With great anticipation, our Delaware Dunlins crew set out to participate in our fourth annual Bombay Hook Christmas Bird Count. The count itself has run for 72 years and is the longest-running count in the State of Delaware. Knowing that a lot of great birds hang been lingering in the area due to the mild weather, we anticipated excellent birding.
Right away, early birds Amy and Kathleen helped us by identifying a long-legged, long-billed pair of shorebirds feeding in the mudflats near Shearness Pool: Marbled Godwits! Believe it or not, this pair (that had been seen at the refuge since at least October) is the first record of Marbled Godwit ever for a Delaware Christmas Bird Count! And apparently, we were the only birders who saw the godwits on this day and helped to add them to the count.
After meeting the rest of our spirited group (in holiday attire!) at the visitor center (and adding the beautiful singing White-crowned Sparrows there), we teamed up to scan the expanse of water at Raymond Pool. And the big find? Lots of shorebirds! For December, finding a variety of shorebirds is unusual. In fact, usually we expect to see just our namesakes, the Dunlins, who overwinter in big flocks at Bombay Hook. But today we lucked out and saw a lot of unique shorebirds: A Black-necked Stilt (another first-ever for a CBC in Delaware!), 17 American Avocets, 2 Long-billed Dowitchers, and 135 Dunlins.
After the excitement of all the shorebirds– and plenty of waterfowl, too– we visited Finis Pool to round out our morning. There we came across a beautiful Belted Kingfisher that posed for fantastic scope views. We also saw Gadwalls, and both Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers. Then came the final act, a classic tradition of many a Christmas Count: the sparrow stomp! With a huge field of clover and warm season grasses before us, we wanted to see how many songbirds were hiding out. So we spread out and walked along the deer paths in the field. As we neared the end of field, sparrows starting flushing ahead of us: 14 Song Sparrows and 8 White-throated Sparrows headed for cover. We made sure to not trample the habitat ( and of course, not actually stomp on the birds!) and got a great lesson on how many birds can hide in open fields such as this one.
For the morning, we finished with 53 species, and had a great deal of citizen science data collected by the 15 participants. Thank you to count compiler Andy Ednie for inviting our group to once again be part of this great tradition. We really enjoy the experience and the opportunity to bird one of Delaware’s best locations. Great Christmas Counting, everyone!
Here is our bird list for the day: