May 1, 2005 [LINK]

Oriole at RFK? No way!

I was probably the only one of the 41,000 or so baseball fans at RFK Stadium last night to bring along a birding field guide, and it sure came in handy! In the sixth inning, I spotted a Common nighthawk (first of season) swooping around the stadium lights. Thus distracted, I didn't see Nats first baseman Nick Johnson swing when he hit a home run. A good luck omen, perhaps? Then during the second rain delay of the game, in the eighth inning, well after dark, I was surprised to see a blackish bird flying around the field at the upper deck level. With my binoculars, I could see it was smallish in size, so I figured it was probably a swallow or a swift until I saw that it had definite light-hued patches on its rump and wings, making me think it was a Baltimore oriole. Was this a publicity stunt hatched in Baltimore aimed at taunting Washington fans? Finally, the bird landed in the middle of the outfield as the rain poured down, and I got a clear look at it with no glare from lights in the background. The unmistakeable pale yellow back side of the head left no doubt: It was a Bobolink, no doubt confused and disoriented. They are very uncommon in Virginia, and are usually found in places where cows outnumber human beings.

More seasonal firsts

I was awoken this morning by an odd but delightful song outside the window (in Northern Virginia), and even in my semi-conscious state I recognized it as a White-eyed vireo. Fortunately it stayed there and kept singing throughout the morning, and I finally spotted it in a thicket of tall bushes. Later my niece Cathy and I went for a short walk and saw an Osprey, two loud Red-shouldered hawks (probably courting), plus a Red-bellied woodpecker, some Chipping sparrows, Cowbirds, and a Bluebird, among others. On our way home this afternoon I spotted a male American redstart near the Panorama restaurant and gift shop (closed for the season) in the Shenandoah National Park.