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United States DC/NOVA area - anyone for First Day Hike at Mason Neck?

Discussion in 'Events & Meetups' started by Mbwamwitu, 30 Dec 2019.

  1. Mbwamwitu

    Mbwamwitu Well-Known Member

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    I've just moved to DC from India, and was looking into the First Day Hike program at Mason Neck State Park in Virginia for Jan 1st. It started because I don't really have anything planned for NYE or New Year's Day (after being used to usually spending it in my hometown with friends), so I was just looking at hike or wildlife-viewing options. Now, I'm pretty excited at the prospect of seeing my first ever bald eagles and several bird species that are new to me - when I last lived in the US years ago, I wasn't a big birder and so didn't really notice any wildlife. Now I'm losing my mind at Canada geese and hawks that I saw on the bus into DC from NYC :p

    First question: is First Day Hike a bad day to go to a state park, since there might be bigger crowds?

    Second question: would anyone in the DMV/NOVA already be going or interested in joining? Thought it would be cool to go with local Zoochatters who actually know the local species. Everything is new to me: bald eagles, tundra swans, etc. A raccoon to me = a tiger to you! But it seems like it would be fun for a local also to get a nice head start on potential Big Years ;)

    Bonus if you have a car... as I don't, and am currently trying to figure out how best I can get there (if at all) without one. We'll obviously split gas and I can get you a thank you drink after we return to DC (or wherever I can take metro / bus / cab from).

    Hope to see some bald eegs with y'all! :)


    EDIT: Forgot to post logistical details.
    Security Check Required

    ^that post (the most recent on the Mason Neck State Park Friends page) has some of the details on their programs. Their programming begins at 10am but I think the park opens at 8am, so if anyone isn't too hungover from the previous night, I would be interested in getting there early to potentially get some bald eegs and other birds before the crowds come in. The park (and parking) are 100% FREE all day!

    Then at 10am we can either join their scheduled programming or do our own trails, and maybe join them for the tundra swans at noon. If you want to go but want to recover in the morning, I'd be good to go at a later hour too - anything works for me! The park being open and free all day is blessing enough as I'm excited by literally any North American wildlife that can be seen.
     
    Last edited: 30 Dec 2019
  2. DavidBrown

    DavidBrown Well-Known Member

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    I wish that I lived in the area so could go on this hike with you, but alas live on the wrong side of the continent. I hope that you do go and have some great wildlife sightings. Seeing bald eagles in the wild is always a treat.

    In my experience going for a hike in a state park is a great way to start the year, and we have done it several times.

    Happy New Year!
     
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  3. Mbwamwitu

    Mbwamwitu Well-Known Member

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    Wish you could've, too! Good to hear that you've had great experiences in state parks on 1/1. I was a little worried that they might be overcrowded with families and such. But I'm too excited to mind, to be honest :p

    Haven't had any luck finding people to travel with... so it is a little in doubt right now. But will keep trying!
     
  4. Coelacanth18

    Coelacanth18 Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    That sounds like a fun program; normally I would be into it, but sadly I'm unavailable for a day trip tomorrow. I hope you find the chance to go; if not, I encourage you to visit a local park or at least walk around your neighborhood tomorrow and get a First Day count. If Canada Goose is enough to excite you, it should be a blast one way or another :p Some good birding sites in DC proper or nearby are Rock Creek Park, the Arboretum, and Theodore Roosevelt Island.

    I'm not familiar with the event, but it'll likely be more crowded; I expect many birders will show up, and additionally other people might take advantage of the waived entry and parking costs (plus it's a federal holiday, so a lot of people will be off work - especially in the DC area). Personally, I think it's a trade-off: more people to keep you company and locate birds for you, but also might disturb the more reticent wildlife and keep them out of sight. Overall though, I've found that birding with more people results in a net gain of species observed compared to birding solo - especially if you're less experienced birding with people who are more experienced.
     
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  5. TinoPup

    TinoPup Well-Known Member

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    I'm currently pet sitting quite close to Mason Neck, but I already have plans to meet up with another zoochatter at the national zoo tomorrow. You are welcome to join us!
     
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  6. Mbwamwitu

    Mbwamwitu Well-Known Member

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    Thanks a ton for all this info, Coelacanth! I’ve been thinking about Rock Creek but the Island and Arboretum look cool too. Better in spring? And have you been to Tidal Basin / Hain’s Point?

    LOL Canada geese are quite exciting when you see them for the first time. So visually striking and iconic. North American wildlife has the same mystique for me that South Asian (or African, as I lived there when I was younger) has for many Americans. I associate it with ideas of the origins of modern conservation, and it’s always cool to get to know the “common” stuff in a new place, I think. Plus I’m a relatively new birder in general (only been keeping track of species since 2019, zero knowledge of passerines, etc.) so I’ve got a lot of mileage left for cardinals :p

    I like your point about going with experienced folks... which is why let me know if you want to go to any of these sites soon! I’m gonna try and get on the zoo plan mentioned for today, and will maybe check out Tidal/Hain’s. I’m used to seeing 6-10am as prime birding time because after that it gets hot in India and the birds are less active... is that dynamic at play at all here in the winter?

    Hope to see you sometime! :)
     
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  7. Mbwamwitu

    Mbwamwitu Well-Known Member

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    That sounds awesome. Sent you an inbox for time and other details, would love to come, thanks for the holler! :)
     
  8. Coelacanth18

    Coelacanth18 Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Probably better in spring; I think birding here is better in every season besides winter, since it's cold and nearly all of the insectivorous birds leave. I've been to Tidal Basin, but not for birding; you'll probably see some stuff there, but it's mostly manicured grass, cherry trees, and water so I wouldn't expect to see too much.

    Somewhat, but less than in the summer or in tropical climates. Judging by eBird records, birders tend to bird early in the morning regardless of season, and those that bird earlier seem to find more species even in winter. That being said, I think you should be able to find most if not all birds at any time of day.