Ocean City Today

Late November transition time for local birds, birders

By Brian Gilliland | Nov 16, 2017
Photo by: Submitted photo Zach Davis and Isabel Emond

Late November transition time for local birds, birders


(Nov. 17, 2017) As two Stephen Decatur High School students engage their own interest with a nascent birding club at the school, the local expert who started them on the path is spreading the word that it’s a fantastic time of year to go birding.

“November is a fun time of year because some fall species are still here and the winter species are starting to arrive,” said Dave Wilson, founder of Conservation Community Consulting. “In January there are thousands of buffleheads, but now you see them in groups of 10. There are lots of ducks that don't want to go any farther south then they have to, and so they’re here.”

In January and June, Wilson said, experienced birders know what they’re going to get once they go on the prowl. In transition times, like now, birders get the best of both worlds as some species leave and others arrive.

Part of Wilson’s enthusiasm for red throated loons, purple sandpipers and the host of ducks that call the lower shore home sometimes or all of the time, is based on passing the hobby along to younger people who have a different set of tools and different ideas on how to observe their favorite feathered friends.

“People who have been in the hobby a while are worried it’s going to go away,” Wilson said, partly because of the allure of other distractions, like computer screens.

Earlier this summer, Wilson guided boat tours along the Assateague Coast to highlight the many species the variety of habitats and ecosystems the lower shore provides. On that tour were two high school students, Zach Davis and Isabel Emond, who came back to school in September and formed their own birding club.

“We started it to gain more knowledge,” Davis said. Davis’ uncle worked at the Audubon Society for 20 years, and he grew up watching birds and being around birds with the family.

“This past summer, I would see shorebirds and look up which were which, then I started talking to Zach about them, and we went on a trip with Dave Wilson,” Emond said.

Wilson taught them certain things to look for and the places they were more likely to see their favorite species. Davis favors raptors, like hawks and eagles, while Isabel prefers shorebirds, like ducks and geese.

“We didn’t really know about clubs for youth,” Emond said.

So they started one, with science teacher Wendie Saullo as an advisor.

“We were surprised, we get 10-12 people every Monday, when the club meets,” Saullo said.

“I certainly didn’t expect that,” Emond said.

This coming Monday, the students are hosting an event at Berlin Falls Park at 3 p.m. for some bird watching. The former Tyson facility has become known as a hotspot for shorebirds and other species drawn to the mix of shallow water and surrounding forest.

“After the first trip, we’ll do the next trip then the next trip and then the next,” Saullo said.

Saullo appreciates the opportunity advising the club gives her.

“This is way outside the curriculum in Worcester County — there would be no way to cover this,” she said of ornithology.

While the three novices pore over field guides and computer screens to make their identifications, Wilson, who can identify most local species by sight or sound, said he was encouraged by their enthusiasm.

“I’m just really excited young people are getting in and getting involved,” he said.

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