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Field Trip Report

BOMBAY HOOK, DELAWARE, JULY 20, 2003

On Sunday July 20th a group of about 25 DVOC members and friends met at Bombay Hook NWR to catch the early southbound shorebird migration. A dense fog blanketed the refuge as we met so we set off north on Route 9 to Taylor's Gut where the fog had already started to burn off, the water levels were excellent and there were birds. We had short-billed dowitchers, least and semipalmated sandpipers, a flock of 30+ black-necked stilts, and spotted sandpipers. There had been a report of a ruff at the Gut earlier in the week and all our efforts couldn't conjure up one. Thanks to Colin's keen eyes, we did find a pair of Stilt sandpipers. We also had a fly-over, Osprey and the first of several immature bald eagles we saw during the day. Caspian, Forster's and gull-billed terns rounded out the birds we found here.

By then, the fog had burned off at the Hook and we found the water levels in Raymond to be just right. In addition to finding more of the same shorebirds we had seen at Taylor's Gut, we had a few semipalmated plovers, killdeer, American avocets (still in peak breeding plumage), a pectoral sandpiper and a few western sandpipers. We also had more stilt sandpipers and these were not only a bit closer but 1 or 2 were in excellent plumage. Our next stop was at Shearness where we were still looking for that illusive ruff and the white-faced ibis. We had no luck there, but we did have a most cooperative least bittern in the reeds just below us.

Our loop at Bear Swamp was rather quiet but as we got out to the main road, Lynn remembered that one of the newer birders on the trip had specifically asked if we could find a blue grosbeak to show her. No sooner had Lynn mentioned that then one proceeded to sit up on one of the signposts in front of us and promptly disappear as we brought the 10-car caravan to a halt. Fortunately, the bird perched up again and we all had virtual side-by-side studies of singing male blue grosbeak and indigo bunting. Colin and I quickly decided that this was a prime example of dumb luck rather than expert leadership!

As we headed back to the headquarters for a lunch stop, we paused to take a look for Turk's Cap Lilies. Looking for these lilies was one of Sandy Sherman's traditions on this trip and this stop not only gave us a look at a very pretty flower but allowed us all a moment to remember Sandy in our own way, out in the field doing something that she loved.

After lunch we made quick stops at Port Mahon road and the Logan Tract. Along the beach at Port Mahon besides the ubiquitous collection of gulls, we had a few sanderlings. At the Logan tract we dipped out on the black terns that were seen there earlier in the day but did find willets along the beach, a lone red knot and a few ruddy ducks in the surf.

The group then broke up with some people heading for home and others returning to the Hook to gather up cars before making one last stop at Taylor's gut. One carload of people spotted a few upland sandpipers in a plowed field along Route 9 north of the Dover Air Force base. Unfortunately, the group had broken up by then and this isn't the best road in the world to stop along and bird. The gut still had a nice selection of shorebirds including a small flock of western sandpipers. From the north end of the gut, looking back into the far side, the handful of people left was able to find a white and black ruff. At long last, we found one of our key target birds. While it wasn't close by any stretch of the imagination, it was readily identifiable by size, posture and its gleaming white, head and neck. At this point we all headed for home. A few folks stopped at the New Castle County airport both before and after the trip and were able to find uppies there. Apparently now that the construction at the airport is completed, they can be seen again from the observation platform at this time of year..

For Colin Campbell and myself, I would like to thank all the participants for making this a very good and productive day birding.

Martin Selzer