Tag Archives: Hooded Merganser

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:

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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.

Sunday at the Mall

It was a beautiful spring day, albeit quite windy, so a visit to the Mall was in order to see how advanced the budding of trees was coming. [Technically, I am advised, the area from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial is called West Potomac Park. Field Guide to the Natural World of Washington, DC but it’s the Mall to me] We got a late start and found parking was scarce in the area close to the Lincoln Memorial, but persistence (and a questionable U-turn) paid off eventually.

We were closest to the World War II Memorial. A few signs of spring were present but most of the trees were still bare, with few showing significant budding.

The Memorial contains some of the most compelling bronze (I believe) figures I have seen – a laurel wreath representing peace held by eagles, representing the power of the United States. At least that’s how I see it:

The artistic background of the Memorial can be read at https://bit.ly/3100BYF

The Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool was a busy scene with mallard ducks feeding in pairs. A Hooded Merganser was also present, his white patch prominently reflecting the sun when he came up from his quick and repeated full dives to, presumably, catch small feeder fish.

The Lincoln Memorial, as always, was a dominant visual presence, along with the Washington Monument and the Capitol in the distance.

The sole negative on this visit to the Mall was something that may be an even bigger problem when warmer weather and vaccinations encourage more people to visit. I refer to the presence of people of all ages riding electric scooters and, far fewer, rental bicycles, along with riders of Onewheels who rode roughshod over the grass and sped past us at speeds estimated above 15 mph.  Pictured below are two of the leaders of a “parade” of Onewheelers, numbering about a dozen, along with a person on a bicycle who chose to ride in the Reflecting Pool.

Numerous people chose to ride scooters and bicycles in the inner ring around the still-drained central pool. As warmer weather leads to larger crowds, conflicts and injuries may occur.