International Migratory Bird Day is the second Saturday in May. And on that day, the Rock Creek Park Nature Center usually organizes a variety of activities for families, including bird walks.
But not this year. There is, however, no reason we can’t walk the park (as long as we are ensuring safe physical distancing) and enjoy the bird songs. You can arm yourself with some of the knowledge I picked up from the National Park Service ranger who led the walks last year.
Bill Yeaman has incredible knowledge of the flora and fauna in the park. I was on a walk with Yeaman and Jeff Reardon, another ranger, who himself wanted to learn more about the birds in the park.
Birds are in Rock Creek Park all year long, but May and September are especially rich with bird life, and especially around the Nature Center. That’s a popular pit stop with migratory songbirds. You might not catch sight of any except the ubiquitous robin and the occasional woodpecker. Your chances are better if you stay put in an area and have a good pair of field glasses, and even then it can be iffy. But if you search with your ears, you will discover an incredible variety of bird calls and songs.
Bill Yeaman called our attention to a number of sounds as we walked.
These are the birds he identified:
- Red-eyed vireo
- Eastern Phoebe
- Wood thrush
- Eastern wood peewee
- Scarlet tanager (I think it sounds like a robin with sore throat)
- House sparrow
Drumming sounds are more closely associated with the various woodpecker breeds we see and hear in Rock Creek Park. This sound in the video below could be a flicker, or a red-bellied or pileated woodpecker. You can hear the sound faintly in the first few seconds of the video below, and louder at :25.
I kept my ears open to all the birds I could hear but not see all the way home. So the sight of this bird, which I had never seen before, gave me a start. The bird, possibly a solitary vireo, was calmly sitting on a branch right in front of me on Davenport Street.