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DVOC Field Trip Report
by Colin Campbell
Friday - Sunday May 6-9, 2005 - DELAWARE HOTSPOTS AND GOURMET WEEKEND
Despite forecasts of an unseasonable nor’easter with gale force winds, rain and flooding, a dozen intrepid souls braved this annual DVOC odyssey to sample the delights, both avian and culinary, of slower Delaware.
Fortified by a Helen’s famous sausage, the first stop on an overcast morning was Bombay Hook NWR where Indigo Bunting and Blue Grosbeak showed early but warblers (other than Yellow) did not. Herons were good with Little Blue and Green added to the usual egrets and an adult and immature Yellow-crowned Night-Heron were picked out amongst the 20 or so Black-crowned. Stars of the shorebirds were numerous Black-winged Stilts, a few Avocets and a Solitary Sandpiper. And we had two Ospreys – one avian, the other that weird vertical take-off plane of the US military which droned over us at Sheerness Pool, its huge propellers (in forward flight mode) making a bizarre sight. Pheasant, 3 young Bald Eagles, Wood Ducks and singing Seaside Sparrows meant that our lunch at Sambo’s crab house in Leipsic was the reward for over 80 species. Taking the back roads to Little Creek, we found a field full of Black-bellied Plovers in every conceivable plumage but, try as we may, a Golden Plover was not to be had, although a Ruddy Turnstone amongst the flock was a bit odd. Port Mahon had a nice pair of Hooded Mergansers, Gadwall, Blue-winged Teal, a Harrier and half a dozen Snow Geese. A very distant Peregrine was on the hacking tower. We moved to Ted Harvey Conservation Area where a bunch of over 200 Black Skimmers were a delight; a small number of Bonaparte’s Gulls showed that winter birds were still hanging on. Thence to Seaford for an interesting Mexican meal at the odd-ball Nautico restaurant - an old trawler with an equally odd-ball waiter. Campers adjourned in the rain to Trap Pond State Park and found solace in being able to hire a heated cabin rather than set up camp in the windy, wet and cold evening.
Saturday breakfast was uninspired at Hardees in Laurel. The coffee that one must have to lift the eyelids was tepid, the fast food selection neither fast nor very foody. Next year ……. Nanticoke WMA was breezy but sun promised and the ‘storm’ was on its way out. A surprise were two singing Hooded Warblers, one of which performed well for all to see. The three P’s - Prothonotary, Pine and Prairie Warblers were very vocal and eventually, all got to see the splendid Yellow-throated Warbler. Summer Tanagers ad Acadian Flycatchers sang but only the former was tracked down. A blooming Lady’s Slipper Orchid was admired and at the ferry crossing the mighty Nanticoke River at Woodland, a Caspian Tern lounged on a post. A walk around Chapel Branch Nature Reserve afforded a Red-breasted Nuthatch, Scarlet Tanagers and more Summer Tanagers. A singing frog was eventually id’d as a Gray Treefrog. Lunch was taken at The Pit BBQ in Laurel, a goumet’s delight. After the mints, we attacked Trussom Pond, the most northerly Bald Cypress Swamp in the country, and found the expected Northern Rough-winged Swallows and Eastern Phoebes nesting under the bridge. A huge American Bullfrog attracted attention and the lazy snoring of a Pickerel Frog was heard. At Raccoon Pond, a couple of Common Watersnakes were admired before some kids decided to move them. At the risk of becoming too heavily herp-orientated, we walked into Trap Pond State Park where not only Yellow-throated Vireos were seen, but a sharp-eyed participant spotted their nest. Great-crested Flycatchers were omnipresent. Dinner was taken at the Old Crab House in Delmar where not only can you tick off Chimney Swifts on your DE and MD lists simultaneously, but also jump the 90-minute wait for a table in this extremely popular ethnic eatery. One of our party found a family of five leaving in the parking lot having decided not to wait, whereupon he took their name, added the other seven of us, and we only had a half-hour to wait! We need more people like this in the Club. The clatter of crabhammers, the hysterical laughter, the Bachelorette party etc made this a night to remember – downstate Delaware at its finest.
The campers were up early Sunday, awakened by a dawn chorus
of Robin, Brown Thrasher, Great-crested Flycatcher, Fish Crow and House Wren.
A Veery joined in and a Pileated Woodpecker eluded most of us but came in for
the lucky few as we left. The Gumboro shop/diner was indeed open – I guess
there was such a ruckus from the good ol’ boys last year when they shut
for mother’s day that they had to open this year. Or Mother died. Whatever,
much needed coffee was to be had although I personally was disappointed that
the muskratburgers were not available. The tannin-colored Pocomoke River was
the center of attraction for the next couple of hours and warblers included
a remarkably confiding Kentucky, both Louisiana and Northern Waterthrushes,
Prothonotary, Redstart and Black-throated Blue. Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Acadian
Flycatchers were seen while, round the corner, Worm-eating Warbler was so close
and two Yellow-billed Cuckoos performed to the delight of all. In a brief stop
on Rt 54 in the Cypress Swamp, good views were had of Northern Parula and a
Common five-lined Skink. Selbyville is the home of Delaware’s Eurasian
Collared-Doves. We parked, scoured the area for 20 minutes without success,
only to discover the Dove sitting quite unconcerned above our cars on our return.
Lunch at Em-Ings BBQ lived up to all expectations. Sitting outside in the sun with BBQ ribs, pulled pork, molasses beans, collard greens, strawberry pie …….exquisite! This year we decided to head for the ocean for a change of habitat. First stop was Assawoman WMA (after a couple of U-turns!) where Brown-headed Nuthatch was a life bird for some. Common Loon was on the bay. On to Indian River Inlet and two new terns, Royal and Common, two new shorebirds, Sanderling and Purple Sandpiper, Gannet and Red-throated Loon were quickly added to the list, while everyone marveled at the hundreds of Double-crested Cormorants heading north in long skeins. Cape Henlopen State Park’s prize bird is the Piping Plover and we were lucky to spot two of these beasties through the scopes from the Point Parking Lot. A Field Sparrow sang close by. We decided to call it a day, but a couple of devotees did make it to the last gourmet stop – Stewart’s pub in Bear, DE and I received favorable reports. I was bushed; I slept for 9 hours that night.