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Washington DC and Silver Spring, Maryland
Rock Creek National Park
September 2011

Work sent me to the east coast for some training. This time I ended up in Silver Spring, Maryland. With my limited free time, I spent most of it exploring the nation’s capital, the Smithsonian museums, and the monuments. (I also got to visit some friends and enjoy cuisine from a great diversity of restaurants). It had been a long time since I visit the area so it was nice to take in the sights with more a mature perspective.

The museums I visited on the mall included the Natural History Museum, the Native American Museum, the Museum of Space and Air, and the American History Museum. With the limited amount of time overall, I had a rather whirl-wind tour of those museum and some of them I hardly got through one level. There was a lot to take in and a lot of interesting displays. I probably spent the most time in the Natural History Museum, being the nature lover that I am. They had an impressive display of fossils and taxidermy mammals. I was disappointed with their small bird exhibit that was shoved in the basement without much effort into presentation. Still I saw the Hope Diamond, the new and impressive Ocean Hall, among the many other intriguing displays.

Walking around DC and the Mall made me thankful for living in the Northwest. Sure the northwest at this time is dark and rainy, but there’s something wrong with walking around in 80% humidity in the 70s. Strolling through the residential areas, I noted the dominancy of the neat and tidy English gardens in everyone’s front yard. Aside from a few pepper and squash plants, I didn’t see any vegetable gardens – just beds of ivy, green stretches of grass, and shrubs cut into box shapes.

Something I noticed in both DC and Silver Spring and perhaps worse was the lack of anything except European Starlings and House Sparrows everywhere. I think even in downtown Seattle the prevalence of these invaders is less (we have crows and gulls at least and in the suburbs there’s better bird diversity). In front of my Silver Springs hotel hundreds of starlings gathered each evening in the dozen planted trees. They were so loud that you could hardly hear the road traffic while under the trees.

There were a few native birds in the city. Chimney Swifts were out each evening, hawking high above the malls and restaurants. American Robins, Common Grackles, Northern Cardinals, and Blue Jays managed to eek out a less numerous existence in the lawns, parks, and planted trees.

During the week after class, I made one attempt to go to Rock Creek National Park, which only 1 or so miles from the training center. I thought it wouldn’t be hard to get to, but the lack of sidewalks and the abundance of cars made the walk troublesome. With the waning light and lack of sidewalk, I quickly nixed the idea of going to the park after classes. However, on the last day of classes I had time to make another attempt at the park before having to catch my flight home. I walked a longer route that had the luxury of sidewalks. I made it to the park and didn’t go too far in due to time constrains.

I stood by Rock Creek in the deciduous forest watch a small flurry of bird activity. There were many Northern Cardinals in the shrubs. Mourning Doves and Starlings (yes they were here too) bathed in the creek. A female Common Yellowthroat gleaned in the brush along the creek. Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Downy Woodpeckers, and Yellow-shafted Northern Flickers clambered along the trees. An Eastern Phoebe followed the creek and passed through the area. An American Redstart and a Red-eyed Vireo flitted through. Carolina Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatches, a Song Sparrow, American Goldfinches, and Carolina Wrens were also present at the creek. A thrilling moment was seeing 50 or so hawks high up in the sky gliding SW - clearly fall migration.

In those two hours I spent in one spot on the edge of the national park I saw much more diversity then I had for the entire week. Given more time it might have been good to explore the area more to see what else might have shown up. Perhaps next time?...


Pictures (click on thumbnail)

Bird List
Mallard fountain in DC
Hawk sp 50+ traveling straight SW
Ring-billed Gull fountain in DC
Mourning Dove
Rock Pigeon
Chimney Swift many flocks came out in evenings
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Northern Flicker yellow-shafted
Downy Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe 1, Rock Creek NP, 9/30/11
Blue Jay
Fish Crow
Red-eyed Vireo
Carolina Chickadee
Carolina Wren
White-breasted Nuthatch
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
Gray Catbird 2, Rock Creek ravine
European Starling abundant!
Common Yellowthroat 1 or 2 females, Rock Creek NP
American Redstart 1 male, Rock Creek NP
Northern Cardinal
Common Grackle
Song Sparrow
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow
Eastern Chipmunk
Eastern Gray Squirrel
Garter Snake


Smithsonian Museums
National Mall
Rock Creek National Park


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page updated: 10/3/11