Wednesday 18 April 2012

Meadowlark Botanic Gardens, Tyson's Corner, IAD. April 2012

A quick visit to Raglan's Wood (Google Earth ref; 38 55 23N 77 14 28W enter via Tyspring St. off Gosnell Rd) early in the morning produced a close encounter with the local White-tailed Deer.
My new compact camera comes equipped with a video function and I will embed some motion to the post if I can figure out how. Until then, this was my favourite still from the old Canon.



I was headed towards the Meadowlark Botanic Gardens, but opening time is not until 10.00 so I found a couple of en-route divertissements to while away the golden hours of the early morning.

Freedom Hill (Google Earth ref; 38 55 00N 77 14 29W) is just a few hundred yards beyond Raglan's Wood, but I was surprised to note that deer activity here was much reduced. There was much more understorey ground cover which has been eaten away at Raglan's Wood. The birds enjoyed the extra cover and White-crowned Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos fed from the ground in front of the thickets. A Brown Creeper clung to the trunk of a pine tree near the car park and the ubiquitous Northern Cardinals kept up their whistles as a soundtrack for the day.

Meadowlark Botanic Gardens (Google Earth ref; 35 56 15N 16 53 04W) was entrusted to the care of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority by Gardiner Means and Caroline Ware who had previously run the 74 acres as a small farm. NVRPA expanded it slightly and created a public garden in accordance with Gardiner’s and Caroline's wishes.

As a birding site, much of the gardens have been well manicured giving a sterile feel. Much of the bankside along the lakes was closely cropped and the only waterfowl seen were Canada Geese. My go to guy in times of trouble, ie when not much is presenting itself for pictures, is the American Robin. It is always to be found on nice lawns and will always sit for a photo.

To be fair, Lake Gardiner had been allowed to become slightly dishevelled with some weed growth in the water and reeds in the far corner and this concession to nature had attracted a Red-shouldered Blackbird who performed from the seed head of a reed mace.

Bird boxes have been erected around the grounds. A Tree Swallow had already staked a claim to no. 12 and had started preparations for his anticipated family.

At last I found Lake Lina which represented a slice of Virginia native wetlands and whispered to me of snakes and dragonflies. If I had known of Lake Lina at the beginning of the morning, this is where I would have spent my time.

Carolina Chickadees and American Goldfinches flitted through the trees here and a Red-shouldered Hawk soared beyond the borders of the park. The Canada Geese look set to consolidate on their position as primary waterbird of the gardens.

It was here that I found my first American ode of the new season, a red-crayon Blue Corporal, Libellula deplanata. Another darner and a damselfly were too quick for me to identify.

In the bushes close by, an Eastern Bluebird stopped for a good look.

Time was running against me this morning and I still faced a thirty minute cycle back to the hotel. I had just enough time left to take a quick once round by the Korean Bell meadow where a Cooper’s Hawk flew over, chased by Tree Swallows and Barn Swallows (PS refers to the slight recomposition of the swallows).

A small trickle runs along a wooded ditch and at last I managed to get a picture of a Chipping Sparrow. They had been calling all day, but had managed to stay out of range or tucked behind a leaf to avoid the attentions of my lens.

Birds seen; 20

Black Vulture 1, Canada Goose 20, Cooper’s Hawk 1, Red-shouldered Hawk 2, Mourning Dove 1, Tree Swallow 25, Barn Swallow 4, Eastern Bluebird 2, American Robin 15, Hermit Thrush 3, Carolina Chickadee 4, Tufted Titmouse 2, Blue Jay 1, American Crow 5, House Sparrow 6, American Goldfinch 3, Northern Cardinal 3, Chipping Sparrow 4, Common Grackle 10, Red-winged Blackbird.

The cycle ride from Tyson's Corner to Meadowlark Botanic Gardens takes you through the pretty town of Vienna. Cross the Leesburg Pike onto Gosnell Road and turn right after 600yds onto Old Courthouse Rd. Keep straight for 3 miles and the gardens are on your left. There are a couple of hills, but nothing sustained.

Opening times are from 10.00. Closing times vary with the time of year. Follow this link for more on closing times.

More posts from Tyson's Corner including; Great Falls Park and Shenandoah National Park can be found at the dedicated USA and Canada page.

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