Eagles and Boomerangs

The day started with the trill of a red wing black bird in Dyke Marsh only 3 miles from home. Ten miles later on the Trollheim boardwalk beneath the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge I spotted a great blue heron only a few feet from the trail on the river’s edge.

The ride home I played pin ball with Canada geese. I didn’t hit any. The temperature was in the low 70s. I looked longingly at the trees across the river. A few cherry trees were in bloom but most were still waiting for a burst of warm weather. They’ have to wait a few more days. We all have our fingers crossed that a blast of cold air will not ruin this year’s peak blossom now scheduled for March 19.

On the way home I stopped to take a picture of Little Nellie in the twilight. Big Ed came rolling along. He just came back from Florida. He had the good taste not to have a deep brown tan. Otherwise I might have had to push him into the river. Earlier a schoolkid had tried to hit him with a boomerang as Ed rode past the Washington Monument. He missed (after Ed threatened him. Did I mention that Ed was big?) The rider behind Ed had to swerve into traffic an nearly got hit by Crocodile Dundee. Poor kid. He doesn’t know that Ed’s HD camera caught both attacks. The kid was wearing a school uniform and was standing next to a classmate who had a cast on his arm. Busted.

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Big Nellie at Dyke Marsh at Twilight

Ed and I parted ways. Ed rode up the big hill on Park Terrace while I stayed along the river to check out the eagle nests. As I approached the Tulane nest, I thought I saw a large mass next to the nest. It was twilight so I wasn’t sure. As I rolled under the nest I saw wings fan as an eagle descended into the nest from the left. Cool! On the right side of the nest, I saw the partner eagle standing guard. I think what I witnessed was the changing of the guard as the eagles incubate their egg(s).

Tomorrow promises a return to cold and wet weather. Little Nellie and I are taking Mrs. Rootchopper’s car to the dealer for some TLC, and a 3 1/2 mile bike commute.

Cheers.

 

Eagles Fly, Turtles Lay

As regular readers of this blog already know, I am gaga for bald eagles and snapping turtles. Last night on the way home, I spotted my first turrle. It was off in the grass between the trail and the river about a mile from my office. Since I was away during the first seven days of June I probably missed the trutles laying eggs along the trail this year. I am still hopeful though.

There are (at least) two active bald eagle nests on my commute route. One is located near the Morningside Drive exit of the George Washington Memorial Highway which runs right next to the Mount Vernon Trail. The other is near the Tulane Drive exit. (For locals, these are between 2 and 3 miles south of the beltway.)  They are both very hard to see now that the trees have their full set of leaves.

The trail passes through Dyke Marsh Preseve. The Friends of Dyke Marsh often look for wildlife activity. This week they saw the eaglets being taught to fly. This probably takes place along the river’s edge, away from the trail, but I am going to give it a close look on the way home.

The Friends have a Facebook page (doesn’t everyone?). Here’s a link for those of the nature nuts who read this blog.

 

 

 

Sunday Sight Seeing on the Mount Vernon Trail

On Sunday, two friends from my grad school days came over for brunch. Matt is not athletic. Mike is. Mike was going stir crazy staying with Matt so we agreed that I would take Mike for a bike ride after brunch. Fortunately, Mike is exactly my size so The Mule fit him. I rode my Cross Check.

Mike has a yard sale bike at home in Providence that he rides religiously once or twice a year. So I set a gentle pace. We did a tour of the Mount Vernon Trail bald eagle nests. Along the way Mike told me about how he recently used CitiBikes to ride around New York City. He said he would never have ridden a bike except for the fact that there are separate dedicated bike lanes. He felt totally safe. Mike should be the poster boy for urban bike infrastructure.

We made it to the Belle Haven nest but saw no eagles. As we rode further Mike told me about the  East Bay Bike Trail in Rhode Island. He loves it. I ran this once when it was a railroad line back in 1980 or 1981. It really sounds fantastic but Mike was annoyed that it wasn’t wide enough. Soon we entered Jones Point Park Mike was shocked to see a separate walking lane. (I didn’t have the heart to tell him that most walkers ignore it.)

Under the giant bridge and into Old Town. Then we took the Wilkes Street tunnel and Royal Street back to the Mount Vernon Trail. Continuing south we stopped at the Tulane nest. I could barely make it out with binoculars amid the dense foliage. Mike never saw it. Onward to the osprey (or maybe bald eagle nest) at the fishing hole. No birds, nice view.

Our next stop was the Morningside Nest which I couldn’t find at all amid the leaves. My bald eagle nest tour was becoming a bust.

We continued down the trail to Fort Hunt Park, stopping to admire Fort Washington on the opposite side of the Potomac River. We did a lap in the park then headed for Mount Vernon. About a half mile from the park  I pulled over for one more bald eagle nest. I just could not find it. As I was giving up, I looked up and there it was, right out in the open. Easily the biggest nest of all. Mike saw it too. And just as he focused on it, an eagle flew down and into it. The nest, or actually the outside structure of the nest, is so big that the bird just vanished. I could occasionally spot the bird’s head bopping up and down, probably feeding an eaglet. As we were watching the nest, a second bald eagle flew in circles overhead. Woot!

We started talking with a couple who were walking their dog. Just as we were about to leave they spotted a bizarre looking naval vessel making good time on the river heading toward DC. It had a sort of dazzle camouflage on its sides. Very cool.

I took Mike up to Mount Vernon. He did not much a
ppreciate the last hill. After a brief rest, we continued  beyond the estate for a photo op before heading back home.IMG_0023.JPG

23 1/2 miles, 1 strange boat, 2 bald eagles.Not bad for a lazy Sunday.

After he left things got at tad more interesting, but that’s a tale for another post….

 

It’s Spring – Eagle Mania Is Here

We’ve had a very mild winter, despite the crummy weather this weekend. Our flora is confused. Our forsythia has taken its merry time to bloom. Daffodils and crocuses seem to be resisting.

A sure sign of spring are the young deer I saw the other morning in the park near my home. But our biggest sign of spring has gone viral. Bald eagles. Once nearly wiped out by DDT seem to be taking over, much like our exploding population of Canada geese.

The real show is at the National Arboretum in DC. It has two cameras perched above an eagle nest and people are spending countless hours watching for the eggs to hatch (one down, one to go), eaglets flopping around in the nest, and mama and papa eagle bringing and eating big hunks of fish.

Here’s the link to the cameras: http://www.eagles.org/dceaglecam/

I was feeling a bit left out. I normally see quite a bit of eagle action on my commute, especially at sunrise. There’s been very little this year. I know of three nests along my route. One is just south of the beltway next to the Belle Haven Golf Course. For several years this nest was occupied but the pair of eagles abandoned it a few years back. It’s very much exposed and right next to the GW Parkway. For whatever reason, it seems to be a popular spot for eagles to visit. In the mornings, I often see an eagle or two perched on a branch near the nest, facing the sunrise.

About a mile farther south, just past the Tulane Drive turnoff is a massive nest. I only found this one a couple of years ago. (Pro trick: keep an eye out for photographers!) By its size, it seems obvious that this nest has been there a long time. It was near the Tulane nest that I found skeletal remains of a Canada goose and a small animal. This one is extremely hard to spot even when you know where it is.  It’s also on a curvey section of the trail. Pull over to check this one out.

The next nest, at least until this week, is near the Morningside Drive exit of the GW Parkway, about a half mile further south on the trail. Like the Tulane nest, this one is on the left between the trail and the river. This is a whopper too. And it has been occupied in recent years. I haven’t seen eagles at either the Tulane or the Morningside nests yet.

But there is good news. Right between the Tulane and Morningside nests is a new nest. In fact there used to be two small nests, so small that I thought they might be osprey nests. They were each on wee islets at the southern end of Dyke Marsh. One of the islets is gone, trees and all. The other, closer to the trail, is still in one piece. The other night I spotted two bald eagles at the nest. One keeping lookout the other in the nest. I think we have babies on the way.

So just when winter starts wearing me down, spring lifts me up. In about a month, we will be seeing snapping turtles laying eggs along the trail.

Speaking of turtles laying eggs, the turtles often bury their eggs on the edge of the trail. As I was riding home, I notice several dents in the edge of the trail, about the size of a turtle. Could it be that the excavation the turtles do for their egg clatches are undermining the trail’s edge?

Nature is so cool.

So is my bike commute.

 

 

I love my bike commute.

 

 

 

Prepping for the Season Opener

Before we get into today’s events, an update on the migration patterns of the East Coast bicycle tourists. I had previously seen a single northbound bike tourist on the Mount Vernon Trail on two occasions in the last week or so. Friday night I spotted one man, Asian, about 30 years old give or take five years. (Suffice it to say, I stink at guessing people’s ages.)  About a minute later, three more Asian men of about the same age rode by. It’s a sure sign of spring. They looked like they were having a blast.

Spring is really happening now. Dogwoods, lilacs, tulips, and redbuds all in bloom. Soon ducklings and gosslings will make their debuts and tortoises will lay their eggs along the edge of the trail.

Now back to today.

Anybody who knows me knows that I am a baseball fan. When Tony Conigliaro was beaned on my 12th birthday, I became a Red Sox fan living in Yankee country. It wasn’t easy. In 1973 I started college at Boston University. I became a Sawx addict. My sophomore year in a dorm about 1 block from the Citgo sign in Kenmore Square and 3 blocks from Fenway Park’s green monster. I drove a cab in Boston during the summer of 1975. I had to walk past the green monster every day to get to the cab company. During the summer many of the passengers wanted to talk about the Sawx. The Boston Globe had the best sports page EVER.

I learned that baseball is about the arc of the season not about each individual game. I went nuts during the fabled sixth game of the ’75 nWorld Series, and mourned at the feeble end of the seventh. In ’78, I learned Bucky Dent’s middle name. (It begins with F.) In ’86 I yelled at the TV “Where’s Stapleton?” wanting to see first-baseman Bill Buckner’s defensive replacement in the sixth game of the 1986 series against the Mets. My kids watched mesuffer as the Yankees won the 2003 playoffs on an Aaron Boone home run.  And they watched daddy completely lose his mind going “Cowboy Up!” during their amazing come from behind stomping of the evil empire in 2004. And they won the Series to boot. Mercy. The next two pennants were fun but anticlimactic although I think 2013 was some sort of divine intervention after the sickening Boston Marathon bombing.

Now I have turned my attention to my new home.

The Nationals are loaded like Ron White on a bender. Their line up is the Death Star. They remind me of the 1978 Red Sox in that they have thunder in their bats Rooting for the Nats is meant to be. They were once the Montreal Expos. My father took us up to Montreal to see Willie Mays and the Giants play the Expos in Jarry Park. Willie didn’t play that day but I have a fond memory of sitting in the smallest major league park on a lovely August day. And besides the Expos gave Boston Pedro!

Tomorrow I go to my first Nats game of the season. I will try to refrain from yelling “LETS GO EXPOS!” during the game. I will bike the 14 miles to the stadium for the first time since that impossibly sad day last September.

Today I spent the day getting stuff out of the way for tomorrow’s fun. I picked up my holey sweaters at the dry cleaner. After a somber ceremony, they will be put in storage for next winter. Then I washed all my winter bike clothes. My jacket and vest were both disgustingly dirty. I had no hope they’d come clean but I will be damned if they don’t look like new. IMoving outdoors, I removed raised beds from our back yard. They had failed to produce more than a handful of veggies for several years. After an hour plus of digging dirt, I think it’s time for someone to invent a dirt version of the Wovel.

Next I mowed the lawn, learning in the process that it was mighty hot out for mid April. Dehydrated, I decamped to the family room and watched the second half of the Nats game. (They lost. We’ll get them tomorrow.)

After the game I took The Mule out for an easy spin to check the bald eagle nests along the Mount Vernon Trail. I saw one eagle in the massive nest at Fort Hunt Park. I didn’t see any other eagles at the four nests between the stone bridge and Tulane Drive, but I did run into Reba, fellow bike commuter and Friday Coffee Clubber. She was looking for the nests without much luck so I took her on a tour. It’s a good thing she was looking today because in about a week the leaves on the trees will make the nests very hard to find, even if you know where to look. We didn’t see much eagle action but at least Reba knows where they are.

Winter clothing is cleaned. Chores are done. Legs are refreshed.

Okay, Mule, take me out to the ballgame.