Nature Enthralls

Dyke Marsh had some “major attractions” in late spring 2023.  

For the first time ever in at least 30 years, five raptor species bred in Dyke Marsh simultaneously, reported Larry Cartwright, FODM’s breeding bird survey leader, adding “It was quite a raptor show!”

As of late May, a barred owl (Strix varia) youngster and a great horned owl (Bubo virginianus) youngster had both moved from their nesting cavity, but they perched nearby.

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 Barred owl (Strix varia) fledgling       Photo by Ed Eder

A red-shouldered hawk pair (Buteo Lineatus) hatched at least two young in a nest near the parkway. “The female celebrated Mother’s Day feeding hungry young,” Larry reported.

Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) fans fixated on three bald eaglets, flapping in preparation for leaving the Haul Road Trail nest.  

Young bald eagles Sommers med
Young bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) on the nest    Photo by Dixie Sommers

Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) were still nest-building in May. The pair that was refurbishing the nest at the Belle Haven Marina boat ramp abandoned the nest.

A wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) hen waddled across the Haul Road Trail and observers saw one perched in a tree near the Marina Road. Veteran bird watchers say turkeys are now all over Northern Virginia, including the community of New Alexandria on the west side of the George Washington Memorial Parkway the week of May 22, 2023. Wild turkeys scratch the leaf litter and search the ground for nuts, berries, insects and snails.

Wild turkey sommers
Wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)       Photo by Dixie Sommers

As of May 28, there were two Eastern bluebird (Sialia sialis) nests with young in the Belle Haven picnic area. A female brought food to nestlings in a snag that had a cavity. “In the 30 years since I have compiled the Dyke Marsh breeding bird survey, this is only the second year that bluebirds have used the picnic area to breed, and the second consecutive year at that,” emailed Larry. “Last year’s nesting attempt succeeded with three young fledged." Dead tree snags and tree cavities are host to many breeding birds and some bats.

BluebirdBerry Eder med
Eastern bluebird (Sialia sialis) eating a sumac berry           Photo by Ed Eder

Several people have spotted American eels (Anguilla rostrata) nearby, at Alexandria’s Jones Point and Monticello Park.

snake eel at Jones Point Park May 2005 Brent Steury
Snake & eel at Jones Point Park May 2005    Photo by Brent Steury

And while beavers are usually hard to see during the day, there was at least one beaver (Castor canadensis) lodge in Dyke Marsh.

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Beaver (Castor canadensis) lodge in Dyke Marsh       Photo by Glenda Booth


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