Our starting point at Indian River Inlet gave us looks at interesting sea birds like Long-tailed Ducks, Northern Gannets, Red-throated and Common Loons. The rocky, algae-covered jetties held shorebirds like Ruddy Turnstones, Sanderlings, and our favorite Dunlins. Of course, there were also lots of gulls to count– but no sea gulls!
At Silver Lake in Rehoboth, we found the duck of everyone’s desire: Canvasbacks! This location seems to be the only reliable place in Delaware to see this beautiful duck. Amongst the hundreds of Canvasbacks we found Ruddy Ducks, Black Ducks, and a lone Double-crested Cormorant.
Our next stop at Cape Henlopen State Park yielded another prize bird: the Brown-headed Nuthatch. The funny “rubber ducky” call that they make, along with their fast-moving flights back and forth from feeders make them a joy to watch. When we headed out to Lighthouse Point to scan for more waterbirds, we found a nice mix: a drake Surf Scoter, Horned Grebe, Red-breasted Mergansers, and more Northern Gannets. The big surprise, though, was a Harbor Seal perched on a jetty and basking in the sun. This is the first seal most participants had ever seen in Delaware! Meanwhile, some of our group had taken a side trip to the nearby Cape May-Lewes Ferry Terminal, where they found the Western Grebe that had been reported there recently. A great rarity, the grebe was nowhere to be found when the rest of our group went to look. That is how birding is sometimes!
Heading further north, we came across a major spectacle at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge: a massive flock of Snow Geese! Blanketing the water as far as the eye could see, this flock likely had at least 100,000 geese in it. The noise they made was incredible, and when they took flight all at once, they blotted out the sky! In the flock we managed to pick out one Cackling Goose, along with at least seven neck-collared Snow Geese. One neck-collared goose (59AR) that we identified is a female that was banded in May 2008 on her Arctic nesting grounds. You can learn more about this Snow Goose Research project at the Greater Snow Goose Demographic Studies page.
Our final destination for the day was Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, where we found the Black-necked Stilt that has wintered at the refuge’s Raymond Pool. This is the first time this species has ever been documented wintering in Delaware, and we are lucky to have seen this same bird in December during the Christmas Bird Count. At Shearness Pool we found several new species to add to our day’s list: Tundra Swan, American Coot, and Common Merganser, along with hundreds of other waterfowl.
We concluded the day with a tally rally, discovering that we’d observed 72 species over the course of 7 hours. Our observations were submitted to the Great Backyard Bird Count for the 11 different locations visited, aand more than 150,ooo birds were counted! And for the 29 participants, we experienced a fantastic day of birding in Delaware: South to North!
Special thanks to trip leaders Bill Stewart, Kim Steininger, and Mike Hudson. Trip report and photos by Derek Stoner.
Enjoy the video of highlights from the field trip: