Wednesday, May 24, 2006

President's Park Junior Ranger

The President's Park Junior Ranger covers the history of the White House, the Presidents and First Ladies, and the surrounding monuments, fountains, and even a park bench where "the Park Bench Statesman" regularly sat.

After William and Beth completed the Junior Ranger program, Daniel went with us on a walking tour around President's Park. A small booklet was provided that gave commentary on each point along the way.

Beth was, of course, very excited to see mounted police that were patrolling around the White House.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Bird List Update

05-21-06 - Near Monocacy Aquaduct
  • Eastern Kingbird

  • Total: 46/60

    Monocacy Aqueduct

    To fulfill one of the requirements for the C & O Canal Junior Ranger badge, we needed to visit one of the aqueducts along the canal route.

    The Monocacy Aqueduct

    William and Beth walking the toe-path across the aqueduct.

    A Black Locust tree.

    Saturday, May 20, 2006

    George Washington Parkway Junior Ranger - Part 2

    The Marine Corps War Memorial

    The Netherlands Carillon

    Arlington National Cemetery

    Fort Hunt

    The First 45 Birds

    These are the birds we have seen since January 23, 2006 when we began our list.

    1. American Crow
    2. American Goldfinch
    3. American Robin
    4. Baltimore Oriole
    5. Barn Swallow
    6. Black Vulture
    7. Black-capped Chickadee
    8. Black-crowned Night Heron
    9. Blue Jay
    10. Boat-tailed Grackle
    11. Brown-headed Cowbird
    12. Brown Thrasher
    13. Canadian Goose
    14. Cardinal
    15. Carolina Wren
    16. Cedar Wax-wing
    17. Cliff Swallow
    18. Common Loon
    19. Dark-eyed Junko
    20. Double Crested Cormorant
    21. Downy Woodpecker
    22. Eastern Bluebird
    23. European Starling
    24. Gray Catbird
    25. Great Blue Heron
    26. House Finch
    27. House Sparrow
    28. Killdeer
    29. Mallard Duck
    30. Mocking Bird
    31. Mourning Dove
    32. Northern Flicker
    33. Osprey
    34. Pileated Woodpecker
    35. Red-bellied Woodpecker
    36. Red-tailed Hawk
    37. Red-winged Blackbird
    38. Ring-billed Gull
    39. Rock Pigeon
    40. Snow Goose
    41. Song Sparrow
    42. Tufted Titmouse
    43. Turkey Vulture
    44. White-breasted Nuthatch
    45. White-throated Sparrow

    Bird List Update

    5-20-06 - At Brighton Dam
  • Osprey - we watched him catch a fish!
  • Cliff Swallow

  • Total: 45/60

    Thursday, May 18, 2006

    Bird List Update

    05-17-06 - At the Columbia Union Conference Office
  • Northern Flicker

  • Total: 43/60

    Tuesday, May 16, 2006

    Bird List Update

    05-15-06 - At Savage, MD train station
  • Brown Thrasher

  • Total: 42/60

    Sunday, May 14, 2006

    A Mystery Solved

    Two Fridays ago we went cycling on the Mount Vernon Trail. It is a lovely ride along the Potomac River that winds its way past scenic views of Washington DC and Dyke Marsh. As we were riding along I noticed a number of mounds made of mud beside the trail.

    I tried to search the internet for clues as to what it might be but didn't have much luck so I started asking for help. I would like to thank Rob, The City Birder for finding the answer for us. I won't post what it is right now, because he is challenging folks to think of an answer. If you would like to take a guess as to what it was you can visit this post.

    One of Rob's readers guessed it in short order: these mounds were made by a certain species of crayfish. Who'da thunk?

    Saturday, May 13, 2006

    Black Rock Mill

    We visited Black Rock Mill today. We need to go back sometime soon, I heard and then found an Eastern Towhee, but William and Beth were still looking at the mill and missed it. It would be a nice addition to their bird list if we could find it again.

    The First 41 Birds

    These are the birds we have seen since January 23, 2006 when we began our list.

    1. American Crow
    2. American Goldfinch
    3. American Robin
    4. Baltimore Oriole
    5. Barn Swallow
    6. Black Vulture
    7. Black-capped Chickadee
    8. Black-crowned Night Heron
    9. Blue Jay
    10. Boat-tailed Grackle
    11. Brown-headed Cowbird
    12. Canadian Goose
    13. Cardinal
    14. Carolina Wren
    15. Cedar Wax-wing
    16. Common Loon
    17. Dark-eyed Junko
    18. Double Crested Cormorant
    19. Downy Woodpecker
    20. Eastern Bluebird
    21. European Starling
    22. Gray Catbird
    23. Great Blue Heron
    24. House Finch
    25. House Sparrow
    26. Killdeer
    27. Mallard Duck
    28. Mocking Bird
    29. Mourning Dove
    30. Pileated Woodpecker
    31. Red-bellied Woodpecker
    32. Red-tailed Hawk
    33. Red-winged Blackbird
    34. Ring-billed Gull
    35. Rock Pigeon
    36. Snow Goose
    37. Song Sparrow
    38. Tufted Titmouse
    39. Turkey Vulture
    40. White-breasted Nuthatch
    41. White-throated Sparrow

    Bird List Update

    05-12-06 - Along the Potomac River
  • Barn Swallow - At Theodore Roosevelt Island
  • Baltimore Oriole - At Clara Barton House

  • Total: 41/60

    Friday, May 12, 2006

    George Washington Parkway Junior Ranger - Part 1

    Today we set out to get our George Washington Parkway booklets filled in. We soon discovered that it is going to take more than one trip. We did manage to get quite a bit done, and even added some more birds to our list. Our first stop was Theodore Roosevelt Island where we found a host barn swallows that were nesting under the bridge that takes you to the island.

    The island is in very good repair, and it was easy to complete the questions pertaining to it and be on our way.

    Our next stop was Fort Marcy. While the "front" of the park is kept up well, the "back" part is rather neglected. Still, we found it a lovely spot to have a quiet picnic. The biggest problem seems to be that recent storm damage, such as downed trees, has not been cleared away. Also, some signs are missing or in bad repair. We were not able to find sufficient information to complete all of our questions despite the fact we clambered over the fort and surrounding hills for a couple hours.

    We set off for a bit of a short hike on the Potomac Heritage Trail which cuts through the park. We only went a quarter mile or so down the trail and turned back. It would be fun to go back some time and begin at Theodore Roosevelt Island and hike the trail to Turkey Run Campground.

    A tulip poplar bloom on the trail.

    We tried to hike the Battery Trail around the fort, but it was not only impassable, but eventually, indistinguishable from the rest of the forest. Restoring that trail would be a great project for our Pathfinder Club if we could get the necessary permission. One of the requirements for our class work is to help maintain and beautify a hiking trail.

    Eventually, having completed most of the questions concerning Fort Marcy, we gave up and went on up the road to Turkey Run and the ranger station there. The rangers readily admitted that Fort Marcy needs some work, and helped with our unanswered questions.

    Our day being more than half over we hurried on around to Clara Barton's house. This was a lot of fun. The house is huge, and the ranger was wonderfully full of information. She spent more than an hour talking to us and showing us around the house.

    Right next door to Clara Barton's house is Glen Echo Park. We had a couple of pages worth of questions to complete about it so we headed there next. There appears to be a lot to do and learn there on weekends - pottery, calligraphy, and glass blowing are just a few. There is even a carousel and bumper cars. On a Friday afternoon though, the place is quiet and deserted. Quite pleasant actually.

    carousel and shops.

    A Spanish ballroom.

    William and Beth's favorite part was the playground.

    It was nearing the time to pick up Danny from work so we hopped back in the car and headed toward Alexandria. We made a quick stop at Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove. We didn't stay long because we have explored and picnicked there before. After that we scooted down the road to Roaches Run Wildlife SanctuaryWe had been hoping that we would be able to add a bird or two to our list at this stop, but we were sad to discover that there weren't even any trails leading to an overlook. We did spot quite a few taxi drivers, but we don't have a list for them ;)

    After picking Danny up we visited Jones Point Lighthouse. It is an interesting walk out to the point because of the Willson Bridge construction.

    Jones Point Light House.

    When we finished the questions for Jones Point it was beginning to get dark, and we were very ready to head home. We still have several more locations to visit, but hopefully one more trip will find them completed.

    Tuesday, May 09, 2006

    National Mall Junior Rangers

    Today we rode into town with Danny on the train so that the kids could work on their National Mall Junior Ranger requirements. The book lays out a very nice route to take around the monuments, but of course it doesn't take into consideration the need to back track when the time comes to make use of your Washington Monument passes or diverging from the route to get lunch. We also added to our trip by hiking across town to Union Station at the end of the day. All told, we hiked about six miles around Washington DC today. Strange coincidence that we happened to hike about six miles on trails at the C & O Canal just yesterday.

    After getting passes for 12:00 pm to go up in the Washington Monument we rushed over to the World War II Memorial which has a good sized ranger station to pick up the National Mall Junior Ranger booklets. We were grateful that they had them, and we quickly proceeded towards the Korean War Memorial to find the clues we needed to complete the appropriate pages in the booklets. Halfway there we were side tracked by some ducklings in the Reflection Pond.

    The ducks actually came in handy later when we found that one of the requirements was to write a poem about something you had seen. William wrote his about one of these ducks that sniffed his toe.

    I saw a duck
    In the pond
    It sniffed my toe
    And I moved on.

    After enjoying the birds we rushed on to the Korean, Lincoln, and Vietnam Memorial. We have been to all of these many times, and it was quick work to fill in the information needed at these areas. Beth's inspiration for her poem came from this squirrel near the Vietnam War Memorial.

    Squirrels are funny
    Squirrels are sweet
    I like squirrels that
    Sniff my feet.

    Alright, neither poem is very inspirational, (smile) but considering the rush we were in, and considering the fact that for some reason all three of us were in a very silly mood today, they seemed fitting and appropriate at the time. :)

    The Washington Monument

    William and Beth worked on their ranger booklets while we waited for our turn to tour the Washington Monument.

    A view of the World War II Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial from up in the Washington Monument

    We found this nice little fountain along Constitution Ave.

    After lunch we rushed back towards Constitution Gardens where we needed to view the 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence memorial.

    We were so tired by this point that we contemplated just resting on the island the rest of the day. There was a little family of geese nearby, and it sounded like a lovely way to pass the afternoon. But after twenty minutes or so the sun went behind a cloud and the temperature dropped. We decided we might as well get moving again.

    We quickly made our way across the mall to the John Paul Jones Memorial.

    The kids answered the appropriate questions and then we contemplated making the march over to the Jefferson Memorial (which you can see in the back ground of this picture - the deceptive part is that you have to go around the tidal basin to get there).

    We were pretty tired by this time but we pressed on, determined to finish the requirements for the Junior Ranger today. We were glad to find a ranger on duty at the Jefferson Memorial because some of the information needed was not available due to repairs being done to the memorial. They completed their booklets with his help and we raced back around the Tidal Basin so that we could get in the door of the main ranger station on the mall before they closed. The kids did not need to visit the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. We have been there so many times, and we even have a book about it. Thankfully all of the questions concerning it were answered with ease without our making the trek over there. We made it to the ranger station just before closing, and after they received their certificates and badges we slowly made our way towards Union Station.

    Monday, May 08, 2006

    Hiking the Billy Goat Trail

    The Billy Goat Trail has been one of Beth and William's favorite places to hike since we moved to this area five years ago. It is a wonderful trip over rocks and along beautiful waterways. You have to keep a watch out for the blue paint marking the trail because for much of the way that is the only way to know which way to go.

    William and Beth felt they had found the perfect spot to rest.

    The hike back to the car was much faster and easier, which was a good thing because we were very hungry.

    Bird List Update

    05-08-06 - At the C & O Canal on the Billy Goat Trail (We hiked almost six miles today!)
  • Pileated Woodpecker
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Carolina Wren

  • Total: 39/60

    We also saw another Black-crowned Night Heron, and many Great Blue Herons.

    Sunday, May 07, 2006

    Great Falls Junior Rangers

    We returned to the falls today so that William and Beth could finish and turn in their Junior Ranger Booklets for Great Falls. They both received their badges and certificates.

    The view from Overlook 1.

    The Pathfinder Fair

    The Pathfinder Fair was held at the Baltimore White Marsh Church this year. William, Jackie Burgland, and Beth earned a first place ribbon for the animal tracking competition.

    Beth, Bobby Burgland, and William earned a first place ribbon for the lashing competition.

    They were supposed to lash together a tripod, and hang a pail from it. A bolt was hung so that it hung within the pail. They were supposed to carry the tripod while keeping the bolt from hitting the side of the pail.

    Bird List Update

    05-06-06 - At the C & O Canal
  • Black-crowned Night Heron

  • Total: 36/60

    Saturday, May 06, 2006

    Sabbath at Great Falls

    We started on the C & O Canal side of the Potomac. This is the Great Falls Tavern at lock number 20.

    We attended the "Meet the Mule" talk given by Ranger Warren. This is Ellie.

    A canal lock.

    Crossing the river to Olmstead Island.

    The overlook at Great Falls. How many Great Blue Herons can you see? There were at least 6.

    William and Beth at the overlook.

    A five lined skink.

    Great Falls as seen from the Virginia side.

    Potomac high water marks. Notice the level of the river in the background. It would take a great deal of water to flood the river that high.

    A portion of the Patowmack Canal. We had fun searching the walls of the canal for Mason marks that had been carved into the stone.

    The following two pictures are some of the marks we found.

    We also found this little frog.

    The canal makes about a 60 foot desent to the Potomac at this point.

    A narrow part of the river.

    Watching the water rush by.

    Bird List Update

    05-05-06 - Along the Mount Vernon Trail, in the marshes south of Alexandria
  • Red-winged Blackbird

  • Total: 35/60

    Friday, May 05, 2006

    Biking/Birding at Dyke Marsh

    We took a very leisurly ride along the Potomac River this evening. It was so beautiful out that we kept stopping so that we could enjoy the view. We stopped at this spot for quite a while and listend to the soft calls of some very young geese. After some careful searching we could just make out where the mother was hiding on a little island not far from shore. We wished that we could have seen the bird that had built a nest on the flat top of a dead tree just to the left of the little bunch of trees in the middle of the picture, but he never showed up.

    We were racing the sun back to our car, but I stopped to take a picture of the sunset.

    Bird List Update

    05-05-06 - On top of the shed in the back yard
  • Gray Catbird

  • Total: 34/60

    Tuesday, May 02, 2006

    Bird List Update

    05-02-06 - in the back yard, eating peanuts
  • Tufted Titmouse

  • Total: 33/60

    Monday, May 01, 2006

    Bird List Update

    05-01-06 - The pond closest to the railroad tracks at the Savage, MD Marc train station
  • Killdeer

  • Total: 32/60