My downtown DC office was officially closed yesterday due to a massive snowstorm that turned out to be a massive nothing. I went in anyway, because I'm hardcore, and also because I knew I could leave whenever I wanted to go birding.
The National Mall is actually not a bad little place for birds. The Reflecting Pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial (#20 below) and the nearby Constitution Gardens (#16) had both held scoters over the weekend, and a Long-tailed Duck had been spotted in the all-concrete Capitol Reflecting Pool (the water in front of #26) a week before.
I left around noon and walked down 12th St NW. My destination was Constitution Gardens which, because of its natural shape and small, reedy island, is the best bet in the area for waifs. However, I stopped at the grounds of the Washington Monument (#25) to peer through the huge flock of Canada Geese feeding in the muddy grass. It was a funny place to see such a huge flock of birds - look one way and you see the Monument, one of DC's most famous landmarks, and look the other and you see the goddamn White House.
Anyway, as I was looking through the flock for "better" geese (there weren't any), I noticed a group of small, tan-colored birds feeding quietly on the ground in front of me. Horned Larks! I peered through the flock and immediately found two other birds, immediately identifiable to me by the boxy frame behind their ears (the auriculars) - Lapland Longspurs! Cool.
I knew they were good birds and sent a message to the listserv before attempting to digi-bin them. Goddamn is digi-binning hard. Holy cow. I managed some awful shots and then moved on. The rest of the day was great - a Canvasback and lots of Ring-necked Ducks at Constitution Gardens and American Pipits everywhere.
It wasn't until I got home and checked the listserv again, though, until I realized how rare the Longspurs were: just the second record in eBird, the previous one from 1985! I'm glad I was able to get a picture, however garbagy. Look for the longspur at the top center of the frame. Good birding!