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DVOC Field Trip Report
by Steve Kacir

Saturday July 16, 2005 - BOMBAY HOOK NWR and ENVIRONS, DE Part 1

Colin Campbell led this trip in place of Martin Selzer, who was recovering from surgery. One of the many participants, Steve Kacir, gave an excellent summary of the trip (and a bit extra) and was kind enough to allow Colin to use it as the official write up for the DVOC website.

Rob Hynson and I attended the DVOC field trip to Bombay Hook last Saturday, and despite the rain and missing Stilt Sandpiper and White-rumped Sandpiper wound up with 86 species of birds before the day was out (although not all were in DE).

Highlights: Wilson's Phalaropes (Raymond Pool: 3 in winter plumage, 1 female in breeding plumage) White-faced Ibis (Shearness Pool) Wilson's Storm-petrels (Port Mahon) Brown Pelican (Port Mahon) Northern Bobwhite (Ted Harvey) Black Tern (Taylor's Gut) Dickcissel (Old Telegraph Rd, Cecil Co, MD) Least Bittern (John Heinz NWR, Philadelphia Co, PA)

Rob and I headed out early in hopes of avoiding any difficulties lane closures on I-476 might have provided, and were rewarded with a nice leisurely drive towards the refuge on Whitehall Neck Rd. We enjoyed seeing Tree Swallows, a Bank Swallow, Barn Swallows, Indigo Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, Eastern Kingbird, Blue-winged Warbler, the usual assortment of blackbird species, and an American Kestrel. At the visitor center we made a quick trip to the woods and found a female Ruby-throated Hummingbird and then enjoyed the Purple Martins, and Brown Thrashers around the building while we waited on the trip participants and Colin tried to get everyone's attention.

The DVOC group moved out to take advantage of high tide at Raymond Pool. There we enjoyed some beautiful Western Sandpipers many fairly close to the road and more beautiful and distant American Avocets. The next birds we spent some time with were the Wilson's Phalaropes, which numbered four by Frank Windfelder's count. I personally saw three of them but spent most of the time watching the gorgeous breeding-plumaged female. The rest of our time was spent vainly scouring the feeding shorebirds for Stilt Sandpiper and White-rumped Sandpiper to no avail. Numerous passes by juvenile Bald Eagles and Caspian Terns provided some breaks from the eye-strain, and one Caspian Tern caught a rather large fish which proved to be quite a mouthful even for such a large bird. A chorus of vocal and often visible Seaside Sparrows and equally vocal but not easily visible Marsh Wrens provided a nice distraction as well. At about the time the eyestrain and bugs were making me forget what we were actually looking for, we moved on to Shearness Pool.

At Shearness we found two Black-necked Stilts, some Semipalmated Plovers, and several Glossy Ibis. We had just started examining the groups of ibis when Frank Windfelder announced he'd found a White-faced Ibis -- despite ridiculously poor lighting. Despite some doubt, Frank moved us all down the road and soon the bird was confirmed, with a nice red eye and some red on the legs and reddish facial skin. Unfortunately the bird decided to leave just as the DOS group was arriving. The night-heron hang-out yielded both Black-crowned and Yellow-crowned Night-herons as well as a Spotted Sandpiper. Then as we were about to leave the Bear Swamp area, we had an Eastern Wood-pewee out in the open which was momentarily mistaken for a Willow Flycatcher (blame the heat and bugs). To add to the confusion, a Solitary Sandpiper briefly flew through.

Colin then led us back towards Raymond Pool to try for the Stilt Sandpiper again, after a quick stop to watch a male Blue Grosbeak at the top of a tree. Raymond Pool kept its secrets though, and most of the DVOC headed out to Sambo's afterwards. Rob and I headed to Port Mahon where we enjoyed a cold lunch and scanned for Storm-petrels. I spotted a Pied-billed Grebe out in the bay which still seems weird to me. Bob Schaffer and Andrew Leidig's information led us to our first Wilson's Storm-petrels of the day and we led Andrew to the Brown Pelican where the three of us had fleeting looks of the bird as it flew away soon after our arrival. We listened for sharp-tailed sparrows but didn't hear any as a storm rolled in across the bay.

Rob and I next made for Ted Harvey without much to report except Northern Bobwhite and lots of rain. We turned around and made for Taylor's Gut next where a chance rising of the tern flock right before we were to leave let me pick out the Black Tern in nearly full breeding plumage that was hidden either by camouflage that made it match the mud or by the Forster's Terns that surrounded it. I have no idea why those terns flew up and then settled down again but I'm glad they did it.

Elated we headed to Cecil County, MD where Old Telegraph Rd hosts at least two male Dickcissels. We arrived (with the usual choice words about Yahoo Maps), and I was just telling Rob we'd probably have to listen for the bird when the next words I said were, " Wait, I think I hear it!" Two male Dickcissels were singing from the wires with great views either through binoculars or scopes. We topped off the ride home with a quick trip to John Heinz NWR where Rob found three Least Bitterns.

Thanks to Colin Campbell for leading the field trip and finding us some great birds, Frank Windfelder who counted the phalaropes and discovered the White-faced Ibis, Andrew Leidig for pointing us in the right direction for the storm-petrels, Bob Schaffer for letting us know about the pelican, John Hubbel for the MDOsprey posting about and fine directions to the Cecil County Dickcissels, Glen Lovelace for the water level information, and the DVOC and DOS members who also canvassed Bombay Hook despite bugs, heat and humidity.

Steve Kacir