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DVOC Field Trip Report
by Martin Selzer

February 17, 2008 (Saturday)
Indian River Inlet and North, DE

Ten people joined me on the combined Wyncote Audubon and DVOC field trip this Saturday as we visited southern Delaware. Starting at Indian River Inlet and working our way north, we enjoyed a rather successful day birding many of the spots highlighted on the newly completed Delaware Birding Trail. At the inlet we were treated to a pair of common eiders, multiple red-throated and common loons, long-tailed ducks, red-breasted mergansers and a less than cooperative red-necked grebe. A trip to the marina and the Burton’s Island trailhead, produced bufflehead, greater yellowlegs, horned grebe, and brant.
From here we started heading north with a stop at Silver lake in Rehobeth Beach. The flock of canvasbacks must number around 500+. Smattered amongst them were a few mallards, double-crested cormorants and ruddy ducks. We found one drake ring-necked duck but couldn’t manage to find any redheads. Well, there really isn’t much else to hope for here after giving the flock a couple healthy searches so we were moving north again, this time for the Nature Center in Cape Henlopen State Park.

Here we took advantage of the facilities and watching the feeders. Eventually, several brown-headed nuthatches made an appearance. Somehow, it isn’t a field trip to Cape Henlopen if you don’t find these guys. There were also a few red-breasted nuthatches, goldfinches, white-throated sparrows, juncos and house finches here. Before heading over to the campground for a lunch stop and a search for crossbills and other passerines we went out to the point at Henlopen. While searching the waters around the breakwater for ducks we noticed 100s of gannets feeding close to shore. We had started to work on another red-necked grebe and on the gannets when someone spots a whale. Turns out those 2 fin whales had followed the fish into the area just as the gannets had. We quickly lost all interest in the possible grebe and focused on watching the whales. We had repeated sightings of spouts and a couple surfacings. The DOS trip to the park earlier in the day had observed them too. Both groups unofficially awarded the “best bird of the trip honor” to the whales. The campground was quiet although we did find one mixed flock of birds with Carolina wren, and chickadee, tufted titmouse, yellow-rumped warbler, palm warbler, red-breasted and brown-headed nuthatch, golden-crowned and ruby-crowned kinglets and several sparrows.

We then made a quick trip to Herring Point where we again witnessed the ongoing gannet show, caught another glimpse of one of the whales, had purple sandpipers and ruddy turnstones on the jetty and sanderling on the beach. Our next stop north was Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. Here we had a couple northern harriers, white crowned sparrows and a great study of rusty blackbirds on the boardwalk trail. We still had lots of ground to cover so we headed off to Ted Harvey Wildlife Management Area and added some waterfowl to our day’s list: hooded merganser, gadwall, green-winged teal, northern shoveler, northern pintail, American wigeon, and American coot. The farm fields along the way held snow geese and we flushed horned larks from the side of the road.

We were seriously loosing light now so we headed straight to Port Mahon road in hopes of catching short-eared owls hunting. It took a while but eventually we had 3-4 of them, several harriers and two American bitterns to end our day.

Thanks to everyone for joining me on what is my favorite winter field.