Audubon Center Bird Walk: A look at wonders hidden in plain view

Written by on March 13, 2013 in Featured, Neighborhood News - No comments

Participants in the Patterson Park Audubon Center’s Bird Walk scan the boat lake on a crisp, windy Friday morning. Photo by Erik Zygmont.

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Faced with a stubborn, biting wind, many of Patterson Park’s avian species hunkered down in hidden places last Friday, but that didn’t stop 10 people from joining the Patterson Park Audubon Center’s bi-monthly Bird Walk.

“We have a good crowd here considering the weather,” said Bryan Mackay of the Chesapeake Audubon Society.

Mackay added a “signs of spring” component to the walk to make up for the hiding birds.

“The equinox is coming very shortly,” Mackay said. “Things are changing.”

One of those things is the appearance of small flowering plants, such as the purple deadnettle. The 2-to 8-inch plant is also known, fittingly, as the pagoda plant, due to its geometric leaf structure. The purple deadnettle is native to Europe and Asia, not America.

“It’s alien, and it’s kind of invasive, but it’s pretty,” said Mackay.

Other signs of spring identified by Mackay included a budding red maple tree and Persian speedwell, another small, non-native plant with clover-like, baby-blue flowers.

“It’s kind of invasive, too, but, again, it’s nice to see some color out,” said Mackay.

The Boat Lake is one sure place to see birds on any and in any weather. On the way there, Chesapeake Audubon president and bird expert Ruth Bergstrom identified a White-breasted Nuthatch by sound.

“Can you hear it? It’s kind of nasally,” she said.

Avians assembled at the Boat Lake included a Pied-billed Grebe, Mallard Ducks, Canada Geese, and a tufted titmouse.

Two Mallards, a male and a female, floated face to face, alternately dipping their beaks into the water.

“That’s kind of a bonding or greeting behavior,” explained Mackay. “You might see something similar in the taverns of Highlandtown.”

The grebe paddled leisurely around the pond, diving for long stretches and then reappearing in another spot.

According to Susie Creamer of the Patterson Park Audubon Center, bird walks are typically held on the second Friday and last Saturday of each month; see for details.

“It’s really nice to have something like this in the city,” said Sarah Roush of Charles Village. “I know there are a lot of trips outside of the city, but I don’t have a car, so it’s nice to be able to do this here with experienced folks.”

by Erik Zygmont

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