Thursday, August 28, 2008

Mordecai Lays the Smackdown at Upton Hill Regional Park

Every week or two I round up as many friends as I can and head to Upton Hill Regional Park in Arlington for a round of pre-bar mini-golf. Most of us are no good and the only real competition is usually to see who can get off the best trash talk.

But we got an unexpected show in the sky on Saturday night. As we were finishing up the 4th hole, a red-tailed hawk burst out of the tree above the 12th hole (at center of this photo), swooped straight for a patch of mulch on the embankment above the 9th hole, and plowed right into it. The hawk took a second to gather itself, then flew back up towards the tree -- with a mouse danging in its talons. (By the time I snapped this cell phone camera pic, the hawk was already back in the tree.)

After that, mini-golf seemed pretty mundane by comparison, even if my friend Brendan did drain four holes-in-one on the back nine.

It wasn't the only cool bird sighting of the night. By the time we were finished, the sun had set, and people in the parking lot were pointing up at the sky. Something was darting around above the lights snacking on the gathered bugs. It almost looked like a bat, but was too big and its wings were too thick. (Once again, my cell phone camera came up short - it was too dark and the bird was too quick.)

A man was standing next to his car with binoculars looking up at it, so I walked over and asked him what it was. He told me it was a night hawk -- a
whippoorwill. Most of us have heard the name and maybe even heard its call, but I don't know that I'd ever seen one myself. The birdwatcher told me that whippoorwills gather above Upton Hill's lights each night, sometimes as many as a dozen of them.

That's what I love about Arlington -- I'm just a few Metro stops away from DC or a short walk from Clarendon's nightlife, yet there are also incredible nature opportunities like this. Pretty cool.
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