Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Birding by Train

With the ever-higher price of gas, and growing concerns about the environment, more and more of us are using public transportation. ... Starting this month, I am giving up my 1-hour commute by car into DC and my $275/month parking garage bill, in favor of driving to the local Metro station, parking there and taking the Metro into DC. I figure I'll save $200/month (More if the price of gas goes up. Perhaps I should say WHEN the price of gas goes up).

This morning, as I write this, I happen to be on an Amtrak train, bound for New York, where I have business for the day.

This got me thinking about birding by train. Well, It can be frustrating for sure, as the birds and bodies of water fly by so fast you barely get a first look at the birds, much less a second look. Still, there's always stuff to see.

This morning, I've had a Red-Shouldered Hawk calling within hearing distance of the platform at BWI Airport Rail Station; an Osprey hovering over a body of water north of Baltimore; and two Greater Black-Backed Gulls (or Black-Backed Gull, species, to be precise) on an old bridge piling in the Susquehanna River. My favorite place to check out on this route is the flats and marshes just south of New York, in the Seacaucus area. The train has to go slow at that point, and there are always Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, other waders and some ducks to see in the green bits of what is otherwise an industrial wasteland.

I'm even starting, just for the heck of it, a bird list for the New Carrolton, Metro stop in Prince George's County, Maryland. There's a very small bit of marshy area next to the parking lot where I park. The list is off to a reasonable start: Yellow Warbler calling, Grey Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, Song Sparrow.

Birding - it's like kissing your sweetie (Hi Lisa!) you can do it anywhere.



Kay said...

Birding by train is great pasttime, Warren. Because I don't fly (and because I love to travel by rail), I am an avid train traveler. I always bird when on board and have experienced terrific sightings. I snagged my first Rosy Finch aboard the California Zephyr while crossing the Rockies and saw a great flock of migrating Tundra Swans from my bedroom window on board the Empire Builder as we cruised across Montana.

A year and a half ago, I took the Texas Eagle from Tucson to Chicago on my way to Ann Arbor. It was December, so no Neotrops, but there were still wonderful birds. Gambel's Quail, Phainapepla and Long Eared Owl. My subsequent column for the Traverse City Record Eagle was entitled, "Birding by Train."

We in northern Michigan are hoping that the price of gas will result in the return of passenger trains to our part of the world.

John B. said...

I find the three river crossings north of Baltimore pretty productive for train birding. I think I saw my life bald eagle at one of them.

Warren and Lisa Strobel said...

John - That's a good spot. I also remember getting my first-of-year Bald Eagle a couple years back while on the train heading to New York. It was perched in a tree along the Delaware River, along the stretch where the train tracks run close to the river...

Good Birding, John & kay!