Meadowlark Botanical Gardens

This afternoon, we decided to visit the Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, VA. It ended up being quite a nice place to visit! We enjoyed walking the paths and encountering a number of birds as well as observing some interesting behavior. It is also apparently quite popular for quinceaños photography as we saw a number of groups going through the park.

Upon entering the park, someone noticed us with our camera and telephoto lens. He asked if we were here to see birds and we said yes, among other things. He mentioned that he saw three Baltimore Orioles just ahead! We’ve only seen them twice, and never a male, so we immediately set off on our quest!

While everyone, or at least baseball fans and Maryland locals, knows that Baltimore Orioles are a orange bird, it is likely less commonly known that the females are yellow. This is probably not something we would have remembered if we hadn’t recently saw a Orchard Oriole near home and had looked up both oriole species in Cornell‘s Merlin bird ID app.

We would have waited a bit to see if other orioles would show up but it was blazing hot under the early afternoon sun and there was no shade in the immediate area. So we proceeded towards a lightly wooded area nearby.

We noticed this White-Breasted Nuthatch in the trees above us. A species we’ve seen at home though not very often. They’re small and often fast moving though this one was happy to stay still on a branch.

We also saw this Red-Bellied Woodpecker. It was a bit more elusive, moving quickly up nearby tree trunks. It briefly stopped out in the open on this small branch where we managed to snap a few photos before it moved on.

As we continued on the path, we came across a male Eastern Bluebird. We saw him dive down to hunt! He caught what appears to be a moth.

It turns out the male Eastern Bluebird was a father! We saw his fledgling land next to him and beg for food. Unfortunately, it seems he had already consumed the moth and had nothing to give. He quickly flew away leaving the disappointed little bird behind, though only briefly as it flew off after him.

We then saw this American Robin catching worms. We think it is gathering them to bring back to a nest as the worms were not immediately consumed.

We continued onward out of the wooded area and came across this sculpture of a pine cone.

Beyond the pine cone sculpture, we encountered the Korean Bell Garden. This garden consists of a number of smaller structures surrounding a pagoda containing a peace bell. There are a number of such Korean peace bells in the US in various places.

Near the peace bell, four Korean “totem poles” were recently installed last year. They replaced older ones that stood here when the Korean Bell Garden was first developed eleven years ago.

We also saw a pair of Dol Hareubang, statues constructed from volcanic rock on Jeju island. These are supposed to represent protection and fertility.

We’ve saw this style of wooden birds recently in the Asian Collections of the National Arboretum. Not really sure if this is a Korean thing?

A crane on the Korean Peace Bell inside of the pagoda.

As we continued on our way, we noticed many Barn Swallows flying around. We also saw something surprising, they landed on the paved walkway! Swallows are small birds that eat insects and spend most of their time flying around. They don’t land very often and are quite awkward on the ground with their super long wings and tiny little legs.

We’re not sure what they were doing as this is not behavior that we’ve observed before. Other species do odd things like go for dust baths and ant baths. Some of these Barn Swallows seem to have their wings extended a bit and their tail feathers spread out so it is possible this is some sort of ant bath or similar behavior.

These Barn Swallows looked quite awkward on the ground, some of them lying at a slight angle with their feet stowed beneath them. Some of them seemed to hold their mouths open, something we’ve seen with other birds when overheating as sort of a panting behavior. But we don’t know if that’s what they were doing or something else was going on. They also seemed to at times move their heads in unison, as if tracking other birds in the air above. They were definitely very alert as birds always are and would immediately take off once anyone approached.

There are two adjacent ponds in the middle of the park. We saw a number of turtles, including this one who seemed to be happy to float on the surface with legs and tail stowed.

These turtles were enjoying the sun!

Nearby, we noticed the Canadian Navy! These are, of course, Canada Geese, a very familiar sight in much of the US. And often an annoying one as their poop is everywhere!

As we continued around the ponds, we noticed this cup nest! It was hanging from a branch above the path. We saw one little baby bird stick its head out! While we can recognize most local bird species on sight, we know much less about nests and chicks. We think this may be an oriole nest!

We didn’t photograph them but we also noticed human-made bird nests hanging near the entrance to the park, around where we saw the female Baltimore Oriole. They seemed to be a bit larger than this one but we’re wondering if they are for orioles?

This particular chick has an appearance which seems like it hatched recently. Maybe it will still be here next week? Maybe we should come back and see?

We also noticed some pretty flowers though we didn’t really spend too much time looking at them. Our focus was mostly on the birds! Unfortunately, we didn’t see any meadowlarks!

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