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