- Late summer is a good time to study the young of
local breeding birds. Although some fledglings are
identical to adults, in some species there is a dramatic
difference in plumage. When they leave the nest, the
young of common perching birds have a short tail,
partially developed flight feathers, and beg for food for
several weeks, so are relatively easy to spot.
- Look for young Wood Ducks and adults in eclipse
plumage on secluded ponds and rivers. The marshy end of
Centennial Lake, Race Road wetlands, and quiet locations
along the Patapsco River or the Middle Patuxent River are
- Continue watching for vagrant egrets and herons on
local lakes and rivers; many will be immature birds.
Great Egret numbers often peak this month. During the summer, both of the
night-herons may be detected at dusk along the edges of
one or more of the three Columbia lakes.
The Yellow-crowned Night-Heron is the
more unusual of the two.
- Warm summer days, when thermals are strong, are a
good time to view soaring hawks and vultures. Watching
both species of vultures together is an effective way to
learn the "jizz" of each. Although Black Vultures used to
be uncommon in the eastern part of the county, it is now
possible to see them countywide. For a good chance of
seeing both species, try Alpha Ridge Park, Mt. Pleasant,
or Western Regional Park.
- By mid-month, start watching mudflats and
reservoir/lake edges for early shorebird migrants. Most
of these early migrants will be adults still in partial
breeding plumage. Whether any particular site will be
productive is unpredictable. If heavy rains have filled
ponds, lakes, and reservoirs, there will be few muddy
edges—and few shorebirds. On the other hand, too
dry a season means that exposed mudflats will dry quickly
and harden; worse, the empty expanses are soon covered
with sprouting vegetation that holds little attraction
for migrants. If the stars are aligned properly, flats
will be exposed gradually as heat reduces water levels
and brief showers will moisten the exposed mud. Check the
entrance pond at Western Regional Park, as well as the
mudflats at Browns Bridge, Pigtail, and Big Branch from
now until late September.
- From mid-July through August, watch extensive
short-grass areas for the infrequently seen Upland
- At dusk, listen for Eastern Screech-Owls this month
and next. Families have fledged and are talkative. The
diminutive owls have often been found at Daniels, and sometimes
at the Big Branch parking lot.
- Great Crested Flycatchers call at dusk, sometimes
- Late this month start checking reservoirs, as well as
lakes and ponds, for flocking swallows.
- In late July, juvenile Purple Martins gather in
flocks, often on dead branches at the tops of tall
deciduous trees. They have also been observed using light
fixtures adjacent to the ballfields at Centennial Park.
- Fruit-bearing trees, both wild and domestic, are
magnets for family groups. Many species besides Northern
Mockingbirds, Gray Catbirds, and Brown Thrashers
gravitate to mulberry, cherry, chokecherry, and sour gum
trees. Orioles, thrushes, woodpeckers, waxwings,
tanagers, and blackbirds are among the groups that may be
observed gorging on ripe fruit.
- There is some early migration of songbirds this
month. By month's end, note the disappearance of most
Orchard Orioles, many Yellow Warblers, and the majority
of Louisiana Waterthrushes.
- Check alfalfa fields or weedy expanses for
Dickcissels singing from a weed or from a nearby utility
line. The presence of this visitor from the Midwest is
- Those with a curious turn of mind should watch for
fledgling Brown-headed Cowbirds and observe the host
species. Young cowbirds usually announce themselves with
an incessant call. All too frequently they are seen
following a smaller host across a suburban lawn.
- The American Goldfinch is the county bird and can be
seen almost anywhere in the county. Most nest in late
July after thistle goes to seed. Centennial Park,
Schooley Mill Park, and Rockburn Branch Park, as well as
the Middle Patuxent Environmental Area all have extensive