Thursday, 14 July 2011

Great Falls Park, July.

A colleague asked if she might join me on a visit to Great Falls Park near Tyson’s Corner during an IAD itinerary. AM hadn’t cycled since she was a child and I had my doubts, but she coped very well with the mostly downhill ride to the river and battled bravely back up, although we did have to impose ourselves on the service station at the top of the hill for a drink and a gallon of axle grease. The conclusion reached is that whether you are old and fat or out of practice, the 6kms ride from Tyson's Corner is achievable

We started with a few gratuitous shots of the river before making our way upstream, hoping to catch sight of the Bald Eagles. There were only a few birds to be seen and even fewer that would sit for photos. By a small stream, we came across a number of (is there a special collective noun for odonata?) Ebony Jewelwings Calopteryx maculata and AM waited while I took some pictures. I must give her credit for her patience as well as her cycling proficiency.


The eagles were not found, but Double-crested Cormorants were seen fishing in the flat water above the weir. We continued along the riverbank which was smooth and flat for most of the mile or so to the visitors centre at River Bend (air conditioning and drinks, Google Earth ref; 39 01’ 07”N 77 14’ 45”W ).


It would not be possible to ride along this path and we had abandoned our bikes a little way downstream from the weir. If you wanted to come out of the park at River Bend, it would be possible to carry the bike over the rougher stretches of the path. The return to Old Dominion Road is by no means straight forward so check your directions! Boats and canoes are available for hire at the visitor centre and we spent a while giggling at the inexperienced rowers.


A Great Blue Heron gave us a nice view as it perched on a log close to the bank. It was gaping and rippling the loose skin beneath its bill to cool itself in the heat.


Odonata made up much of the day, with Common Whitetails sitting well. Unfortunately they were perched by a busy path and were continually disturbed by passers by on this Fourth of July weekend. The picnic areas were jam-packed with celebrating families and the excitement was enough to disturb many of the birds, so we settled for odonata such as this Stream Bluet Enallagma exsulans which was found after a little paddle in the Potomac River.


This Blue-tipped Dancer Argia tibialis was very approachable and allowed me a close, if uncomfortable chance to take lots of shots. So few birds were seen that the list below has been padded out with a few that we saw during a quick practice pedal around Tyson’s Corner.


Birds seen; 27

Double-crested Cormorant 8, Great Blue Heron 3, Canada Goose 8, Mallard 6, Turkey Vulture 4, Black Vulture 1, Red-shouldered Hawk 3, Mourning Dove 2, Red-bellied Woodpecker 3, Northern Flicker 2, Barn Swallow 5, Carolina Wren 3, Grey Catbird 3, Northern Mockingbird 3, American Robin 12, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher 1, Tufted Titmouse 15, White-breasted Nuthatch 3, Blue Jay 4, American Crow 6, American Goldfinch 4, Scarlet Tanager 1, Chipping Sparrow 3, Song Sparrow 2, Northern Cardinal 4, Red-winged Blackbird 3, Common Grackle 6.

Mammals seen; 1

White-tailed Deer 6.
Odonata seen; 5

Ebony Jewelwing Calopteryx maculata 8, Stream Bluet Enallagma exsulans 4, Blue-tipped Dancer Argia tibialis 1, Common Green Darner 3, Common White-tail 4.

This is my third outing to Great Falls Park and the bird-watching in my experience is usually better than this. A number of factors may include a late start, high temperatures and very busy weekend celebrations. Directions and seasonal variations can be seen by following the links below;


Other posts from close by are found from these links;


Visit the dedicated USA and Canada for more posts from the region.