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Eating with the Birds

Event at Locust Grove Nature Center fed birdwatchers as they watched local birds feed themselves.

Before the invitees began streaming into Saturday’s party at Locust Grove Nature Center, it was crashed by an uninvited guest — a squirrel, who gorged on food intended for the winter birds near Locust Grove.

It wasn’t long before order returned to Locust Grove’s “Morning Birds and Tea.” In the end, all present — the birds, the squirrel and the humans — all left well-fed.

Five amateur birdwatchers came to Locust Grove Nature Center on Saturday morning and grazed on a spread that included scones, crumpets, muffins, jam, tea and hot chocolate. They sat at two tables placed directly in front of a floor-to-ceiling window that overlooks Cabin John Regional Park.

WHILE MIGRATORY birds are gone for the winter season, this time of the year remains good for birdwatching. At Locust Grove, several well-stocked feeders near the visitors center keep a steady and diverse stream of birds paying a visit.

Saturday morning was supposed to be a time for observing the avian species native to the park, but for the first half-hour all eyes were on a squirrel. The squirrel sat on the back porch of the center eating nuts and dropped bird seed, the only animal in the park to show up for their own free breakfast.

Then, one by one, they started to show. The Hairy and Downy woodpeckers were the first, and next came the gold finches. Then came mourning doves, tufted titmice, black-capped chickadees, and cardinals.

“This is starting to be a banquet now,” said Rosemary Murray, who had driven from Germantown.

“They spread the word that the food’s out,” said Marge Palermo.

For the next hour, as the five people sipped on tea and ate crumpets the birds ate from various hanging and standing feeders, some with seeds, some with suet, and some with a suet-seed combination. The feeders are all designed to be squirrel-proof, but that didn’t keep some from trying.

“I don’t think there’s anything that humans can design that a squirrel can’t get to,” said Judith Field of Potomac.

Conversation ranged from the birds to the park before it diverted to more human matters of their work, books, and politics. The event, named “Morning Tea and Birds,” was scheduled to go from 9 to 10 a.m., but at half past ten the birdwatchers were still advising one another on the best places to see independent films.

Geralyn Drymalski, a naturalist at the park, said the event was more successful than she hoped and that she would try to arrange it again in the spring.

Visitors are always welcome to Locust Grove to watch birds or take part in the wide array of other activities held there.