Following on from yesterdays post, in which I forgot to mention that I saw a clear though distant view of New York from the aeroplane on the way in…
Yesterday morning, I had a bit of a wander this found a lovely butterfly garden next to the Natural History Museum, but with only two species. I photographed both, so might be able to identify them later.
Next to that was an interesting sculpture garden, where I heard and saw a Song Sparrow (aptly, Melospiza melodia). I then made a quick pop into the National Portrait Gallery & Museum of American Art, which deserved a longer stay. At least they had air conditioning and a faucet (I’m learning the language, see) from which I could top up my water bottle. Yesterday was again ridiculously hot — I drank more water in a day then I ever have before.
I covetously examined a Scottevest jacket in the nearby Spy Museum Shop, but I’m still deciding whether the use I’d get from one justifies the cost.
After that, I was off to the Smithsonian National Zoo. On the way there, an elderly local woman on the Metro — did I mention Washington’s efficient Metro? — enquired about my accent “Oh”, she said, “I from Birmingham too. Until the mid 1960s, when I married an American, I used to live off the Coventry Road at Small Heath”. So did I, in the mid 1960s.
Like all of the Smithsonian venues here, entrance to the zoo is free, which is excellent. I had time for a quick look at my first Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) — which was luckily, quite active — and to watch the wild Night Herons being fed. A Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus; a cousin of the buzzard I see at home) flew through to steal one of the dead mice they’re given. Wild Chipmunks (exact species not yet determined) were running about on the footpaths.
I then had a meeting with staff from the zoo, including a director, who seemed very keen to hear about QRpedia.
Another Metro ride took me back to central Washington, from where walked to The White House, to see if President Bartlet was about. He wasn’t, but a very confiding American Robin (Turdus migratorius; actually not a Robin but a relative of our Blackbird) was entertaining. It was also interesting to see Eastern Gray Squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) in their natural habitat, rather than as the feral pests which they are at home. Another walk brought me back to the hostel, stopping only for ice-cream.
After a rest and catching up on email and Twitter, I joined a group of people from my hostel for a bus ride to historic Georgetown, with a guided walk. Georgetown is the Handsworth Wood or Notting Hill of Washington, with fantastic private houses, including the one where John F Kennedy and Jackie lived and had their children immediately prior to his election as President. We wandered around Georgetown University, which could easily double for Hogwarts. It was frustrating to see swifts and martins hawking for insects, but not to be able to identify them. Afterwards, we walked down the steps which feature in the closing scene of the Exorcist. The evening ended with an obligatory bar stop and a bus ride home.
[Pictures to be added later]