On May 5, the start the Sixth Annual Delaware Bird-A-Thon, five teammates set forth on a Big Day Challenge to see how many species could be observed on this first day. Would the early date bring the early birds? Judy Montgomery, Bill Stewart, Kim Steininger, Derek Stoner, and Mike Hudson set out on a birding adventure to find out. Here are Mike’s words and photos:
We started on Big Stone Beach Rd. Except for the WHIP-POOR-WILLS and CHUCK-WILLS-WIDOWS there was little activity. As a consolation for the utterly rail-less morning we got a great show of songbirds! A NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH was probably one of the nicest treats there, followed by a chorus of several YELLOW-THROATED WARBLERS.
On the way down to Redden State Forest, we birded some fields in various stages of regeneration. We found several BLUE GROSBEAKS and over a dozen GRASSHOPPER SPARROWS! They were quite visible and in the early morning light they were looking extremely handsome. In some of the woodland thickets we had looks at nice regional specialties like a RED-HEADED WOODPECKER, PRAIRIE WARBLER, and ORCHARD ORIOLES.
At Cape Henlopen we ran into heavy fog that kept us from seeing any of the water! We picked up BROWN-HEADED NUTHATCH on the way in. At the point, we had a flyby MERLIN, but poor visibility dashed our hopes of seabirds and other water birds.
At mid-day we birded Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge and Mispillion Harbor. The fog was still heavy at Prime Hook Beach Rd., but we managed decent looks at a SOLITARY SANDPIPER, SNOWY EGRET, GREEN-WINGED TEALS and SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHERS. By the time we reached Fowler Beach, the fog was beginning to lift and the birds began to materialize again. SANDERLINGS, RUDDY TURNSTONES, BLACK-BELLIED PLOVERS, SEASIDE SPARROWS and an AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER (!!!) were among the good sightings there. The lingering LESSER SCAUP was sitting among the pilings at Mispillion and there were four RED KNOTS mixed in with the DUNLINS and TURNSTONES.
At Bombay Hook we were looking to add a few more birds to our list. Judy found a lone GLOSSY IBIS in Shearness Pool, and then Kim spotted a LEAST BITTERN land on the side of the road! At Bear Swamp, Judy had another great bird, a NORTHERN HARRIER coursing out over the marsh. Also here we found both NIGHT-HERONS in the same tree and on the way out we heard a BOBWHITE calling.
We headed north up Route 9, picking up a surprising RING-NECKED DUCK and RUDDY DUCK at Taylor’s Gut. At Dragon Run we enjoyed WOOD DUCKS and flyover LITTLE BLUE and TRICOLORED HERONS. On the boardwalk trail nearby a calling COMMON GALLINULE was a nice treat.
At White Clay Creek State Park we had some nice surprises that we really needed! A CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER, VEERY, HOODED WARBLER and PILEATED WOODPECKER graced us.
We finished at Ashland Nature Center with a singing WARBLING VIREO and good looks at a flashy male BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER.
All in all it was a great day and we nearly reached last year’s team record of 167 species. Best of all, we had a fun opportunity to help raise funds for bird conservation in Delaware!
Mike Hudson, Baltimore City, MD
To support Mike’s team effort in the Delaware Bird-A-Thon, contact him at: email@example.com