Three-Park Palooza

No, that’s not the name of an obscure card game. The title reflects that over the holidays we visited three local parks expecting to see little wildlife based on recent cold-weather experiences. As is often the case with expectations, ours were defeated, repeatedly, but in a good way. As these photos reveal.

After Christmas, we returned to our familiar haunts at Huntley Meadows Park. We immediately saw that the resident beavers had been hard at work since our last visit:

More familiar residents of the park were seen:

But we were really fortunate to capture this magnificent bird in flight:

in addition to seeing these Northern Shovelers

Numerous Northern Pintails:

and last, but certainly not least, these beautiful Hooded Mergansers:

On December 28, 2021, we returned to Great Falls Park on the Virginia side. We walked all the way along the Potomac River to the dam that is actually below Riverbend Park further north. This is the dam, looking upstream:

We spotted the long-term resident of the Great Falls Park — the  Great Blue Heron — just standing around as he seems usually to do:

D

Geese were plentiful, diving for whatever they find in the river this time of year:

In the trees behind us we spotted one of the park’s treasures, a Bald Eagle in a far tree:

It is not unusual to see an eagle at Great Falls Park, but we were very surprised to see both this woodpecker:

and, even more so, this spectacular Indigo Bunting:

This beautiful creature attracted a bit of a crowd but never budged.

Finally, we visited Great Falls Park on the Maryland side, where I had last been decades ago. The physical side of the park here is alone a remarkable sight. Trees and rocks are covered with green lichen and moss.

The fast-moving water is a playground for adventurous kayakers who sometimes don’t know when to quit:

But, of course, we didn’t come here just to see people in tiny boats trying to overcome the outsized forces of nature. No, this is what we came for:

Heron:

This huge bird extracted something from the water in a narrow channel and struggled to swallow it, but eventually his superior size and power won the day.

Vulture:

Migrating birds:

Hawk:

Vulture (spooky):

and, last but not least, a cute dog that can’t read:

He obviously did not understand why his owner would not let him cross the bridge.

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