Accessible and excellent birding spots occur in even the most heavily populated areas. For example, I recently surveyed three birding spots near the Washington, D. C. metropolitan area and found each spot compelling and greatly worthwhile. One of the locations was rural, one was suburban, and the third was urban.
Shenandoah National Park
Scenic, historic, and beautiful – Shenandoah National Park straddles the Blue Ridge Mountains in the southern Appalachians approximately 75 miles west of D.C.. Originally designed with the motorist in mind, Skyline drive bisects the park as it runs along the crest of the mountains, and features many large scenic pullouts. These pullouts are perfect for quick birding stops – but don’t forget to also enjoy the views of the mountains.
Over 200 species of resident and transient species are known to use the park. Thanks in part to its relative proximity to dense urban population centers, Shenandoah National Park is one of the most biologically well-described national parks. The visitor center in the Big Meadow area sells several publications and nature guides specifically devoted to the natural history and birds of the park. The Park is home to breeding Peregrine Falcons which nest on the cliffs near Stony Man (which I did not see), and probably the southern-most population of breeding Common Ravens (which I did see). My birding at the park was abbreviated by inclement weather, but not before I was able to observe several dozen species. Some of my favorites from this outing include Wild Turkeys, Louisiana Waterthrushes, and Great-crested Flycatchers. To learn more about Shenandoah National Park, visit the park’s website <http://www.nps.gov/shen/> .
Huntley Meadows Park
Huntley Meadows is a suburban wildlife and bird oasis located in Alexandria, Virginia. The lands encompassing the park held a variety of uses and owners until the Navy and President Ford finally donated the land to the Fairfax County Park Authority in 1975. The parks hosts over 1400 acres of wetlands, meadows, and mature eastern deciduous forest. Centrally located in the park is a large, shallow beaver-created wetland. A large wooden walkway extends over the wetland and provides excellent bird viewing. When I visited the park, the skies over the pond filled with aerialists including low-flying Tree Swallows, Northern Rough-Winged Swallows, Barn Swallows, and soaring Chimney Swifts. There is even an observation deck, which provided impromptu shelter from a heavy rain, and good views of an Indigo Bunting, Tennessee Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, and Common Yellowthroat, among other species. A Least Bittern was rumored to be in the wetland, and the nearby woods home to nesting, Prothonotory Warblers, but the rain shortened my birding. The visitor center is staffed by knowledgeable birders, and contains helpful exhibits for the beginning birder. Check out the Huntley Meadows Park website <http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/huntley/> .
Rock Creek Park
A true urban birding oasis – I found the birding at Rock Creek Park to be exceptionally good. Aided by favorable weather, I spent several hours birding without moving far from the nature center’s parking lot. The park hosts an extremely high density of birds, especially considering its location in the heart of metropolitan D.C.. I observed beautiful Scarlet Tanagers. Northern Orioles, Black and White Warblers, Red-shouldered Hawks, Acadian Flycatchers, Red-eyed Vireos, Swainson’s Thrush, and others. Rock Creek Park serves as the quintessential example of how sometimes the most accessible locations offer excellent birding. Make sure to visit the park’s website <http://www.nps.gov/rocr/index.htm> .
Finding Wild Birds
Spot Birds http://birding.about.com/od/findingwildbirds/ht/spot_birds.htm Florida’s Most Scenic Roads and Byways http://usparks.about.com/od/scenicroadshighways/a/FLroads.htm Kansas State Parks in the Spring http://usparks.about.com/od/stateparksus/a/KSspringparks.htm Best Delaware State Parks http://usparks.about.com/od/stateparksus/a/DEwinterparks.htm Best New Hampshire State Parks http://usparks.about.com/od/stateparksus/a/NHspringparks.htm
- Acadian FlycatcherPhoto © William C. Webb
- Scarlet TanagerPhoto © William C. Webb
- source URL: http://birding.about.com/od/findingwildbirds/a/DC_birding.htm