• Two eastern screech owls side by side, one grey, one brown
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    Injured raptors find new careers as ambassadors, models

    For raptor whisperers even more impressive than Chris Pratt, one need look no further than our local wildlife organizations. Among them is the nonprofit Raptor Conservancy of Virginia, which rescues and rehabilitates injured and orphaned birds of prey. Their all-volunteer squad is trained to deal with sharp (non-computer-generated) talons and beaks. RCV cares for more than 200 new raptors a year, many of them injured by crashing into windows or getting hit by cars. RCV also helped save an injured bald eagle from the Blue Line tracks, and helped rescue a Cooper’s Hawk stuck in the Library of Congress Main Reading Room. RCV works to release these birds back into the…

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    An armadillo, a skunk, and a naked mole rat walk into a bar…

      The National Zoo’s small mammal house just might have DC’s most eclectic collection of wacky hairstyles and odd visages.  Some of its exhibits even feature several species all living together, sort of like the Star Wars cantina. (But with less violence and more fur). Previously on this blog, I’ve mentioned the terrific perks of joining the Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ) and the FONZ Photo Club.  (For example, FONZ members get to meet panda cub Bei Bei before his public debut!) On a recent Saturday, the Photo Club was invited to shoot at the small mammal house before it opened. The staff even took some critters out of their exhibits so we could meet them face…

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    Wet hot Panamanian frogs! (and other rare creatures at the National Zoo)

      Animal photos can be cute and fun, but they might also end up as historical documents for future generations. This is because some species might not be around that long. According to this National Geographic article, a quarter of mammal species, a fifth of reptile species, a sixth of bird species, and more than a third of the world’s frog, toad, and salamander species are at risk of extinction. Many biologists argue that the world is experiencing a mass extinction event, with vertebrate species disappearing at up to 100 times the normal rate. (Before this, the last mass extinction event was 65 million years ago; it wiped out the dinosaurs). Take the Panamanian golden frogs…

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    Love the beach but hate the sand? Head to the National Building Museum

      With its Corinthian columns inspired by Michelangelo, and a Great Hall modeled on Rome’s Palazzo della Cancelleria, the National Building Museum atrium is one of DC’s most majestic and elegant spaces. It has hosted inaugural balls from President Cleveland through President Obama, and now, in perhaps its most photogenic role yet, it is the site of a hugely popular ball pit. The National Building Museum’s immersive art installation “The Beach” covers 10,000 square feet, including a 50-foot-wide shoreline, and an “ocean” of almost one million translucent plastic balls. The umbrellas, chairs, walls, and balls are all monochromatic, but when the Beach is filled to capacity with 400 people in their bright summer clothes, it’s a…

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    Wildlife rehabilitators nurse critters back to health

      Because of our abundant green spaces (e.g. Rock Creek Park and the National Arboretum), bodies of water (e.g. the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers), and food sources (e.g. that leftover donut someone dropped on the sidewalk), the DC area has a surprising amount of wildlife diversity. Did you know that the District alone is home to about 19 amphibian species, 21 reptile species, 29 mammal species, and 240 bird species? Thanks to the nonprofit Second Chance Wildlife Center in Rockville and City Wildlife in DC, medical care is available for these wild locals. From orphaned baby squirrels, to turtles who’ve been hit by cars, to woodpeckers who’ve been attacked by…

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    United States Marine Drum & Bugle Corps: Great music and dapper uniforms

    In the 1700s and 1800s, the Marine Corps would communicate commands with drums and bugles, because the powerful cadences and tones could be heard through the din of combat. These days, the talented musicians of “The Commandant’s Own” United States Marine Drum & Bugle Corps are still full-fledged Marines, trained in infantry skills. But luckily for us, we need not visit the battlefield to hear them. They regularly perform at ceremonies and concerts in the DC area and all over the world. Visitors to the Library of Congress on December 9 were treated to a terrific holiday concert in the Library’s Great Hall. Who knew “Winter Wonderland” could sound so patriotic?…

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    Honor Flights Bring Veterans to the Nation's Capital

    On a recent sleepy morning at National Airport, sprinkled among the usual PA announcements, travelers heard an unusual invitation: An “Honor Flight” would land soon, carrying dozens of elderly veterans to visit and reflect at the memorials that had been built in their honor. “Come to Gate 40 to welcome our veterans to Washington!” Luckily I had a few minutes to spare before my flight, so I joined many other travelers to greet the arriving plane from Indianapolis. While the West Point Alumni Glee Club sang The Marines’ Hymn (The Halls of Montezuma) and other patriotic tunes, the crowd applauded, thanked the vets for their service, and wished them a…

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    DC cafe lets you pet cats, get noseprints all over your camera

      DC’s first and only cat cafe, Crumbs & Whiskers, has two floors of glamorous (adoptable!) feline celebrities. Human paparazzi come through all day, offering luxury massages and instagram fame. The cats all hail from the Washington Humane Society, which vets them for sociability: how well they get along with other cats, and their sweetness towards strangers. It’s one of DC’s happier spots to enjoy a cup of coffee. Just keep an eye on your cup, or else the cats, being cats, will knock it over. [divider line_type=”Small Line” custom_height=””] [divider line_type=”Small Line” custom_height=””] [divider line_type=”Small Line” custom_height=””] [divider line_type=”Small Line” custom_height=””] [divider line_type=”Small Line” custom_height=””] [divider line_type=”Small Line” custom_height=””] [divider line_type=”Small Line”…

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    Fuzzy baby birds enhance DC's waterside views

    Every spring and summer, the District’s bodies of water host large, photogenic families of Mallard ducks and Canada geese. Use binoculars or a long camera lens to keep your distance. Parents are understandably protective of their ducklings and goslings! Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, May 2015 [divider line_type=”Small Line” custom_height=””] Constitution Gardens, May 2013 [divider line_type=”Small Line” custom_height=””] Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, April 2013 [divider line_type=”Small Line” custom_height=””] Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, May 2015 [divider line_type=”Small Line” custom_height=””] Capitol Reflecting Pool, May 2015 [divider line_type=”Small Line” custom_height=””] If you find a duck family stranded in an unsafe area, check out City Wildlife’s Duck Watch FAQ and Washington Humane Society’s Mom Knows Best: Found Ducklings? Or contact City…

  • A calico pushes a small purple car carrying another cat
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    The Acro-Cats at Synetic Theater Brought Skillz and LOLs

    The acclaimed Synetic Theater is home to some of the area’s most innovative and avant-garde performances. This made it the perfect tour stop last week for the talented and wacky Acro-Cats! Using treats, a clicker, and positive reinforcement, lead trainer Samantha Martin has taught her cats some remarkable feats. She demonstrated her training techniques for the audience, and made the case that training your cat can be useful. For example, if you teach your cat to leap into its carrier when you whistle, this can save its life in an emergency evacuation. But of course, the most exciting benefit of a trained cat: the photo opportunities!! [divider line_type=”Small Line” custom_height=””]…

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