Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Exploring Delaware Bayshore

If you read this blog regularly, you know that we go to Cape May and other shore points often.  You may also think that we know all of the good birding spots.  Well, that's not really the case.  Sure, we know about the "Hawk Watch" aka Lighthouse and the "Meadows" aka Nature Conservancy, and Higbee Beach and some others.  But we certainly don't know about all of the hot spots. And we are investigating more each year.  For instance, we made our first trip to Stimpson's Island last year and found our first Marsh Wrens. 

Yesterday, Barbara and I signed up for CMBO's Winter Raptors of the Delaware Bayshore field trip.  About 14 participants and 4-5 trip leaders spent 4 hours touring several birding spots south of Maurice River and north of Goshen.  It was great to go with the group to be introduced to new locations and learn more about raptors that we may find at each site. This is the way that we learned when to visit Belleplain State Forest and where to look for migrating birds in spring a few years ago.  It paid off again by introducing us to several new locations such as: 
  • Beaver Swamp WMA - about a stone's throw from the CMBO office and yet we have never been there.  We started here and saw Bald Eagle as our first bird of the day - sitting on the nest, switching with it's mate, sitting together on the same tree so that we could gauge the size difference between male and much larger female. 
  • Glade Road - a small pull-off on Glade Road just before the bridge that we would have never thought to stop at. We saw 4 Bald Eagles here. Not close, but we watched as the soared around and "danced".  We also saw a dark morph Rough-legged Hawk.  Karen, the trip leader, did a great job of having everyone see the hawk through the scope and explaining how to tell it was a Rough-legged Hawk by the way it held it's wings in flight and hovered.  Oh, did I mention the Peregrine Falcon?  
  • Thompson's Beach - another new location for us.  It has a platform for viewing the marsh as do some of the other sites.  I dragged Barbara to the Wawa for a bathroom break before going to this site so we missed some of the Eagles and other birds that the rest of the group saw.  We did get to see Marsh Wrens.
  • East Point Lighthouse - never knew this was here.  This site is right on the bay.  We saw lots of ducks here including Bufflehead (still didn't get a good photo) and Common Goldeneyes.
  • Heislerville WMA - has a dirt road around several ponds.  Again, we would never have found this site and even if we did, we wouldn't have driven on the dirt road to get close to the ponds.  
 A map to all of these sites plus the more is available at CMBO website.

A highlight of the trip for me was seeing a Gray Ghost sitting in a field on the way out to Stimpon's Island.  When the other cars in the caravan stopped, we stopped too and were 50 feet away from it.  A Gray Ghost is what they call a male Northern Harrier because he is all gray while the females are brown.  What a beauty!  We saw lots of Harriers on the marshes at each location but only one Gray Ghost . . . ooooh. 

The group dispersed from here but Barbara and I went to Maple Road and Turkey Point on our way home. I never realized that they were 2 separate sites until Chuck, the other trip leader explained it. We also found out that the whole area surrounding Turkey Point is actually a Natural Lands Trust area called "The Glades". It is Natural Lands Trust's largest preserve.  We saw Yellow-rump Warblers and our first ever Seaside Sparrow.
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