FBC Delaware Shore Weekend Trip – August 26 – 28. 2016

By Sally Knight

Ten participants led by Paul Nasca, past FBC president, met at Bombay Hook NWR at noon Friday, August 26 for the club’s weekend outing to the Delaware Shore. We gathered at the visitor center’s picnic shelter for lunch and to go over the trip itinerary. The plan was to spend the afternoon working our way north to Delaware City, stopping at hot spots along the way, before heading back to Leipsic for dinner and check in at The Days Inn in Dover. Saturday was to be a sunup to sundown day of birding, starting before dawn on the entrance road to Bombay Hook and heading south to Mispillion Dupont Nature Center, Prime Hook, and ending at Cape Henlopen State Park before dinner in Rehoboth. Sunday was open for participants to make their own plans.

While eating lunch we kept our eyes and ears open for birds at or around the feeders, but with the temperature already over 90 there wasn’t a lot of activity, except for a group of House Sparrows, a few Brown-headed Cowbirds, an Eastern Wood-Pewee and a couple of Barn Swallows flying over. We noted that the Purple Martin houses were quiet; apparently they had already shipped out for the season on their long flight south to their wintering grounds in the Amazon basin.

Eastern Kingbird

With walkie-talkies at the ready our caravan of cars headed out of the refuge on our drive north. We stopped at the gate to check out a Kingbird, to make sure it wasn’t the Gray Kingbird that had been sighted recently – no such luck – but it would be the first of a whole slew of Eastern Kingbirds we were to see over the weekend. Paul then pointed out our first, and only, American Kestrel sitting on the wire. As we worked our way north we made several stops including, Taylor’s Gut, Woodland Beach State Wildlife Area and Augustine Beach. Some of the birds we encountered were Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Bank, Barn and Tree Swallows, Great and Snowy Egrets, Little Blue Heron, Spotted and Semipalmated Sandpipers, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Belted Kingfisher and Marsh Wren.

Along the way, Paul decided a sweet treat was in order so we stopped at Coleman’s Farm for their locally famous hand dipped Ice Cream! It was a welcome opportunity to get out of the sun and sit on their shaded porch for half an hour.

We continued on to Delaware City, a delightfully quaint small port town on the eastern terminus of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. Here we stopped in to the American Birding Association’s headquarters where we met, and chatted to, ABA’s president, Jeff Gordon, and his wife Liz. They were very welcoming, and spent some time giving us an overview of their organizations initiatives and goals. We then walked through Fort Dupont State Park to the

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Monarch Butterfly

shore where we could look over to Pea Patch Island and Fort Delaware. Fort Delaware, the Union fortress dating back to 1859, once housed Confederate prisoners of w   ar and was originally built to protect the ports of Wilmington and Philadelphia.

In addition to the fort, Pea Patch Island is home to the largest Atlantic Coast nesting ground north of Florida for wading birds. Originally a dredge disposal site, this vegetated high ground has been a nesting habitat for nine species of wading birds since the 1970s. It is one of the few protected areas available for these birds and supports between 5,000 and 12,000 breeding pairs annually. The heronry is a designated nature preserve with limited access and is managed by the Division of Parks and Recreation.
During the months of April through July, Paul said this is a great place to come at sunset to watch all the Herons, Egrets and Ibis flying in to roost on Pea Patch Island. Since we were past the best viewing season for watching the heron flight we headed to the Ashton tract of the Augustine Wildlife Area, just south of Delaware City, recommended by the Gordons. This proved to be the best birding of the day and comprised several different habitats. Close to the parking area there was an open meadow fringed by shrubs and trees. Here we saw numerous Eastern Kingbirds, 3 male Baltimore Orioles, Indigo Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, Yellow Warbler and a fawn munching on apples! As we walked through the mixed woodland we picked up Eastern Wood Pewee, Black and White Warbler, Great-crested Flycatcher, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and Downy Woodpecker, among others. A pond at the far end of the trail held three Wood Ducks. We could have stayed a lot longer but our 6:30pm dinner reser

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Sunrise at Bombay Hook NWR

vation at Sambo’s Tavern in Leipsic was calling – so off we went.

Saturday was going to be a long day – we gathered outside our hotel at 5:30am! First call of business was coffee at Dunkin Donuts and then we were off to Bombay Hook NWR where we got to witness an amazing sunrise. We spent the morning birding all the pools – Raymond, Shearness, Bear Swamp and Finis – then walking the Boardwalk Trail. Morning is the best time to view the waders in the pools with the sun behind you and, with no breeze to speak of, the water was like glass making for some wonderful photo opportunities. Highlights in the pools included the large numbers of American Avocets, with their graceful way of feeding – swishing their long, thin, upturned bills from side to side through the water. Their long, thin, blue-gray legs were particularly noticeable and, as I was interested to learn, gives them their colloquial name – blue shanks. There were also large numbers of Short-billed Dowitchers which gave rise to discussion on whether we were also seeing Long-billed, which are far less common on the East Coast. We did see both Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, many Black-bellied Plovers in varying plumage, Semipalmated Plovers and Sandpipers, a couple Pectoral and Stilt Sandpipers, and a few Marbled Godwits. We had one Glossy Ibis fly in and a Tri-colored Heron was spotted at the far end of Shearness Pool. Both Black and Yellow-crowned Nightherons were seen in their usual roosting spot, and we had both Blue and Green-winged Teal, Mallard, American Black Duck and one Northern Shoveler. Large numbers of Great Egrets, some Snowy Egrets, a couple Little Blue Herons, and a Green Heron were present. The only rarity for the weekend was the Red-necked Phalarope, a pair of which had been reported in B

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American Avocets

ear Swamp Pool, and we were not disappointed.

After our walk on Boardwalk Trail, we headed back to the visitor center picnic shelter for our lunch and some much needed shade – as the day was turning out to be almost as hot as Friday. At this point, we said goodbye to 2 club members – Linda and Scott – and the rest of us loaded back in the cars to drive south towards Cape Henlopen State Park. On the way we made several stops the first of which was the Dupont Nature Center at Mispillion Harbor Reserve. Here we picked up Double-crested Cormorant, American Oystercatcher, Ruddy Turnstone, Boat-billed Grackle, Royal and Forster’s Tern, at least twenty Osprey, and one rather shabby looking Black Skimmer.

We made several stops in Prime Hook NWR – Slaughter Beach, Fowler Beach, and the refuge Headquarters, where we walked the Boardwalk Trail. New birds for the trip included Common Yellowthroat, Hairy and Red-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-throated Warbler, American Redstart and Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Our last stop for the day was Cape Henlopen and a welcome cooling off by dipping our feet in the sea! It was almost high tide and all the shore birds where at the far point behind the closed off area of the beach. We were hoping for Piping Plover, and although there were a couple of likely suspects they were too far away to confirm. However, we did pick up our first Sanderlings and Willets for the trip.

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Scope shot – Mike Lott, Jim Goehring, Paul Nasca and Heidi Krofft

We ended up enjoying the late afternoon sitting up on the hawk watch station. Too early for the hawks – the season starts September 1 – but a nice spot to relax and wind down before dinner. As we walked back to the parking lot, Heidi spotted a Falcon flying low over us. Unfortunately, by the time we all got on it, all we had was a rear end view. It was either a Merlin or a Peregrine and the consensus was a Merlin as it appeared on the darker and smaller side.

It was then time for dinner at the Delaware Distilling Company in Rehoboth where we enjoyed recapping and doing our checklist over some good beer – too hot for spirits – and fresh fish. Back in Dover, we said our goodbye’s to Paul and Heidi and it was off to bed.

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Immature Bald Eagle

The next morning, five of us met for breakfast and drove to the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center located just before the Bridge. We hit it exactly at opening time, 9:00am and spent 3 hours walking the trails. Highlights here were several Brown-headed Nuthatches, busy stashing seeds in the pine trees and making their distinctive squeaky, rubber duck toy vocalizations. We also saw one White-breasted Nuthatch and one Red
-breasted, making it a trifecta of nuthatches! There were large numbers of Pine Warblers, several Eastern Wood-Pewees, and towards the end of our walk three adult Red-headed Woodpeckers that Mike first identified by their call. As we rounded Lake Knapp we spotted a large grouping of small sandpipers on the floating vegetation – creeping up on them to get a better look we saw they had yellow-green legs a key ID mark for Least Sandpipers. Another unexpected trifecta for the day was three Barred Owls, a pair of Great Horned, and one Screech Owl. Unfortunately we couldn’t add them to our trip list as they were in cages. We can only assume they were rescues either waiting to be released or being used for educational purposes. Beautiful birds but sad to see them locked up. Official tally came in at 110 species for the weekend. Thanks Paula and Heidi it was great to see you guys!

Trip Participants

Paul Nasca
Scott Byrd
Linda Chaney
Brenda Chase
Lori Gardner
Jim Goehring
Hanne Hansen
Sally Knight
Heidi Krofft
Mike Lott
Tony Lott

Trip Birds

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
American Black Duck
Mallard
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Green-winged Teal
Wild Turkey
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little blue Heron
Tricolored Heron
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night Heron
Yellow-crowned Night Heron
Glossy Ibis
Double-crested Cormorant
Black vulture
Turkey Vulture
Osprey
Bald Eagle
Coopers Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Merlin
Clapper Rail
Black-bellied Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Killdeer
American Oystercatcher
American Avocet
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Willet
Spotted Sandpiper
Marbled Godwit
Ruddy Turnstone
Sanderling
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper
Stilt Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Long-billed Dowitcher
Red-necked Phalarope
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Caspian Tern
Royal Tern
Forster’s Tern
Black Skimmer
Mourning Dove
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
White-eyed Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
American Crow
Fish Crow
Horned Lark
Purple Martin
Tree Swallow
Bank Swallow
Barn Swallow
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown-headed Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
Marsh Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher
European Starling
Yellow Warbler
Pine Warbler
Black and White Warbler
American Redstart
Common Yellowthroat
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Blue Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Bobolink
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

Photos by Sally Knight

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