Tag Archives: Huntley Meadows

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.

Not Dead Yet

This is a bit delayed but it’s never too late to show life standing up to the ravages of time and other deadly forces. In this post we cover recent visits to two local parks where signs of life remain despite the imminence of winter. Temperatures in the DC area have varied dramatically and there have been some very cold nights. Still …. see for yourself. Plants still live. Ducks are still around. And, of course, the beavers never stop. Neither do the people who tend to these places.

Huntley Meadows

Mason Neck

Mason Neck State Park is also the Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge, though at this time of year the wildlife is sparse, or at least hard to spot. Nevertheless, we saw lots of woodpeckers although they were too small and flittish to photograph. Here is a sample of that walk on the roughly one-mile Bayview Trail. You will see that the beavers have been at work there as well. The squirrel appeared out of nowhere and scaled the tree in seconds, only to freeze, as they do, when he realized I was watching. He did not flinch for several minutes as I waited for a better photo angle. The duck blind was empty which may explain the casual attitude of the ducks and geese on the water.

Happy sunsets!

A Walk in the Park

 

Having barely survived the restraints of the pandemic in New York City before returning to Washington, we crave the outdoors, subject, of course, to the constraints of the insufferable heat and humidity. Fortunately, the area writ large has much to offer. One of our favorites has been Huntley Meadows in Alexandria. We returned there a couple of times in recent weeks, following an earlier visit when the plants were still dormant and it was cold, very cold. If you go in winter, wear warm clothes.

The recent trips were a cornucopia of delights, some of which are revealed by these photos, a small sample. The lead-in from the parking lot is a nice flat stroll on a fine-gravel path winding through tall trees and swamp-like undergrowth, in which you may see an occasional bird, but the goods lie ahead — when you enter the boardwalk.

You must pay attention to the near and the far to catch some of the remarkable sights.

More on the beaver in a moment. The turtles that inhabit Huntley Meadows can grow to surprising size but are hard to spot among the dense vegetation that surrounds the boardwalk. So too are the frogs whose relentless chorus you may hear, especially near evening:

The entire acreage of Huntley Meadows is covered with Swamp Roses that resemble hibiscus:

There are, however, many other beautiful flowers, sometimes hidden among the more prominent species:

The biggest treat for us are the foraging birds, who grow to shocking sizes, and the beaver on the special occasions when they fearlessly go about their business:

We’ve never had a boring visit to Huntley Meadows. Highly recommended. Best to go early or late because the parking lot can get crowded. And please leave a dollar or two in the box provided. Keep the beauty going.