Hi. I’m Zoe Yost and I’m nine years old. This is my first year in the Delaware Dunlins and also my first participation in the Delaware Bird-A-Thon. I really enjoyed the experience. Our day started at 3:30 a.m. (earlier than I get up for vacations!!) and finished at 9:30 p.m.— a total of 17 hours!
My mom (Sarah) and I teamed up with Derek Stoner. We met at Ashland Nature Center and drove to Dragon Run Park, arriving at 4:30 a.m. We were targeting owls and rails. At this stop we identified several species, like Barn Swallow and Common Yellowthroat, but we left owl-less and rail-less. On the way out, we bumped into John Janowski at Thousand Acre Marsh. At a well-placed roadside pause, Mr. Janowski played the Sora call and a Sora answered three feet away!
Next, we went to the Port Penn Wetlands Trail and got Glossy Ibis flying over, Common Moorhen, Orchard Oriole, King Rail and others—but no owls! The moorhens were especially cool! Everything was “waking up”—it was spectacular! Red-winged Blackbirds were singing, bullfrogs croaking, Moorhens clucking, a mink was swimming, and there were muskrat huts—–all in a few minutes.
7:00-9:15 am: Ted Harvey Wildlife Management Area. Here, we got a WARBLER EXTRAVAGANZA!! Canada, Cape May, Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green, Magnolia, Black-and-white, Blackpoll, Yellow-Rumped, American Redstart, Northern Parula, Common Yellowthroat, WHOA!!!!! They were all fluttering around in the branches hunting caterpillars—making it difficult to see them. The Black-and-white was “scooting” around on the tree trunks. Blue Grosbeak was a life bird—so neat!
As we were leaving we saw a Wild Turkey running in front of our van and that led us to seeing a group of Wild Turkeys in the road. They were so big—and they weren’t flightless! This stop was a real highlight and we left with over 15 new species, mostly warblers.
9:30-10:30am: St. Jone’s Reserve. Meeting up with Dominic and Monica Morell we found the day to be growing warmer and the insects coming out—with an appetite. After a visit with Cutter “Natural” Insect Repellent, our search resumed. Although many birds thrived and were identified in the reserve, Green Heron, Eastern Bluebird, & Chipping Sparrow were new-on-the-list. A highlight was the tree swallows in their nesting boxes. They were all sticking their heads out and we got a peek inside one of the boxes–with a swallow in it!
11:00-12:00pm: Fowler Beach. At this stop we were joined by yet another family from the Dunlins– Kathleen O’Neil, her mom and “grammie.” This was our first plethora of shorebirds. There were many species, familiar and unfamiliar, including Dunlins, Black-bellied Plovers and Willets. Black Skimmers flew back and forth to their roosting island. I quite liked the Spotted Sandpipers—so cute! By noon, we had gotten our goal of 100 species. But looking at the time, the goal was bumped up to 125 species.
12:20-1:00pm: Mispillion Harbor. Red Knots were a MAJOR highlight—-I’ve read about them and wanted to see them. They were an important life bird for me. I hope to get closer to them in the future. Lesser Scaup wasn’t a life bird, but it was neat and I hope it doesn’t become an x-scaup!
2:00-5:30pm: Bombay Hook NWR. After a much needed lunch break, we headed out on the Bombay Hook drive, revived by a Wendy’s Oreo parfait. Tundra and Mute Swan, Veery, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron and Least Bittern are just 5 of the 18 species we identified there. Yellow-breasted Chat was a highlight for its beautiful song. Although Bombay Hook was full of birds, the bright, hot afternoon guaranteed no owls. So, determined to find an owl, we headed north.
7:00-7:30pm: White Clay Creek State Park. Here we only managed to add 2 new species to our list, but getting to see a Yellow-throated Vireo on her nest was well worth the stop. Where were the owls?!
7:40-9:00pm: Middle Run Natural Area. Continuing on our determined quest to find owls we headed to Middle Run. A Pileated Woodpecker flew right over our heads in the parking lot! In the heart of the woods, we could hear all the birds getting ready to go to sleep; we were surrounded by Wood Thrushes. It was simply magnificent. Prairie Warbler was a highlight, and we added singing Louisiana Waterthrush, Acadian Flycatcher, and a Hairy Woodpecker. We looked for owls, but found none. Although, it’s hard to believe a Barred Owl could have resisted Derek’s Barred Owl call!
9:15-9:30pm: Ashland Nature Center. By now, I had been up since 3:30 a.m. I was crashing! We looked for Eastern Screech-Owls, but, oh, BOTHER!!! We finished the day owl-less! Oh, well…..time to go to bed…….
We had identified 135 species in all! It was a great day for raising funds to buy and preserve essential habitat for birds. In short, this was a fantastic experience for me. I’m especially thankful to Derek Stoner, who made this day possible.
– by Zoe Yost
To support my conservation efforts, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit one of my donation points in Hockessin: George & Son’s Seafood, Wild Birds Unlimited, and Harvest Market. To make things more interesting, I have a donor who will match my funds raised up to $3,000!
THANK YOU FOR HELPING ME MAKE A DIFFERENCE!
photos by Derek Stoner
I had a very exciting Big Day for the Delaware Bird-A-Thon! I decided that I was going to keep a ‘diary’ to record the happenings of my Big Day so that I could share them later. So now I’ll share them with you (!):
On Friday May eleventh I had just finished taking my karate lesson when my mom, my Grammy, and I headed downstate to our hotel, where we would stay overnight. That way we could get an early start the following morning…
8:15 PM- Branmar Plaza (in Wilmington)
“I’m heading south to the hotel (though I can hardly write with all of these pot holes). We’re all exhausted already! I really need to be on top of my game tonight so that I get every possible bird for my list. I will be so happy if I hear an American Bittern call ‘cause I’ve always wanted to hear it. I just passed my middle school! My Mom just informed me that we’re stopping at Reedy Point Bridge to try and add King Rail and Least Bittern to our list (because we heard them there on the rail trip last week). I’ll check back soon.”
We tried really hard for Least Bittern and King Rail but to no avail. I guess that either my iPod wasn’t playing their calls loud enough to attract their attention or the birds simply were not in the mood to call. Unfortunately opening the windows caused a lot of mosquitoes to get into our car. Grammy used our map to squash them but I think that it only made them angry…
9:15 PM-making our way back to Route 1
“Grammy and Mom are squashing mosquitoes (I let one out my window). I got no birds at Reedy Point Bridge so therefore my big day hasn’t started yet. We have less than an hour until we have to check in at our hotel and I’m not sure that we are going to make it! We will start birding after we check in.”
Even though we were late checking in to our hotel they held our room for us. I was really excited, hoping to hear the two ‘goat-suckers’ and the drive to the road they sang on seemed far too long to wait…
10:55 PM- On my way to Big Stone Beach Road
“We just checked in at the hotel (AmericInn) and now we’re heading to Big Stone Beach Road in search of ‘Whips and Chucks’ (Whip-poor-wills and Chuck-will’s-widows). I’m so excited that I feel like I’m about to burst. I’ll write real soon.”
I did not write that night because I was extremely tired. I was also glad my big day did not have to end until eleven fifteen that night (twenty-four hours after I saw my first bird for the day). I needed plenty of time to add tons of birds to my checklist…
7:07 AM- In our hotel room
“Sorry I did not write last night but I was extremely tired! Last night I heard one Whip-poor-will but no Chuck-will’s-widows. I’m a little disappointed but I did add a Sora onto my list last night! My official big day started at 11:15 PM (when I heard the Whip-poor-will). This morning out of the hotel room window I heard/saw: American Robin, Common Yellowthroat, European Starling, Common Grackle, Field Sparrow, Cedar Waxwing, Ring-billed Gull, Laughing Gull, Rock Dove, Northern Parula, and House Sparrow.
We went to Prime Hook and stopped in a patch of woods that turned out to be a gold mine for migrants. I think that the best bird was a Worm-eating Warbler that I heard. A Pine Warbler was also a good find. Once we got to the nature center we were overwhelmed by hundreds of Purple Martins! I even got a picture of one that wasn’t too bad for a digital camera. We walked the boardwalk trail getting migrants such as Black-throated Blue Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, and Northern Waterthrush. I even heard a Great-crested Flycatcher. It wasn’t a bad start (certainly better than I had expected it to be)! I wondered how Mr. Derek and Zoe were doing…
10:30 AM- trying to find Fowler Beach Road
“I’ve had such an awesome morning! I’ve had tons of warbler species and flycatchers as well. We’ve been hanging around Prime Hook all morning and now we have to get to where Mr. Derek, Zoe,and Dominic are.”
At Fowler Beach I identified many of the shorebird species that were present. Suddenly some Clapper Rails started making a racket in the salt marsh. Once Mr. Derek, Zoe,and Dominic showed up we began to catch glimpses of the Clapper Rail as it darted out into the open for half a second. Then it was off to Mispillion Harbor in search of Red Knots…
1:07 PM- Leaving Mispillion Harbor (and Dupont Nature Center, home of the Red Knot statue)
“I am now birding with Zoe because Dominic left. Mispillion Harbor was full of Red Knots, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers, and Ruddy Turnstones, Laughing Gulls, Sanderlings, and Willets. We heard a lot of Clapper Rails at Fowler Beach and I even got to see one. We are on our way to Bombay Hook now (but we are stopping at Wendy’s first! It turns out that Zoey likes Wendy’s just as much as I do! I’ll write soon.”
We all stopped at Wendy’s and I got a chocolate frosty (my favorite). On our way through Smyrna to get to Bombay Hook I saw Chimney Swifts…
3:00 PM- Bombay Hook NWR
“I just ate lunch (Wendy’s of course!) in the pavilion at Bombay Hook. Zoe showed me a photo album with awesome pictures of birds that her mom took! I gave her a pom-pom Red Knot I made. I’ve got to get back to birding now!”
We drove around Bombay Hook and stopped to walk a trail I had never walked before. We were running out of daylight so we had to move fast. On the trail we heard a Least Bittern calling from the reeds and saw a Swainson’s Thrush and a Veery. Later on we heard a Common Gallinule (Moorhen) and saw an American Coot. We then left Bombay Hook to see a colony of Cliff Swallows under a bridge…
5:30 PM- Leaving Bombay Hook
“I’m really tired but I’m going to stick it out. We got some awesome birds at Bombay Hook such as Black-crowned Night Heron, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Least Bittern, and Swainson’s Thrush! Next we are going to see Cliff Swallows under a bridge. I hope that Mr. Derek will take us owling when it gets dark.
We stopped at White Clay Creek State Park hoping for a new warbler species for our lists. Unfortunately no warblers were found. We did, however, get to hear a Baltimore Oriole! After that we headed to Middle Run to add some last minute species to our lists. We heard the dusk calls of many species, the most exciting of which was Louisiana Waterthrush. Mr. Derek did an excellent imitation of a Barred Owl but nothing answered except for an Orchestra concert we could hear in the distance…
8:30 PM- On our way to Ashland
“We just stopped at Middle Run Natural Area and I got five new species: Prairie Warbler, Pileated Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Louisiana Waterthrush, and Hairy Woodpecker. It was fun but now we’re heading to Ashland in hopes of hearing a Screech Owl.”
Mr. Derek did an excellent imitation of a Screech Owl but no luck there either. We said goodbye to Zoe and Mr. Derek and headed back home. We tried for Eastern Screech Owl at my house but no owl answered. It was then that I knew that my big day was finally over!
All in all I had an amazing Big Day. Whip-poor-will was a life bird for me and I got 130 species in total! I am still accepting donations for my Red Knot Fund. Since all the money goes towards helping Red Knots and other migratory shorebirds I want to raise as much as I can! I want to thank my Bird-A-Thon sponsors: Pat Caputo, owner of Pat Caputo’s American Karate studio in Branmar Plaza; Mr. Fawks, my great homeroom & math teacher; my Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop, my Grammy, and my wonderful mom. I’d also like to thank my mom for chauffeuring me around all day! I’d especially like to thank Mr. Derek for showing us around all day! I had an amazing Big Day and it’s great to know that this year and in the years to come all of the money raised in the Bird-A-Thon will go to purchasing shorebird habitat along the Delaware Bay. I’m happy that I am able to be a part of that effort.
- by Kathleen O’Neil, age 12
To contribute towards Kathleen’s Bird-A-Thon effort, please contact her mother Amy at: email@example.com