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DVOC Field Trip Report
by Colin Campbell
Friday - Sunday May 7- 9, 2004 - BIRDING SOUTHERN DELAWARE and into MARYLAND.
Arriving at Helen's Sausage House north of Smyrna at 6.45 am
for Gourmet Stop #1, I was delighted to see four participants already enjoying
the ultimate breakfast. Our first bird, a Black-bellied Plover, was literally
picked up on the back road to Bombay Hook. Sad to see this beautiful, one-eyed,
emaciated long distance migrant in such a state but it's rough life out there.
At the HQ, we quickly checked off hummer at the feeders and our only White-crowned
Sparrow and Bobolink of the weekend, and our band of ten participants walked
the boardwalk trail - no migrants, but Seaside Sparrows by the bucketful and
an excellent view of a really vocal Yellow-billed Cuckoo were appreciated. Raymond
Pool was virtually the only place during the whole weekend with multiple ducks,
including three species of Teal. 3? Yes, Dick Bell had hardly set up his Questar
when he announced that a drake European Teal (Common Teal) was feeding amongst
the numerous Green-winged and handful of Blue-winged Teal. The only owl of the
trip, a gray-phase Screech-Owl was found in a Wood-Duck box, warblers were few,
shorebirds were many and we left the Hook with an impressive list of over 80
species for which we awarded ourselves a crab cake lunch at Sambo's in Leipsic.
Port Mahon offered a plethora of Ruddy Turnstones and vigilance was rewarded with a couple of Red Knot. The walk out to the observation tower at Little Creek proved 'interesting' as a couple were caught in flagrante delicto on the viewing platform. Due to a timely cough, an expletive was followed by a cascade of loose change emanating from the guy's pants as he struggled to look 'presentable'. Claiming the high point for the DVOC Battalion, scopes were erected and, after desperately but unsuccessfully trying to convert a small, vertical 'block' on the hacking tower into a Peregrine, Colin latched onto a 'dark' sandpiper which slowly underwent metamorphosis into a beautiful alternate-plumaged Curlew Sandpiper. Further south, 7 Skimmers a-skimming at Ted Harvey Conservation area were enjoyed. The first of the weekend's frequent T-storms was not. The drive to Laurel and establishing camp (Trap Pond State Park) and motel (name changed from last year's Marathon to this year's Rest-Easy...or something like that) was followed by a good meal at last year's Italian Nautico restaurant, now the Mexican Nautico restaurant - the remains of an old ship by Rt 13. We opened a lottery on the ethnic ownership of motel and restaurant for next year's trip.
Thor was active Friday night over the campground, with lots of noise from the timpani section accompanied by Nature's own laser show. Lots of coffee were needed at Hardee's Saturday am where the new low-carb breakfast bowl was tested - not bad, but it needs Helen's Sausages, not those chewy bits. Thence into Nanticoke WMA and a stroll down Cherry Walk. Rather quiet this year, certainly for migrants, but good views of Red-shouldered Hawk, Caspian Tern, Yellow-throated Vireo, Prairie and B&W Warblers...... We crossed the Woodland free ferry and worked our way to Chapel Branch Preserve near Seaford where Tanagers were singing but elusive with all the foliage out. Lunch at The Pit BBQ in Laurel was well earned. Trussom Pond looked splendid with new leaves on the Bald Cypresses. Northern Rough-winged Swallows and Phoebes were added to the list. Trap Pond soon gave us excellent views of multiple Scarlet and Summer Tanagers, interspersed with Indigo Buntings and Pink Lady Slipper Orchids. A long wait for a table at the very popular Old Mill Crabhouse in Delmar was well worth it, the crashing of hundreds of crabhammers destroying conversation. A beautifully mild, dry night enabled a campfire to be lit and a little nocturnal libation to be enjoyed.
Too early Sunday morning, camp broken and off to Gumboro General Store for badly needed coffee and a scapple sandwich. Disaster! Closed for Mother's Day! Aarrgh! Lots of anti-maternal feeling amongst the troops. Mutiny quelled by the thought of Em-Ings BBQ later. Off into the Cypress Swamp - same story, very few warblers but Prothonotory and two Kentuckys performed well while fleeting glimpses were obtained of hyperactive Worm-eating, Parula, Acadian Fly and Y-b cuckoos. The mandatory stop at the Eye Clinic in Selbyville produced two Eurasian Collared-Doves and the excellence of the BBQ'd baby rib rack and cherry pie at Em-Ings fully appreciated after a long, hungry morning.
The wagons rolled northwards to Redden State Forest where two Red-headed Woodpeckers were scoped to everyone's delight and a noisy Chat allowed glimpses of ts finery. Not so with the Ellendale Vesper and Grasshopper Sparrows, which were heard only (the latter by those whose high Hertz levels still existed). A dash to Bombay Hook was timely as a DOS member was able to pick out a strange-looking white-headed Ruff for us amongst the plethora of shorebirds, by now getting a bit silhouetty. White-rumped Sandpiper was added and, further up Rt 9 at Hangman's Gut, with the sun behind, several Solitary Sandpipers, a Green Heron and a Wood-Duck were added. The final birding stop was at the Rt 9 bridge over the Appoquinimink where a spectacular finish was obtained when a Merlin, the only falcon seen the whole trip, was chased away by four species of swallow; Cliff Swallows have their only known nesting site in Delaware here.
We had aimed for 150 species for the trip. A group of Cattle Egrets flying past the refinery as we made our way to our last gourmet rendezvous, Stuart's Pub in Bear (where Brewmeister Hoffman's IPA is pure nectar!), made it 151!