2 Bad Omens
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johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
January 8, 2005
Member since 07/18/2001 🔗
1,989 posts
As a birder and a skier, I often enjoy predicting winter weather based on bird sightings and behavior. Well folks, I have some bad news..

1. Biking from work this week, I saw a Blue Heron fishing in the Rock Creek Park. Usually, the water in the creek is too cold (or even frozen) by this time for Blues and the birds are farther south in happier hunting grounds.

2. The Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge
office in Parkersburg trapped a Purple Gallinule at 2 am on Tueday morning. This bird is an exotic tropical and sub tropical bird. They occasionally make their way up to the Mid-Atlantic during the warmest months of the summer but are almost never seen any other time. Seeing one in the summer would generate a rare bird alert and cause people from thousands of miles away to drive to the scene to see it. Even in FL, sightings of this bird are rare. I've only seen one and that was in Costa Rica near the Nicaraguan border on a birding expedition on the Rio Frio. To think that one was found in WV in January is SCARRY and beyond the wildest imagination of most birders. The bird, btw, was taken to a Raptor vet for observation and will be repatriated to a warmer climate.

I guess we can blame this winter on the curse of the purple Gallinule:

Photo Courtesy of the USGS web site.
January 8, 2005
Member since 09/27/2002 🔗
589 posts
Where do you do your birding? We have slid into bird identification by way of the biking and kayaking we do .. plus I am totally fascinated by raptors. We have a youngster, probably a red tail visiting our bird feeders occasionally, he/she must think its a raptor cafeteria. Anyway .. looking for places we can yak/bike and see some wildlife at the same time. Any suggestions?
January 8, 2005
Member since 01/25/2002 🔗
316 posts
I generally respect wildlife in all its forms... but if I see that bird it is getting some lead!
January 9, 2005
Member since 01/11/2000 🔗
609 posts
I guess this makes it official. We'll all just move over to DC Bike and DC Hike. My summer depression is back.
Denis - DCSki Supporter 
January 9, 2005
Member since 07/12/2004 🔗
2,339 posts
I don't know about blue herons migrating south. I have seen them all winter long at Burke Lake in Fairfax, most recently on Sat. I can't recall if I've seen them when there is ice on the lake, but that has been a pretty rare occurence over the past 5 years. I run (well slow jog) the trail around the lake. If there is fresh snow I will do the trail on cross country skis. You must get to it quick after a snow before the runners and walkers post hole it. The golf course on the other hand remains good so long as there is snow. I'm a golfer too so I will not ski across greens or tees or if the snow ccover is too thin.
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
January 10, 2005
Member since 07/18/2001 🔗
1,989 posts
Since several people asked me additional questions about the "purple chicken," here's the orginal post on the Audubon list for WV:


Sender: Audubon birding discussion for WV <WV-BIRD@LIST.AUDUBON.ORG>
From: "Richard B. ...
Subject: Purple Gallinule and Peregrine
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"

Here is a good one for January in Parkersburg. A live Purple Gallinule
showed up on the steps of the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge
office in Parkersburg. The security guard at Parkersburg Steel (foot of
29th Street in Parkersburg) found the bird on the tailgate of his truck at
2:00 am Tuesday morning. The guard had just returned from his rounds and
noticed movement on the back of his truck. He checked it out and found the
Gallinule. The bird was apparently stressed and easy to catch. The guard
put it in a box for safe keeping and eventually it ended up at the ORINWR
office. From there it was taken to a vet for examination and then to the
Three Rivers Raptor Center. Hopefully it will end up back down south for
the winter.

No idea how it ended up in Parkersburg. The area where it was found is
industrial but there is about a 40 acre wetland about 200 feet away. We
have seen a Moorhen, Prothonotary Warbler and other waterfowl in that area
in the past but nothing like this in January. Interesting!!!

I know the poster of the message and he's got a good reputation as a birder. Bear in mind that this is a bird you would more likely see in Central America than the central US.

Ski and Tell

Speak truth to powder.

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