Warblers at Kenilworth

My eBird Big Day in October didn't get me quite as many lifers as I'd been hoping, but it was enough to get me re-interested in birding around the DC area in hopes of seeing some more interesting birds. After I'd rested up from the long day out, I decided to venture over to Kenilworth Park on the opposite side of DC, a spot where it seems all the real birders in the area were visiting a lot, to see what all the fuss was about. 

The first birds I saw when I entered the park were warblers- lots of warblers! The poplar trees near the park entrance were full of a huge feeding flock of warblers of various kinds- mostly Blackpoll Warblers and Myrtle Warblers, but also a few beautiful Cape May Warblers, a Northern Parula, and a Magnolia Warbler. I still have yet to experience spring migration on the East Coast with all the wood warblers in their full breeding plumage glory, but even in dull fall plumage warblers are fun to watch. 

Cape May Warbler

Blackpoll Warbler

Myrtle Warbler

Past the entrance was an extensive field, most of which consisted of soccer fields, but also included a stretch of decent grassland habitat along a bike path. Grasshopper Sparrows and, more spectacularly, a Nelson's Sparrow had recently been seen in the area, but I didn't see much except for a few Savannah Sparrows and a lot of cool insects- not that I'm complaining about seeing cool bugs.

Savannah Sparrow poking its head out of the goldenrod

Citrine Forktail

Chickweed Geometer Moth- some impressive antennae!

American Carrion Beetle

Green Cloverworm Moth

In the forest path, things were a little quieter for most of the time, except for a noisy Fish Crow and a calling Marsh Wren, which was apparently a rarity for the area. I also ended up seeing a surprise Philadelphia Vireo, which was a late migrant and only the third or fourth time one had been seen at the park. There were some fairly rare Northern Red-bellied Cooter turtles in the pond, while I was happy to see an Eastern Black Rat Snake crossing the path in front of me, the first time I've seen a rat snake in the wild. On the way back, I caught a small mixed flock of warblers, including a lone Northern Parula, a Black-and-white Warbler, and a Black-throated Green Warbler which, to my surprise, ended up actually coming in close to a bit of pishing, the first time I've ever successfully pished a bird.

Fish Crow

Philadelphia Vireo, a rare visitor to DC

Northern Red-bellied Cooter

Eastern Black Rat Snake

Black-throated Green Warbler

Back in the fields, I ran into a couple of other birders who were looking for the Nelson's Sparrow. We searched the fields together, not finding the Nelson's Sparrow but seeing lots of other insects. Butterflies were all over, probably trying to enjoy the last warm weather of the season, and thankfully my companions were even more into general nature things than me, so we had fun looking for cool bugs in the absence of cool sparrows.

Eastern Tailed-blue

Fiery Skipper

Gray Hairstreak

Admirable Grasshopper (yes, the actual species name!)

An absolutely massive Black Horsefly, that looks like it might have eaten the Nelson's Sparrow.

American Kestrel

Eastern Leaf-footed Bug

Familiar Bluet

I checked for more warblers on the way out of the park, but didn't see anything new. There was, however, a Common Five-lined Skink on the way out, a nice ending to a very good first time doing proper birding in DC.

Common Five-lined Skink

Not completely satisfied with my first visit, I returned to Kenilworth the next weekend, excited after some rare birds had been reported. The flock of warblers was in the trees near the entrance again, although there wasn't anything particularly interesting besides a Cape May Warbler showing better than they usually do.

Cape May Warbler

In the soccer fields, I came across my first surprise lifer: a Wilson's Snipe I accidentally flushed from a thick area of weeds. It flew off before I could get a picture unfortunately, but it was a great-looking bird, and apparently one found fairly regularly in the Kenilworth area. There was also a White-crowned Sparrow, Song Sparrows, and several White-throated Sparrows, the first and last of which I hadn't seen before in DC, and a beautiful American Kestrel hanging out on one of the goal posts.

White-crowned Sparrow

Large Milkweed Bug

American Kestrel

Things really picked up at the edge of the woods, where I found my second lifer of the day, a beautiful late-staying White-eyed Vireo, as well as a very friendly Northern Mockingbird, a young Indigo Bunting, and more American Kestrels, one of which looked like it was eating a bug of some sort.

White-eyed Vireo

Northern Mockingbird

Indigo Bunting

American Kestrel enjoying its dinner.

Inside the woods, I saw a small flock of warblers, including a Blackpoll Warbler, and my third lifer (only technically, as I'd seen it many times before I started keeping track of birds), a female Scarlet Tanager. There wasn't much beyond that, except for a pair of Double-crested Cormorants sunning themselves, and a beautiful view of the pond itself.

Blackpoll Warbler

Scarlet Tanager, not looking very scarlet

Double-crested Cormorants

Back in the open fields, the golden hour had begun, and some Palm Warblers and Eastern Bluebirds were perching in beautiful light, although a little too far away for good pictures. It still seems incredibly weird that bluebirds are classified as thrushes, considering how un-thrushlike they are, but I guess that's yet another reason why thrushes are a strong contender for my favorite bird family. There were also a few White-tailed Deer around the field, grazing fearlessly, and a few more birds including a Black-throated Green Warbler in the trees on the way out.

Palm Warbler

Eastern Bluebird

A young male White-tailed Deer

Black-throated Green Warbler

Eastern Grey Squirrel with what looks like a piece of poop in its mouth.....

My trips to Kenilworth were great bird-wise, but also good for getting me involved once more in birding after a bit of a slump earlier in the year. I made it my goal after them to get a little more involved in enjoying fall migration for the remainder of the year...


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