Eastern Shore Birding Trip, Virginia and Delaware, Sept 17th to 19th

A trip out to the Eastern Shore was well worth fighting through traffic along I64 on the way to the Chesapeake Bridge. Since it was early morning, I was hoping to spot a lot of birds on the trip across the bridge. I was disappointed though. I saw mainly gulls and one hapless Ruddy Turnstone wandering the parking area of the first rest area of the bridge. It kept pecking the ground in vain obviously hungry with nothing to eat there.

After crossing the bridge, I turned into the Eastern Shore National Wildlife Refuge. Nobody was around with the exception of some Cedar Waxwings along the entry road and a few Northern Cardinals.

I drove around the refuge roads looking for birds when I accidentally exited the refuge headed into a residential farming area. Suddenly, a group of Northern Bobwhites popped out into the road and quickly tucked into a field of Soybean plants. Glad I made that wrong turn!

Heading back into the refuge, I turned down to the boat launch area where mosquitoes swarmed me. I had not used any spray. I quickly changed into pants and put on a sweatshirt to look at a nearby juvenile Yellow-crowned Night Heron. I kicked myself for not bringing my camera. While watching the heron a U.S. Fish and Wildlife (USFWS) employee drove up and we began chatting about the birds in the area. He also mercifully offered me some bug spray, which I gladly accepted. We heard a Clapper Rail calling from the reeds but did not see it.

I followed the USFWS employee’s suggestion to check out the harbor area for Bald Eagles, ibises, and more. Down at the dock were mainly vehicles belonging to local fisherman. Beyond in the distance were trees where two Bald Eagles perches. Other trees were full of Great Egrets. In the distance looking toward the Chesapeake Bridge were many Brown Pelicans in flight. I then got to see two birds that were on my lists of “must sees” for this trip: Glossy Ibis and White Ibis. There were only a few that flew overhead but it made my day as I had never seen them anywhere but in Florida.

After spending time at the harbor area, I headed back to the small boat launch area abutting marshland to watch the Yellow-crowned Night Heron. Turns out another one popped out from the reeds along with a Little Blue Heron. Then suddenly the Clapper Rail popped out from the reeds and was walking along the mud. Too my surprise the rail was followed by a Virginia rail who made a very brief appearance before they both quickly disappeared back into the vegetation.

After spending the morning at the refuge, I drove north up to Chincoteague. That evening, I spotted American Oystercatchers, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, and lots of other shorebirds on the island.

The next day, September 18th, would bring the bird that I sought to see for the first time. Just when I had given up and was driving out of the refuge, I decided to stop along the road and look for birds in the pine trees. The first bird I saw was what I sought, the Brown-headed Nuthatch. I got to see four of them right from the opposite side of the road. This sighting made my day.

I left Chincoteague just as the weekend hoards began to arrive and headed north to Delaware.

In Delaware, I intended to visit Cape Henlopen State Park. I changed my mind based on the traffic and headed up to Prime Hook Wildlife Refuge. I regretted stopping here because there was no warning the aerial pesticide spraying would be happening. I was out at least a mile on a trail when a low flying helicopter buzzed by right to my left. I saw that it was out spraying the marshes. I departed as quickly as I could because of the pesticide and the noise of the helicopter that bothered me and scared off all the birds including a Bald Eagle.

I left Prime Hook NWR early and headed up to Bombay National Wildlife Refuge. I planned to go there because they had just released the new quarter celebrating the refuge on September 17th. It was my second visit and this visit was the better of the two.

At 530 pm, I found Bombay NWR practically empty of people but full of shore birds. There were hundreds of egrets and American Avocets. It was a beautiful night and just the right temperature. I stayed until sunset. Just before leaving I spotted an American Kestrel and an American Bittern. I also heard a Great Horned Owl calling from the trees behind the pond.

On Sunday morning, I returned to Bombay NWR at 730 am, and again had the place almost to myself. The highlight of the morning was spotting Savannah Sparrows perched on the top of cattails. There were also many Common Yellowthroats close to the road’s edge.

I spotted at Black-crowned Night Heron perched in a tree on my way out of the refuge! I stayed about 3.5 hours before heading home. Overall, I was happy with the birding over the three-day trip to the shore. I added some life birds to my list and was surprised to see so many Osprey, Bald Eagles, and Egrets.


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