I Believe in a Thing Called Dove, also known as married couple Eric Auld and Stasia Kemp, participated in their first Birdathon this year.
Although we have birds of our own (cockatiel Figgy and budgies Lemon and Blueberry), we decided to participate because we wanted to venture outdoors and meet some new bird-sonalities. Using a pair of binoculars, a camera, the Merlin app, and our beaten-up hiking shoes, we identified a total of 56 species over four different birding sessions.
On the evening of Friday, May 5th, we decided last minute to start our Birdathon, driving to nearby Claude Moore Park. There, we saw and heard lots of familiar species, such as Northern Cardinals, Carolina Wrens and gaggles of boisterous Canada Geese. Tree Swallows swooped over a pond’s surface as a Solitary Sandpiper lived up to its name by trudging through the pond’s shoreline alone. On one side of the park, a Brown Thrasher practiced its elegant mimicry as a Northern Mockingbird did the same in the park’s middle. After an hour, we left as the sun set with 26 species on our list.
On Saturday afternoon (since Eric had to play a farmers market that morning), we walked the nearby W&OD Trail in Sterling to see what we could find under the warm spring sun. We spotted more familiar species, such as a horde of protective Red-winged Blackbirds, two soft-cooing Mourning Doves and another Solitary Sandpiper. We managed to add seven new species to our list, including several characteristically raspy Gray Catbirds, an elusive Wood Thrush and a high-soaring Black Vulture.
Sunday morning proved to be quite productive, starting early at Bles Park in Ashburn, where we first heard a Prairie Warbler sounding its scale-ascending call. In the marsh, a mother Wood Duck and her young swam calmly through the water as a female Hooded Merganser lazily floated in the nearby Potomac River. After two hours of nonstop walking and standing, we had the privilege of adding 13 new species to our list, including three Red-eyed Vireos, an Indigo Bunting and a melodious little Yellow Warbler.
Our final stop on Sunday morning was the Nature Center at Hal & Berni Hanson Regional Park in Aldie, where we witnessed an array of avian activity, including a Northern Flicker darting through the trees, an Eastern Bluebird devouring a hearty worm on the paved path, and a Great Blue Heron catching fish as a family of Canada Geese swam by. We even managed to log some new lifers, such as a Black-throated Green Warbler and an Eastern Wood-Pewee. To cap off the Birdathon in style, we heard a Red-shouldered Hawk screaming in the distance right before leaving.
Our complete list of species can be viewed on eBird at: https://ebird.org/tripreport/125526. Overall, we enjoyed the outdoor experience and look forward to participating again next year!
Read about the adventures of the other teams on the 2023 Birdathon Team Summaries page.