there on the previous visit in December.