September 25, 2015 -- Bombay Hook NWR, Delaware

    Based on my plans for October, my only shot to go to one  of my favorite spots is this week.  And I heard that there are still Avocets there.  On the way to Bombay Hook, I stopped at Brandywine River State park and struck out.  No birds.  But I had good luck at Bombay Hook.  As it turned out, there were multiple flocks of several hundred Avocets.  Right now they are black and white, but in the spring they will have beautiful rosy chests and necks.  They spend the winter around the Gulf of Mexico and are only in Delaware for a month or two.  These were foraging in just a few inches of water.  They whip they heads from side to side and swoosh their long curved bills through the mud to pick up small crustaceans.



Avocets, Bombay Hook NWR, Delaware, Sept 2015


    There were lots of Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Northern Shovelers, and Forster's Terns swarming around the outlet to Shearness Pool.  The birds were very close to the auto loop, but the many visitors observing them from only about twenty or thirty feet had no impact on the birds.  They were successfully fishing for minnows.   The terns catch their prey by plunging into the water feet first with a huge splash each time.  Frequently they would land amid the wading birds or the ducks, but the other birds just kept on hunting.  It was a bird pandemonium.


Forster's Tern about to dive for a fish, Bombay Hook, Oct 2015


Forster's Tern catching a fish, Bombay Hook, Oct 2015


September 26, 2015 -- Cape Henlopen State Park, Lewes, Delaware

    This park is one of the jewels of the region.  It is a wonderful place to be to experience the natural world.  It is wild and clean and desolate.  I love it.  I knew that I would not see as many birds here as I would see across the Delaware Bay in Cape May, New Jersey.  The funnel effect that is working to concentrate the southward migrating birds at Cape May doesn't help Cape Henlopen at all.  Many of the birds launching across the bay from Cape May hit the coast below Cape Henlopen and are spread out all along the coast.  I saw a probable Palm Warbler near the Nature Center, a few Common Yellowthroats in bushes at Herring Point, Osprey, chickadees, crows, swallows, and gulls.  That's it.  I would have seen more warblers at Exton Park and more raptors flying above my house (about twenty-five buteos flew through my neighborhood right after the Eagles game on Sunday, Sept 27).  So while I was walking along the trails at Herring Point and not seeing many birds, I reminded myself this isn't about counting birds.  I took several really deep breaths of the cold, fresh, pine-tinged air and was exhilarated.  No exaggeration.

    I had a really pleasant night tenting out in the campground, a good walk in the morning at Herring Point and at Fort Myles, then stopped at the Hawk Watch before leaving the park.  The hawk watchers cleared up a problem that has been confusing me for a while.  That is in regard to wind direction.  I have been correctly reporting that a Northwest wind is the most favorable for migration events at Hawk Mountain and Cape May.  I just was confused as to why.  By convention, wind direction is reported as the direction FROM which the wind is originating.  So a Northwest wind is blowing things south and east.


September 26, 2015 -- Prime Hook NWR, Lewes, Delaware

    The birder who told me about Herring Point is Paul Kane.  I'm deviating a little from my practice of only identifying people who I met in their official capacity because Paul already has a very public presence.  Paul is an accomplished blogger, writer, birder, and photographer.  I was extremely fortunate to meet him at the Hawk Watch.  He showed me a few of his favorite local spots to hunt down birds.  They are the roads that pass through the northern parts of the Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge --  Prime Hook Road, Fowlers Road, and Lighthouse Road.   The water was too high for us to see any of the marsh birds or shore birds in the mud along the roads, but  there were a lot of terns, egrets, herons, and gulls. Paul recommended, low tide and especially a rising tide to concentrate the birds along the edges of the roads.  I took a picture of a shorebird that we were sure was not a Greater Yellowlegs.  Examining the photo, I found that it was a Greater Yellowlegs.  We saw a few cormorants and I saw a bird while we were driving that I think was a loon, but might have been another cormorant.  Near Lighthouse Road, a Red-tailed Hawk flew right in front of Pau's car. 

    So to summarize my Delaware trip, it was great to be there and once again -- sometimes the most interesting creatures that I see on a trip turn out to be humans.  Thanks again for a good morning at Prime Hook, Paul.


September 26, 2015 -- Bombay Hook, Smyrna, Delaware

    I could not resist stopping at Bombay Hook again on the way home.  It looks like some of the Avocets left, but there is still a substantial flock there.  The egrets and terns were also very active.  Most of the terns were Forster's, but a few were much bigger and had orange bills.  My id is Caspian Tern.  I did not see any Least Terns.  There were a few very tiny sparrows in the marsh along the edge of the auto loop at Shearness Pool.  They had streaked breasts without a central dark spot, yellow on the breast, bright striped yellow on their heads.  I don't think they were Song Sparrows, partly because I don't think the striping is right and also because they were very small.  I rejected other striped sparrows like Le Conte's, Henslow's, and Seaside.  The difference's are subtle.  I think my birds were Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrows.  The locale is perfect for these.  Also the size, yellow striping on head, chest streaks, white belly, and their gizz.   I'm including two pictures because one shows the side of the head better and the other shows the top of the head a little better.  I'm just starting to try my luck at sparrows, and this is a reasonable id.  If it isn't correct, I welcome the opportunity to learn.  So, if you know differently, please let me know. 


Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow, Bombay Hook NWR, September, 2015



Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow, Bombay Hook NWR, September, 2015



Great Egret with a fish, Bombay Hook NWR, September, 2015