Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Trip Across the Bay

 [Yellow-billed Cuckoo foraging on the ground, Cape Henlopen State Park, DE last Friday.]

Why does the birder cross the bay (the Delaware Bay that is)? To get Brown-headed Nuthatch on the other side, and maybe a few birds on the way across. We did that last weekend, but what was really surprising to me were the many, varied and active birds at Cape Henlopen State Park, besides the nuthatch. In spite of heat, crowds of campers and beach goers (and beach drivers, aargh), the birding was damn good, with something approaching 70 species and some really great views of special birds. Without even trying, I might add - we were camping with the "puppy," all 83 pounds of him, and a lot of the trip was about continuing his socialization. He was a real hit with kids on the ferry, though not so much with the female poodle, nor its owners. . .

Right away in the campground Friday afternoon, a couple Yellow-billed Cuckoos entertained us, and were really very confiding - the shot above was in our campsite, range maybe 10 feet. I don't know about you, but any day with a cuckoo in it is a good day for me, cuckoos of the bird variety I mean. A Pine Warbler father worked hard to raise young, and their constant rapid chattering (begging calls) was a fixture. Walking the bike trail yielded multiple Blue Grosbeaks, shorebirds overhead, and nightly nighthawks calling, chasing and foraging. The morning beach was awesome, with multiple Lesser Black-backed Gulls, a wayward White-winged Scoter up on the beach, terns and more shorebirds, and a chance for Boonie to bodysurf some heavy waves while practicing retrieving. By mid-morning beach was packed with vehicles, something of a drag.

Sunday we hit Bombay Hook, where over 100 American Avocets and many Black-necked Stilts, however expected, were real treats. We saw lots of other stuff, Stilt Sandpipers etc., but it was hotter than snot (like 94 and humid, which didn't bother the greenheads one whit), so we just did it by binocular through closed windows. A couple small flocks of Long-billed Dowitchers in Raymond and Shearness pools were nice, each round as softballs after the short-billeds we've been looking at.

The ferry crossings both had several Wilson's Storm-petrels for entertainment. By the way, these birds are not generally close to the boat, so you've got to scan and also make sure you're not looking at Purple Martins or other swallows. The tip of Cape Henlopen, closed to people, was packed with gulls and had a few Brown Pelicans, and more flew past the ferry out in the bay. The Atlantic Bottle-nosed Dolphin show was great, and I pointed them out to a bunch of passengers. One worker at the ferry snack bar told me she had still not seen a dolphin - she always hears about them, but never gets to leave her station. Let's protect ourselves from jobs like that!

 [Bedraggled male Pine Warbler just fed a bug to one youngster, with the other begging mercilessly.]

 [Blue Grosbeak still singing away - we saw one pair carrying food to a nest.]

 [The Cape Henlopen State Park target bird, if you're from Cape May or points north - dial in on their squeaky-bath-duck calls, and Brown-headed Nuthatches are easy to find. One evening we hit a flock of 10 or so, probably a couple family groups.]

 [Fence Lizard along Cape Henlopen bike trail.]

[Yes! the "moon" shot with a calling Common Nighthawk. Nighthawks were active and visible at twilight at Cape Henlopen, obviously local breeders.]

1 comment: