Maryland & Virginia

I am finally on the road! I spent yesterday morning birding North Point State Park in Edgemere, MD in the fog.  I was the only person in the entire park and the birds were limited at best, but it was a beautiful area and I learned some very important lessons that will come in handy later in the trip.  I started out on the bay side of the park hoping for some of the waterfowl that had been recently reported on eBird, but I must have been at the wrong bay entrance or my Clif bar was laced with some really boring LSD because the water was a desert of life and the only living beings were some of the usual sparrow suspects and a ton of robins.  I was hoping some Evening Grosbeaks would appear out of the mist, but unfortunately my searching was in vain. I walked the length of the jetty hoping for some kind of shorebird or duck, but all I got was more fog.  I spent about two hours walking the park and ended up with only about 25 species.

Looking down the jetty into the bay
Looking back towards the park from the end of the jetty

I will enlighten you on my lessons learned below:

1. Always take a trail map. I walked a wetland area that I figured wouldn’t amount to much or go too deep into the trail system.  About 5 minutes in, however, I realized that the trails began to labyrinth every which way and I could easily get lost if I wasn’t paying attention.  There had been a myriad of trail maps at the trail head, but I managed to bypass them speedily without a second thought. Since this probably won’t fly in the Everglades, I’m going to make a concerted effort to be more proactive about my trailblazing and plan ahead with some trail maps in the future.

2. Everything takes longer than you think it will. The invisible hand of birding has an iron grip when I head out on a good trail. I knew I had to get back at a reasonable hour to meet my friend, but every time I would turn onto a new trail the parasitic “just 5 more minutes” thoughts began to creep in. There are so many incredible places I want to visit in Florida and along the way, I have to try to remember to prioritize and give the most important ones the time they are due.

3. Snacks. I’m already forgetting to eat breakfast I’m so excited to get out there.  I don’t want this to turn into an “I Shouldn’t Be Alive” situation (although that show is a 10/10 would recommend).

After my meager walk, I headed over to my friend’s apartment in Towson and spent a glorious afternoon watching The Mindy Project and consuming vast quantities of Chipotle.  So far, so good.

I set off early this morning to pick up a spotting scope that I’m borrowing for the month of December.  I am forever indebted to the wonderfully generous Paul Napier and his lovely girlfriend, Charlotte Flounders for lending me their scope as I am seriously lacking on the optics front.  After braving DC traffic and snagging a scope and some coffee, I ventured over to Huntley Meadows for a nostalgic walk down memory lane.  Huntley Meadows holds some of my earliest memories and I give it full credit for turning me into the birder/wildlife professional I am today.  I remember fondly being shown enormous snapping turtles and being lifted up to view some distant duck through a scope, and although it took awhile to fully kick in, the wonderful birders of northern Virginia did their duty to perpetuate their passion in the younger generation.  I watched a Great Blue Heron catch fish at close range and then tried desperately to get to higher ground in order to get a better look at a flock of geese hiding amongst the grasses.  I spent awhile sifting through sparrows for something interesting, and came away with a number of Song Sparrows, White-throats, and Swamp Sparrows rooting around in the debris and even in the water for food.  I came across two fearless muskrats chewing furiously on some plant, the first of which I tried desperately to turn into a rail as it moved through the swampy vegetation.  There were a few Northern Shovelers, Mallards, Ruddy Ducks, Hooded Mergansers, and Gadwall floating about, and a Fish Crow “uh-oh”ed its way overhead after some American Crows.  A couple of other people were spread out along the boardwalk with binoculars, but no one looked to be finding anything incredibly scintillating.

Blast from the past
Blast from the past

From Huntley Meadows, I meandered over to Centreville to spend the night with my grandparents.  After living in a sparsely-populated area of Montana and then Cape May in the fall, the congestion of DC traffic was a shock to my system.  It is good people watching if nothing else, and I feel like I saw the best and worst of humanity while inching along the clogged beltway.  I saw a dead dog on the side of the road and people throwing trash out of their windows (I am still in awe that people actually blatantly litter like that) but I also saw people letting others merge in front of them (what? in northern VA??) and shamelessly jamming out by themselves on their commutes.  Tomorrow I am off to Virginia Beach to attend the VSO fall birding trip, but for now it’s time to enjoy some much-needed time with family and Fritz the dachshund.

Hanging out with this handsome fellow for the evening (excuse my face)
Hanging out with this handsome fellow for the evening (excuse my face)

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