“She’s the one that spotted that Rose-breasted Grosbeak,” Ranger John excitedly informed the equally-excited Audubon member who arrived shortly after his posting on the rare bird alert. Chris is the vice-president of the DC Audubon club and we learned from him about the offerings their group provides, all on a voluntary basis. It was fun connecting with a National Park ranger who’s sole responsibility is to bird the pathways of the park and bird with folks like us. (Be sure to check out the photos captured during that visit.)
During our first week in our Nation’s capitol our phone’s Health app determined that Sooney and I have walked over 50 miles. Our accommodations are at the centrally-located International Hostel DC nicely centered between the Metro Square, McPherson Square, and Mt. Vernon (Convention Center) Metro stations. We’ve seen a remarkable variety of monuments, museums and parks, and we’ve eaten well. Exceptionally well considering the variety of stellar restaurants we’ve enjoyed: Centrolina Mercato & Osteria, Oyamel Cocina Mexicana, Siroc, Casa Luca, Rasika Penn Quarter, and and the Greek sibling of Oyamel, Zaytinya. Breakfast was a no-brainer since what the hostel provided was one step above cardboard. We opted instead for the simple and healthy offerings at the nearby Le Pain Quotidien, and on our last day discovered the wonderful Busboys & Poets, an eclectic place honoring Langston Hughes (my coffee cup was actually refilled without asking!).
After collecting our bags moments after arriving at the Ronald Regan Washington National Airport, we followed the large “M” signs and faced our inaugural ride on the famous DC Metro. Unfamiliar with the system, our apprehensions were alleviated when we met the airport station’s manager, Mr. Sanders. Perfectly matched for the job, he patiently escorted us to the right track and with his choreography memorized, we set off to the next station (Crystal City) to purchase our Senior “SmarTrip” pass. After a short ride, we exited at the Crystal City stop and were met by Mr. Hughes, a large man with a kind heart. He’d just gotten off the phone with Mr. Sanders and set us off—out, up, right, through the glass doors—to the cashier. At Mr. Sander’s recommendation, we initially put $10 on each of our cards but he couldn’t have anticipated the amount of traveling we did during our stay. (Increasing the loaded amount on a Metro Card is easy and we ended up spending 3-times that during our 8 days in Washington.) The SmarTrip card also entitles us to senior rates on all city bus routes and it was via bus that I traveled to Georgetown’s Apple Store where I’m writing this while Apple technician’s are replacing my ancient iPhone’s battery.
The convenient location of our hotel encourages walking to nearby destinations, especially with the lovely weather we brought from Southern Oregon. On nearly every block in the downtown area there’s a security presence that we relied on for directions since their entire beat is a single block. “From here to there,” one well-armed fellow offered when I asked him about his jurisdiction. He added he’s not an official member of the DC police department but is authorized to arrest incorrigibles “from here to there” (again referring to his block-long beat). He agreed it’s pretty boring but he knows his area well and we found him and his colleagues courteous and helpful when needed. In addition to the constant drizzle of Southern hospitality, we found downtown (and the public transportation) very clean due to enforced restrictions to drinking or consuming food on any of the vehicles.
“Whatcha catching?” Sooney asked a fellow one morning as we birded east Potomac Park to Hain’s Point and back. “Sunshine,” the older gentleman responded quickly. His toothy smile snapped us out of trying to figure out what kind of fish THAT was and we shared a laugh and set off to find more birds. While we missed the paramount cherry blossom peak (we didn’t even see petals on the ground), there were cherry blossoms everywhere.
We finished our walk at the Madison & Jefferson Memorial where we contemplated his profound writings and struggled attempting to adapt it to today’s consciousness. Everywhere there is a tourist vibe and, as expected, we embraced the empathy of celebration and discovery. Our visit has been a sensible blend of tourist stuff and meandering through nearby nature hotspots recommended by the local Audubon website. In addition to Kenilworth Park and Hain’s Point, we spent a sunny morning on Roosevelt Island and have amassed a sizable number of sightings and more that few worthy portraits to display on my villaviani.com birding galleries.
Sooney’s bird sightings invariably exceed my posted photos (she pointed out a Black & White Warbler several stories up a massive oak. Although viewed in my ‘knockers, my photo didn’t make the cut; her sighting did). Please enjoy images uploaded to my photo galleries that include (but are not limited to):
Blue Jay, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Blue-headed Vireo, Bonaparte’s Gull (transitioning), Brown Thrasher, Cedar Waxwing, Chipping Sparrow, Common Grackle, Downey Woodpecker, Eastern Towhee, Great Egret, Hermit Thrush, Mockingbird, Northern Water Thrush, Orchard Oriole, Palm Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Song Sparrow (Eastern), Spotted Sandpiper, Swamp Sparrow, Tufted Titmouse, White-throated Sparrow