by Diana Post
Bird photos by Ross Feldner
The group included: Guide – Ross Feldner (Vice President RCLA and long-time Patuxent Volunteer), Participants – Larry Jennings, Cliff Hall (Secretary/Treasurer RCLA) and Diana Post (President RLCA) and two unidentified birders who joined up with us.
A light rain was keeping up a steady pace as Cliff and I drove along the Scarlet Tanager Loop Road toward the Patuxent National Wildlife Visitor Center in Laurel, MD. We parked next to Ross; hoping that six others would be joining us soon although it was not the dry cloudy day that had been predicted. The rain however, was so light that we decided to go ahead with the bird walk. We went inside the Visitor Center building and waited for the other people who had let us know of their intention to walk with us.
Only one person, Larry, who had driven from Cape St. Claire, MD arrived. After waiting for 15 minutes, we (Ross, Cliff, Larry and Diana) decided to go ahead. We started off through the School Garden area, where we observed that the only blooms seemed to be on the mountain mint plants. Ahead of us the trees were showing their fall colors and looking splendid despite the overcast conditions in the area around Cash Lake, our destination that Sunday morning.
We were approaching some low grasses and shrubs when Ross spied a Mockingbird in a Cedar. Then several Bluebirds, White-throated Sparrows and Song Sparrows appeared. From that point, throughout most of the walk, new bird sightings were keeping Ross and the rest of us busy. Ross kept the tally—a treasure trove of wild species—27 in all. Some 8 of them did not appear on the list of birds we had compiled as commonly seen at this site during the autumn of the year.
A young woman who had been birding alone joined up with our small group and contributed several sightings to our species list, including the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Another birder, a gentleman, joined us for a portion of the walk and shared his observations of waterfowl at Greenbelt Lake, as we were watching the diving ducks from the woodland part of the trail.
Our bird sightings included 4 winter migrant species that very well could have flown from summer breeding grounds in the boreal forests of Canada to spend the winter at Patuxent. We saw the forest-dwelling Hermit Thrush and the well loved White-throated Sparrow, plus two diving duck species (Lesser Scaup Duck and Ring-necked Duck) occupying a quiet area of Cash Lake.
After nearly two hours of hiking through meadow, woodland and waterside trails around Cash Lake we gathered together at the parking lot to have our tail-gate snack (tea, sandwiches, cake, grapes and orange slices—all organic and/or locally sourced) and to review our findings. In spite of the overcast conditions and rain, we agreed that it had been an remarkably successful birding experience.
We hope to see you on our next bird walk!
We Saw and/or Heard 27 Bird Species While Walking an the Cash Lake Trail
Species from our prepared Bird List
Great Blue Heron
Species not on the prepared Bird List
Lesser Scaup Duck