Ocean City Today

Winter Delmarva Birding Weekend activities planned

By Kara Hallissey | Jan 25, 2018
Courtesy of: Jim Rapp Bird watchers use binoculars and spotting scopes at the Ocean City Inlet during Winter Delmarva Birding Weekend in 2017.

(Jan. 26, 2018) Hundreds of species of waterfowl, seabirds, raptors, shorebirds and even seals have been spotted in the area during Winter Delmarva Birding Weekend over the years.

The 2018 winter event kicks off today and runs until Sunday in Worcester County and Sussex County, Delaware.

“It is going to be great to see these winter animals, and some trips have already sold out,” said Jim Rapp, organizer of the event with Dave Wilson.

The third annual Winter Delmarva Birding Weekend is expected to feature species such as harlequin duck, snow geese, great cormorant, purple sandpiper, snow bunting and American white pelicans.

“One of the biggest things is if you don’t get outside during the wintertime, you are missing out on an entire group of animals,” Rapp said. “There are 27 species of waterfowl including colorful ducks with bright feathers, seabirds and songbirds. Snowy owls; there is always a chance for that. I guarantee you will see some interesting and cool stuff you won’t get to see in May.”

Nearly a dozen field trips are taking place this weekend, but some have already sold out. There are trips where 120 people can participate and others are capped at 22 bird watchers.

Delmarva Birding Weekend begins today from 8-11 a.m. with a driving and hiking tour of the Chincoteague Bay Wilderness Landings. The cost is $25 per person and participants will meet at the Public Landing Pier at the end of Public Landing Road.

This tour features some of the most unspoiled historic areas on the East Coast and takes bird watchers through remote and exclusive saltwater and marsh landings within 16,000 acres of protected property on Chincoteague Bay.

“Most of the field trips take place along the coast either in the coastal bays or on islands and freshwater bays,” Rapp said. “One of the coolest things is the relationships we have with local owners. Some of these places you can’t go on your own. They are private property.”

On Friday afternoon, participants will meet in the parking lot of Berlin Falls Park for a driving and hiking tour. The cost is $25 per person and runs from 1:30-4:30 p.m.

The trip goes through Berlin’s 60-acre nature park and a 150-acre private farm. Berlin Falls Park features a wide variety of duck species like northern shovelers, hooded mergansers and ruddy ducks. Hawks and eagles are also usually spotted in the area. Then, bird watchers will head to the Golden Quarter Farm along Ayers Creek to check out the forest, ponds, fields and creek for brown-headed nuthatches, kinglets, eagles, wood ducks and Wilson’s snipe.

This trip will also take place on Saturday, Jan. 27, from 8-11 a.m.

Delmarva Birding Weekend participants can choose to end their Friday night at the Berlin Tally Rally at Burley Oak from 5-7 p.m.

“People enjoy the social nature and going out to the bar to swap stories and talk about the day,” Rapp said.

There is no fee to attend. Food, craft beer and root beer will be available for purchase. Local guides will also be in attendance.

For $50 per person, a three-hour boat tour will take bird watchers around the mouth of the Delaware Bay on Saturday afternoon while visiting ice breakers and two stone breakwaters looking for gulls, cormorants, gannets, loons, scoters, eiders, ducks and razorbill. Attendees also have a good chance of seeing a harbor or gray seal hauling out on the ice breakers.

“More than 100 people have already signed up for one of our premier trips of the weekend,” Rapp said. “The boat has a cabin inside to warm up and when you see seals hauled out on rocks, it’s like you are in Maine for the weekend. [There are] great birds and you see Cape Henlopen from out on the Atlantic.”

The Lewes Boat Trip is aboard the Thelma Dale V, which has an enclosed cabin with window viewing and a top-deck area for open-air views. The trip takes place Saturday, from 1-4 p.m. and the meeting location is at the Fisherman’s Wharf in Lewes, Delaware.

Saturday’s festivities conclude with the Lewes Tally Rally at Irish Eyes from 4-6 p.m. There is no fee to attend and food and drinks will be available for purchase. Local guides will be in attendance and bird watchers are encouraged to discuss their weekend adventures.

On Sunday morning, bird lovers have the option to enjoy a remote duck-filled, 50-acre freshwater pond next to the forests and marshes of Newport Bay in Berlin. The 2,000-acre Newport Farm is home to winter bald eagles, American white pelicans, golden eagles and several waterfowl species.

The driving and hiking field trip takes place Sunday, from 8-11 a.m. The cost is $25 per person and bird watchers will meet at the cul-de-sac at the eastern end of Hayes Landing Road.

Taking place during the same time on Sunday, there will also be a driving and hiking adventure through Cape Henlopen State Park in Lewes, Delaware. The cost is $25 per person.

The park is located where the Delaware bay meets the Atlantic and has a pitch pine forest, tidal marsh, forested wetland, dunes and beach habitats with a wide array of birds. Look forward to seeing brown-headed nuthatch, snow bunting, loons, scoters and other bay and sea ducks. Rare birds include the “Ipswich” Savannah sparrow, common redpoll, razorbill, common eider, great cormorant, lesser black-backed, black-headed and little gull.

“Every year it gets bigger and bigger,” Rapp said. “People are looking for something to do. Put on a coat and get outside to share the experience with other people who like being outside.”

Organizers recommend attendees bring binoculars and spotting scopes.

“The guides will teach you about the birds and the environments’ they live in,” Rapp said. “We will have a couple spotting scopes available and everyone is going to see something they haven’t seen before, which is part of the reason people continue to come back and participate each year.”

Those who cannot make it this weekend, can check out the 23rd annual Spring Delmarva Birding Weekend, slated for April 26-29.

For more information and a list with descriptions of all trips taking place during Winter Delmarva Birding Weekend, visit delmarvabirding.com/winter-dbw-jan-27-29.

Interested bird watchers can show up and register at any open event, but are encouraged to call or text Rapp at 443-614-0261.

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