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!
There is a sense of magic when scores of colorful birds appear in the month of May. These neo-tropical have spent their winter in Central or South America, and all of the sudden there they are right in front of our binoculars– a splash of vibrant color and song! Warblers like the Yellow-breasted Chat capture our imaginations with their journeys and their energy levels once they reach their destination.
Just as captivating as the songbirds are the shorebirds, whose journeys take them all over the globe. A few shorebirds like the Black-necked Stilt, the emblem of the Delmarva Ornithological Society, will stay to nest in Delaware, but most will continue much further north to their breeding grounds in Canada. The Red Knot is the poster child for shorebirds in Delaware. Nearly all of the world’s population of Red Knots stop in Delaware on their Spring migration, and birders from all over the country descend upon the First State to watch these remarkable birds.
All of this bird activity coincides with one incredible week of birding opportunity here in the Delaware: The Sixth Annual Delaware Bird-A-Thon! Teams of birders are headed afield to find as many species of birds as they can, and in doing so are helping to raise funds for bird habitat preservation here in Delaware. There are plenty of field trips scheduled during the week, and lots of folks willing to help other birders discover “where the birds are.” Most importantly, this fun event is open to participants of all types, young and old, beginner to advanced.
The Delaware Dunlins Youth Birders Club will be assisting several teams participating in the Bird-A-Thon, and we will be posting the stories and photo highlights from these team’s birding adventures. We plan to share the excitement of birding with our audience, and hope that you will join us in supporting the 2012 Delaware Bird-A-Thon!
If you would like to join in the fun, as a participant or supporter, please contact us and we are happy to help!
Derek Stoner, Delaware Dunlins Program Coordinator
On Sunday, March 25, our club enjoyed a special presentation by Anthony Gonzon, coordinator of the Delaware Breeding Bird Atlas. He told us how this amazing project is helping to discover how many species of birds are nesting in Delaware, and what kinds of habitats they are using. We tested our skills by identifying a variety of nests and eggs from the collection at Ashland Nature Center, then went outside to search for signs of nesting birds.
Newly-arrived Tree Swallows were investigating the nest boxes near Hawk Watch Hill, and we found several old nests from American Robins under the roof of the pavilion. At the Ashland Lodge, we found the nests of Barn Swallows, ready to filled up when these migrants soon return to their traditional nesting site. And we were very lucky to have great looks at Eastern Bluebirds– always a fan favorite!
To wrap up our Spring Birding Workshop, Judy Montgomery helped us create special bird journals for keeping track of our observations. We made notes about the breeding bird evidence we saw, and sketched some of our favorite birds. To give us all a boost, each family took home a hand-crafted nest box to install in their yard. With Spring upon us, soon these boxes will have birds visiting them and starting their nesting cycle. Get ready for a great season of Nesting Birds!
“Visiting Stone Harbor Point in March is the epitome of watching the seasonal transitions move from winter into spring birding. Lingering waterfowl abound, punctuated by loons and the offshore northern movement of gannets, all the while, newly arrived Piping Plovers scurry back and forth along the shoreline. American Oystercatchers continue to call out their presence amongst thousands of shorebirds transitioning into their breeding plumage. Harbor seals are a regular visitor as well as the first of the year Laughing Gulls. Walking this mile long stretch of barrier peninsula holds many surprises, none quite as memorable as in the month of March.”
On Saturday, March 10, Bill will lead this traditional trip for the Delmarva Ornithological Society, and Delaware Dunlins families are invited to participate.
The trip departs at 7:00am from northern Delaware. Birding will take place until mid-afternoon. Pack a bag lunch lunch and dress for the weather.
Interested participants must contact Bill to register. Please contact him at 610-864-0370 or at email@example.com
Our second annual “South to North” trip took place during the weekend of the Great Backyard Bird Count, and how appropriate: we could count birds all along the way as we birded the coast of Delaware. It is one big backyard and full of birds!
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:
Are you ready for Long-tailed Ducks, Red-throated Loons, Great Cormorants, Canvasbacks, and Common Goldeneyes?
Have you ever seen a Brown-headed Nuthatch? Or watched flocks of Brant, Bonaparte’s Gulls, or Northern Pintails?
If you’d like to see some incredible winter birds along the coast of Delaware, join the Delaware Dunlins for our second-annual South to North field trip on Saturday, February 18. We will meet at Indian River Inlet at 9:00am, and then bird our way north until late afternoon, stopping at hotspots all along the way.
The field trip flyer below gives the appointed times we will be at each location, and we encourage participants to car-pool if at all possible. Please register for this trip so that we know to expect you in our caravan of birders. RSVP to Derek Stoner at firstname.lastname@example.org or 302-893-8426.
The Delaware Dunlins Winter Birding Workshop featured lots of great presentations on winter backyard birds, the Rio Grande Birding Festival highlights (presented by Kathleen), best of backyard bird photography (courtesy of Kim), and a special game of quiz the birders!
We went outside Ashland Nature Center for a bird walk and immediately found an awesome sight: a flock of bright-blue Eastern Bluebirds devouring the red berries of a Winterberry! After watching this feeding frenzy for a while, we moved on to viewing flocks of Dark-eyd Juncos, White-throated Sparrows, and Field Sparrows. A Sharp-shinned Hawk and Red-tailed Hawk flew over for comparison, and an angry “murder” of American Crows voiced their concerns.
While hiking along, we gathered dead limbs and small logs for a special project. Once back inside, we transformed these pieces of wood into a treat for the birds: a Suet Log! The holes will be packed full of peanut butter, beef fat, and seeds– and provide much-needed fat for the birds during the winter months.
And to round out the afternoon of fun, we enjoyed a guest appearance by our favorite ducks: Rosita and Azul, the Education Mallards. After showering and eating a meal of crickets, the ducks performed several flights to show off their skills. And then Azul teamed up with Dominic to pull of the ultimate balancing act: the Duck on Head trick! This new look may catch on with waterfowl watchers!