A tiny tree-covered city park just outside Washington, D.C., where you have to point your binoculars down, not up, to see warblers.
By Shirley L. Ruhe | Published: 6/16/2014
Warblers abound at small, urban Monticello Park each spring and fall. Thirty-six eastern warbler species have been recorded over the years, often in impressive numbers. Early warblers such as Pine and Black-and-white sometimes arrive in March; the show really takes off during April and culminates throughout May. In fall, birds return in mid-August and continue passing through into late October.
On nine days out of ten in mid-May 2013, birders recorded more than 100 individual warblers each day. At least 20 species were present on most days. In early May 2014 this record was surpassed with an unexpected explosion of warblers. Since 2005, local birder Tom Albright has been tallying migrant birds’ arrival dates in spring and fall. For example, he has noticed a growing number of sightings of colorful Cape May Warbler, a welcome trend.
In late morning, when temperatures warm up, birds typically come down from the trees to bathe in the park’s stream, which helps us birders avoid warbler neck. The views are spectacular, and if you can take your eyes off the warblers, you can watch orioles and tanagers. — Shirley L. Ruhe
Shirley L. Ruhe is a former reporter and an avid birder. She worked on Capitol Hill for 24 years and later headed congressional relations for the RAND Corporation.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Tall, deciduous trees, fallen logs, and undergrowth along small stream.
Quarter-mile circular and level trail, sometimes rough or muddy. Informal paths on two ridges.
Spring and fall: Cape May, Canada, Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green, Black-and-white, Blackpoll, Blackburnian, Tennessee, Bay-breasted, Prairie, Yellow, Magnolia, Chestnut-sided, Worm-eating, Hooded, Pine, Palm, Wilson’s, Yellow-rumped, and Nashville Warblers, Louisiana and Northern Waterthrushes, Common Yellowthroat, Northern Parula, Ovenbird, Hermit, Gray-cheeked, and Wood Thrushes, Scarlet Tanager, Cedar Waxwing, Pileated Woodpecker, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Baltimore Oriole, White- and Red-eyed, Blue-headed, and Yellow-throated Vireos, Indigo Bunting, Swamp, Chipping, and Field Sparrows, Eastern Towhee. Year-round: Red-shouldered Hawk, Hairy, Downy, and Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Northern Cardinal, American Goldfinch. Uncommon: Golden-winged, Orange-crowned, Connecticut, and Kentucky Warblers, Summer Tanager.
When to go
Late April-May and late August-October.
Two picnic tables and a bench. Small bridge overlooking stream a prime viewing point for bathing warblers.
City park. No fees. No specified hours.
Bring binoculars and snacks. Occasional ticks in spring; wear long pants. Terrain can be slippery at times; wear good walking shoes.
For more info
Huntley Meadows Park
Hotspot Near You No. 6. Located off Hwy. 1, south of Alexandria. Wetlands host ducks and waders; orioles and other songbirds in forest.
Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve
Located on west bank of Potomac River south of Alexandria. About 485 acres of tidal marsh, floodplain, and swamp forest.