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DVOC Field Trip Report
by Colin Campbell

Saturday July 14, 2007 - BOMBAY HOOK NWR and ENVIRONS, DE

To celebrate the storming of the Bastille, a group of over 20 of us from five states met at the Bombay Hook HQ, introduced ourselves and set off in search of all birds, the focus being returning shorebirds. Hummingbirds were using the feeders and Purple Martins abounded with noisy young. We omitted plodding through tick-infested woodland and grasslands and were rewarded with a beautiful day, warm to hot, an occasional slight breeze and not too many biting or bloodsucking insects. Raymond Pool had too much water for the wee 'uns, but over 80 Am. Avocets, 20 Black-necked Stilts and at the back, a ton of Dowitchers had long enough legs to feed. Many herons, esp. Great Egrets were present, their silhouettes in the still water a photographer's dream if they'd been a tad closer. A couple of Caspian Terns eluded many, a few singing Seaside Sparrows enabled scope views. Shearness Pool had more Glossy Ibis (which were seen all day in numbers) but, despite the excellent light, the search for a White-faced amongst them proved fruitless. Bald Eagles pottered around, showing off their new status as non-endangered or threatened. Semi-palmated Plovers and Spotted Sandpipers were added to the shorebird list. Bear Swamp had several Yellow-crowned Night-Herons in the usual roosting trees amongst many Black-crowned. A pair of sharp eyes spotted a Least Bittern landing near the road and minutes later, the bird flew to the central reedbed allowing time for many to see it. A young Eastern Wood Pewee had us trying to make it into something more unusual. Finis Pool had Green Heron and the woods held Wood Thrush, White-eyed Vireo, Acadian Flycatcher, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Great Crested Flycatcher, Scarlet Tanager but, despite a gallant effort to call in a Barred Owl by El Presidente, the birds apparently treat lawyers a bit like some of us - with quiet disinterest.

We headed north to Taylor's Gut at Woodland Beach where the reported Reeve had been scouted earlier and another group were already watching it. After examining it more closely, the consensus was that it was a Ruff, having molted it's neck feathers (as would be expected at this time of year). The large size (about the same as the accompanying Greater Yellowlegs), the black and gold mottling on the wing coverts, the extensive black spotting on neck, throat and flanks all pointed to a male. Definitely the bird of the day.

Photo by Sharon Lynn

Lots of shorebirds here with Western Sandpiper added to the list. Calling back at the Hook to change vehicles, a couple of Bobolinks caused us to pause by the weedy field on the entrance road where both Indigo Buntings and Blue Grosbeak were found.

Heading south, we called in at Port Mahon and, despite the already known lack of shorebirds there, we did get a Willet and a couple each of Royal and Common Terns with a single Least Tern and the antics of three about-to-fledge Osprey chicks in one nest were highly entertaining and spectacular to witness.

Our final stop was at Ted Harvey Conservation Area where the drying out North Pond had two more Least Terns but the previously reported Sedge Wrens were not to be found. A couple of Brown Thrashers completed our eastern Mimid trio and a singing Swamp Sparrow stuck up its rufous crown feathers showing what a superb little bird this is in breeding plumage.

A great day out, a wonderfully enthusiastic bunch of birders and, while the shorebird list was a tad on the light side, the total of 89 species was good.