Delaware Trip – September 2013

On Saturday, September 14th eleven FBC members met at Bombay Hook NWR at 9:30 am. Those participants included David and Georgia Paton, Bev Smith, Jim Arnold, Lily Graham, Claire Curcio, Selby McCash, Jim Goehring, Mike Lott, Sally Knight, and Brenda Chase. With sunny skies and cool temperatures we headed down the Port Mahon road near Little Creek to catch low tide and hopefully some shorebirds. We were greeted mainly by gulls and terns, not an auspicious start, but the day was still young! On our way back to Bombay Hook we stopped to scan a potato field where Jim and Mike had spotted an American Golden-plover earlier that morning. Alas, it was no longer there, but we had high hopes for the Wildlife Drive at Bombay Hook. Our first stop was a short walk to the Raymond Pool tower. The walk yielded an American Redstart and Common Yellowthroat. From the tower we could see Avocets, Yellowlegs, Plovers, and Northern Shovelers and we hoped for better views when we would reach the other side of the pond. A  boardwalk hike through Marsh Wren territory netted us Gray Catbirds and a Belted Kingfisher but no wrens. Onward to Raymond Pool from which the avocets had flown and the number of birds had decreased. While this pond had been teeming with birds on a previous scouting trip Mike jokingly dubbed it the “Sahara”. However, a Snow Goose and a couple Tundra Swans were spotted and there was no shortage of Semipalmated Plovers and Sandpipers and Great and Snowy Egrets. As we continued to Shearness Pool and Bear Swamp Pool our species list grew and we had the usual discussions over Greater or Lesser Yellowlegs and Long or Short-billed Dowitchers. At one of our last stops, Finis Pool, we enjoyed watching a flock of Bobolinks sitting atop the willow bushes in the late afternoon sun. Those of you who have been to Bombay Hook know that as the day progresses the water levels, light, and number of species are constantly changing so it pays to re-visit places. We did so as we prepared to leave the park and got better results. The “Sahara” was turning into the “Serengeti”. We could have stayed longer, scoping more flocks for something different, but our light and time were running out so we headed back to the Days Inn and a convivial dinner at the Olive Garden across from our motel.

Sunday began as another gorgeous day. Before spending the day at Prime Hook NWR we wanted to return to Bombay Hook to look for warblers on the Parson Point Trail. On our way to the trail we stopped at Raymond Pool again. The morning light shown on the still water that was as smooth as glass and inhabited by hundreds shorebirds and waterfowl. It was a photographer’s dream. A Marsh Wren was spotted preening in the morning sun and stayed put long enough for all of us to get good looks, and a Peregrine falcon, perched on a snag, was a sight to behold. We soaked it in as long as we dared before moving on to the trail where warblers were scant, but we did pick up a Black and White Warbler, Red-bellied and Pileated Woodpeckers, a White-breasted Nuthatch, and a Scarlet Tanager. After leaving Bombay Hook we stopped at the Dupont Nature Center at the mouth of the Mispillion River. This is a prime spot for viewing the Redknots in the spring as they gorge themselves on horseshoe crab eggs. On this day we got good looks at Laughing Gulls and Royal and Forster’s terns on the pilings and American Oystercatchers on the jetty. Next it was on to Prime Hook. While it is a refuge it does not have a wildlife drive but consists of four different roads that end at the Delaware Bay. Each road has its own character and once again species vary with the tides. The roads and two trails near the visitor’s center added the Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow, Seaside Sparrow, one lone Black Skimmer, Tricolored Heron, Willet, Boat-tailed Grackle, Blue Grosbeak, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher among others to our list. We heard several Clapper Rails, but they stayed hidden in the reeds. Since we had been heading south all day we decided to make The Wharf in Lewes our dinner stop. It turned out to be an excellent choice as we all enjoyed different seafoods and the beautiful sunset from the patio.

On Monday morning we were still eleven species short of our target of 100, but we hoped Cape Henlopen State Park would help us reach that goal. On our way we decided to stop off at Fowler’s Beach road in the hopes of seeing the Clapper Rail we had heard the previous day. We did see one fly briefly and, in addition, were delighted with great views of Seaside Sparrows that seemed to pose for us atop the reeds. The day grew cloudier as we reached Cape Henlopen. A walk to the beach only gave us gulls and ospreys but we still had high hopes for the hawk watch. The wooded area near the hawk tower provided wonderful views of Brown-headed Nuthatches and Pine Warblers. Ospreys were the main raptors and we enjoyed watching a couple chowing down on some large fish. But alas, we didn’t get our Kestrel that had eluded us all weekend. We picnicked under a shelter and planned to check out Indian River inlet until it began to rain. Instead, we opted to head back home. It was a great weekend even if we only got 93 of our 100 species!

Click here for a complete list of birds seen on the trip.

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