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DVOC Field Trip Report
by Lynn Jackson
Saturday April 16, 2011 - Coastal Delaware
A joint WAS/DVOC Field Trip
Yes it was cold and windy and, at times, rainy... but, as always, it was also a fun day birding in Delaware. Our route began at Dragon Run Marsh where we had amazing looks at a Caspian Tern cruising back and forth right in front of us. We also had a couple of Wood Ducks and the usual Eagles (we would eventually see at least 10) before moving on. The forecast was for heavy rain later in the day so we needed to move quickly to get in as much birding we could.
Moving south we travelled along the C&D Canal where we watched the resident Peregrine dismembering his breakfast on one of the girders under the bridge. Ducks, gulls and egrets were in the marshes and turkey vultures were perched on every telephone pole. One of the target birds along this road is Cattle Egrets and we were well rewarded with great looks at a large flock by the side of the road, their rich breeding plumages making them look very spiffy indeed.
The plan had originally called for traveling south along Rt 9 to check out the coastal marshes along the way but Mother Nature had other plans. We'd gotten only a few miles below Augustine beach when we were met with a slight obstacle. DRAT!! This might have been a real problem since I was hoping to get a little further down the road to check the next bridge for the small colony of Cliff Swallows that have called small patch of Delaware home for the last few years.
Luckily, while we were contemplating the obstacle before us, someone looked up and noticed a lovely Cliff Swallow zooming around overhead. I'd never seen the birds at this bridge but, luckily for us, this little guy decided to venture a bit further north Perhaps he was blown in by the ever increasing gusts of wind.
Changing plans we headed back to the "higher ground" of Route 13 and drove south to Woodland Beach WMA which was full of gulls and ducks. From there it was on to Bombay Hook. Driving in the back way we passed several newly plowed fields where we flushed dozens upon dozens of Wilson's Snipe. It was amazing to see nothing at all and then flocks of birds lifting into the sky. When they put down they totally disappeared again, perfectly blending in with the earth. More stops revealed hundreds of black-bellied plovers and one gorgeous American golden-plover. Everyone got great scope looks before being distracted again by dozens of Horned Larks and mixed in with them, American Pipits. Again everyone was able to get great looks and the birds both on the ground and flying around.
Lunch was in front of the feeders at Bombay Hook with Purple Martins and White-crowned Sparrows around the visitor's center. By now it was really starting to rain so the birding around the impoundments was pretty much confined to the cars. Still there were tons of ducks and yet more eagles. Shorebirds are just starting to come back; greater and lesser yellowlegs, lots of dunlin, short-billed dowitchers, black- necked stilt and avocet were also back.
Coming around the back side of Bear Swamp to the Black-crowned Night-heron islands did not disappoint. Over 50 birds were perched in the trees and along the shorelines bravely sitting out the rising storm. By now it was clear it was time to start heading out but we had one more pleasant surprise. Just before reaching the Visitor's Center we found another, much larger, flock of Pipits: easily 100+ birds flitting around, flying and then disappearing into the grasses as they landed, and then flying around some more.
With the winds picking up we decided to call it a day but not before checking out a Luna Moth was had sought shelter on a picnic table in the pavilion at the Visitor's Center. Brian carefully removed this lovely bug and placed him high up in the rafters out of the wind. Hopefully he will emerge unscathed.
Thanks to everyone who chose to venture out and join us. There is always something to see and enjoy in Delaware.