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DVOC Field Trip Report
by Colin Campbell
Friday - Sunday May 11-13, 2007 - DELAWARE HOTSPOTS AND GOURMET WEEKEND
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With everything else going on on this past frantic May weekend,
it was a nice surprise to find participants for this year's weekend trip. Sue
Killeen, Sam Perloff and Chuck Hetzel
lasted the whole course and so qualified to get their money back (good job it
was free, sort of), and Alison Ellicott
and Bob Horton joined us for the
first day. I think records were set - I'd need to check, but I'm under (my own)
pressure to put this out now - leaving the Hook with 116 species, a total of
156 for the weekend in which there was no migrant fall-out (where we were, anyway).
With a Helen's sausage and egg under our belts Friday morning we were under orders that we couldn't leave Bombay Hook for lunch at Sambo's in Leipsic unless we had at least 80 spp. Well, 5 hours later we sat down to crabcake sandwiches with 116 species. No great surprises except the final total, but Snow Goose, Ruddy Duck, Harrier, Pheasant, Coot, 2 Screech-Owls, Savannah and White-throated Sparrows were not seen much after this. Blue Grosbeaks far outnumbered Indigo Buntings. Bugs were a nuisance in the still air - not skeeters or greenheads, but tiny biting midges. After lunch, Port Mahon gave a ton of Turnstones and some Horseshoeing around then on to Ted Harvey for Bobwhite, Avocet, a young Bonaparte's Gull, Least Tern and Skimmer. With a bit of time before going into deepest, darkest southern DE, we opted for Mispillion and were delighted to find a reception at the new Dupont Nature Center (officially to be opened on May 23) where we were able to set up scopes from a super balcony and see Oystercatchers and more Red Knot than I've seen in DE for some time. Over 200. Do find time to visit this new Center; it is one of the best birding locations for migratory shorebirds in the Delaware Bay. Our one-day participants headed north and the four weekenders headed southwest for a Mexican dinner in Seaford and then to motels and Trap Pond campground. A great day.
Next morning, we investigated a new venue for early breakfast - Britt's Dutch on Central Av in Laurel. Highly recommended, not just for opening at 6am, but for the Quarterback's Breakfast at $6 and great service. Awesome. Thence to Phillips Landing on the Nanticoke River and the walk through the woods to the river, one of the most delightfully peaceful spots in the state (when the speedboats aren't there). Peaceful was the word - not a lot of migrant action in comparison with what was going on in coastal locations (as I found out later) - but Prothonotary, Yellow-throated, Prairie wobblers were obliging, Red-shouldered Hawks good value and a pair of active Otters in the river a real bonus. The detour for Vesper Sparrow was highly successful - we couldn't stop the damn bird singing. Then over the always intriguing free Woodland ferry across the Nanticoke River to Chapel Branch (Turkey on the way) and the songs of Acadian Flycatcher and Scarlet Tanager penetrating with the hum of the nylon works as background. Lunch at The Pit, OK BBQ. Afternoon at Trussom Pond. Super to see the Bald Cypress leafing out, even better the redneck and kids fishing and their pickup truck registered for farm use only. He told us about the local, huge (fisherman's arms stretch) eagle. A Kestrel was on wires twixt this and Trap Pond, which had very viewable Summer Tanagers. After adjourning to the campground for happy hour, we tried the region's most popular crabhouse in Delmar but, put off by the 90 minute wait, we headed for Salisbury and found a very pleasant, quiet Vietnamese restaurant with very fast service. Afterwards, a campfire was lit, maintained by the pyromaniac amongst us, and we enjoyed (?) a country band and some wee refreshments. A midnight T-storm swamped one tent (mine) and I had to spend an uncomfortable few hours in the back of my car. Not a first, I might add.
Sunday saw us back for breakfast at Britts, then into the Pocomoke proper. The Kentucky Warbler showed early, but the star was an inquisitive Barred Owl, with which Chuck formed a bond which we thought could not be broken, culminating in us having to leave with the owl bemoaning his disappointment. We parked at the Sussex Eye doctors in Selbyville to try for the Collared-Dove. In 30 seconds the bird flew over our heads, landed on a pole and started to sing. Picking up an early lunch 'to go' at the excellent Em-Ings BBQ in Selbyville, we motored to Assawoman WMA, en route getting a small band of Bobolinks, where Common Loon, Spotted Sandpiper, Blue-winged Teal and a Northern Waterthrush were added to the list. A cool northerly wind chilled the meal, but the blood was warmed by the sight of three BHNuts by the pavilion at Sassafras Landing. Indian River Inlet was barren but, rather bizarrely, three Baltimore Orioles flying over were the first of the trip. Cape Henlopen had two Piping Plovers, Red-breasted Merganser and a bunch of curious people. They really should take up birding, life seems so boring otherwise.