Juvenile Black-Crowned Night-Heron
in Four Mile Run stream
Season 1, Episode 1
By Jake Cuomo
In this column I'll focus on the birds that inhabit our local Arlandria parks, where they are and how to find them.
Quick confession and full disclosure: Kevin asked me to write him a story on this topic last year but I had recently begun this hobby of birding and I didn't feel all that comfortable giving others advice on the topic. Frankly, I'm still not completely comfortable with it but I spend enough time up to my ankles in glunge in Four Mile Run Park to let you know what I've seen in there lately so I'll take a stab at it.
From the beginning...my bird "hobby" manifested itself less like a hobby and more like a drug addiction (from what I can gather from those shows that you see on TV). The first time I cracked open a field guide and laid eyes on a Pileated Woodpecker and then checked their range map and discovered that they live in our region I knew that I had to try to go and find one. Find one I did on a cold January day on Teddy Roosevelt Island, in fact. I found another few minutes after I found the first after I nearly tripped over it feeding on insects in a downed tree alongside the trail. After that time I spent nearly every waking moment reading through field guides, old copies of Audubon magazine and anything bird-related that I could get my hands on. I was definitely hooked.
So now back to Arlandria, that is why Kevin asked me to write this column after all.
Some may think that winter would be a dull time to go and look for birds, particularly in the mid-Atlantic or northerly region of the country where we can receive snow, sleet, ice and freezing rain. But, you may be surprised to discover just how many of our avian friends tough it out over the winter around here and how easy it is to locate them if you know where to look.
First, winter is the ideal time for a novice birder to get out there and start searching. The trees are bare and the grass is low so the birds have less places in which to hide.
Second, there aren't any bugs to discourage you from getting out there--there are few things worse than locating your first summertime Green Heron only to be interrupted by the sting of a blood-laden mosquito. (You won't have that issue this time of the year. So get out there!)
Finally, many waterfowl relocate from their more northern ranges and come down to our area to spend the winter so this time of year is a great time to see a wide variety of ducks--especially along the Potomac River.
|Great Blue Heron|
Ok, ok, here I go.
Since the beginning of the year I've seen several interesting species right here in Arlandria. There's a pair of Black-Crowned Night-Herons calling Four Mile Run Park home for the winter but you'll have to go to the back side small stream along where the Alexandria Aces play to see them.
Go up on the small bridge that crosses the stream and look towards the Four Mile Run, you'll normally see the two of them down in there, one is an adult, the other is a juvenile. Also, we have a few residents that you're sure to see if you spend any amount of time in the park. Several Great Blue Herons are almost always present as well as a male Belted Kingfisher that likes to fly up and down the stream between Mount Vernon Avenue and Route 1. He'll be easy to find by the loud rattling noise that he constantly makes.
|Cooper's Hawk in my backyard near 4MR Park.|
Since I've been birding here I've constantly been surprised by what I find in the park on any given day, heck, one day I was out birding and I ran across a fox den with three fox cubs just dancing about in the woods oblivious to the fact that I was even there, I decided to make a hasty exit lest I prompt an inspection from the den mother.
My point here is that you never know what you'll find in the park so dust off your binoculars and get out there!
Happy Birding! Jake
Jake also serves currently as President of the Hume Spring Citizens Association. Look for more of his posts about wildlife in the future on The Arlandrian.