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10 animals you can encounter along the Mount Vernon Trail

By Luke Fichter

National Landing, Virginia's largest walkable downtown, offers more than just bustling urban life; it provides quick access to wildlife through the Mount Vernon Trail. Visitors and residents alike are treated to an immersive experience in a diverse ecosystem that thrives just beyond the city limits.

From the shores of the Potomac River to the woodlands teeming with wildlife, the trail offers a sanctuary for both humans and animals. Whether you're spotting birds of prey soaring overhead, glimpsing elusive mammals darting through the underbrush, or admiring the intricate workings of nature's architects, every encounter along the trail is a reminder of the interconnectedness of all living things.

Here are 10 animals you can encounter on your next trip along the Mount Vernon Trail.

Northern flicker - A vibrant sight along the trail, the Northern Flicker is a type of woodpecker distinguished by its colorful plumage and rhythmic drumming. Spot them probing for insects on tree trunks or hear their distinctive calls echoing through the woods.

Skink - Keep an eye out for these sleek reptiles basking in the sun along the trail. Skinks are small lizards with shiny scales and slender bodies, often darting into the underbrush at the slightest disturbance.

Eastern screech owl - Nestled within the wooded areas near the trail, the Eastern Screech Owl is a master of camouflage, blending seamlessly with its surroundings. Listen for their haunting trills as they hunt for small rodents under the cover of darkness.

Osprey - With a wingspan that commands attention, the osprey is a majestic presence soaring above the Potomac River. Watch as these impressive birds of prey dive gracefully into the water, often emerging with fish clasped in their talons.

Red fox - A glimpse of rust-colored fur darting through the undergrowth signals the presence of the Red Fox. These cunning mammals are known for their agility and adaptability, making them a common sight along the trail's edge.

Muskrat - Found in the marshy areas bordering the trail, the muskrat is a semi-aquatic rodent with a distinctive rat-like tail. Watch as they swim gracefully through the water or forage for aquatic plants along the riverbanks.

Loggerhead shrike - Perched atop fence posts or shrubs, the Loggerhead Shrike is a small predatory bird with a striking black mask and hooked beak. Witness their hunting prowess as they search for insects and other small vertebrates.

Beaver - Nature's engineers, beavers leave their mark along the riverbanks with intricate dams and lodges constructed from branches and mud. Keep an eye out for these industrious mammals swimming with purpose along the water's edge.

Brown bat - As dusk descends, watch for the silent flight of Brown Bats as they emerge from roosts hidden in trees or crevices. These nocturnal creatures play a vital role in controlling insect populations, swooping gracefully through the evening sky in search of prey.

Bald eagle - A symbol of freedom and resilience, the Bald Eagle reigns supreme along the Potomac River, its piercing gaze surveying the land below. Witness these majestic raptors in flight or perched high in treetops, a testament to the natural splendor of the National Landing area.