By Brian Gilliland, Associate Editor
(May 3, 2018) Up until this past week, the weather on the lower shore hasn’t exactly been anything to write home about, unless you were one of the dozens of participants at the 23rd annual Delmarva Spring Birding Weekend.
“The birds want to head north, but the winds have been out of the north or northwest, so they’ve just been sitting,” Dave Wilson, organizer, said.
Meanwhile, those wildfowl making their way up to us as part of their annual travels continue to arrive, meaning the shore is now bursting at the seams with birds.
Wilson said this was the usual draw of the weekend — the overlap between the summer and winter species, with one population moving out while the other arrives.
As an added bonus for observers, the wildfowl are shedding their understated winter coats for far more colorful breeding plumage, which, along with being much brighter, also doesn’t have three to four months of winter grime buildup on it.
So the more colorful coats are shiny and new as their inhabitants start showing up or are preparing to shove off for the season.
“The yellow mouth warblers and common loons are usually just starting to turn when they leave,” Wilson said.
But the brisk winds and gloomy skies of late April kept them here long enough that the fowl are fully feathered.
With the air and eventually, water temperatures finally warming up, the region’s usual slate of waders is ready to arrive: herons, skimmers and others.
In all, Wilson said the birders tallied more than 150 species last weekend, and he expects that number to grow as the formal count is finalized in the next few days.
He said it was about the average number for the weekend, but what the participants did see was more colorful and complete breeding plumage than usually privy to.
“We had some red throated loons, northern shovelers and palm warblers,” Wilson said. “Endangered species like royal terns and black skimmers should arrive in the next few weeks.”
So, Wilson said, the next few weeks are going to be active ones, where even novice watchers can see something that eludes more experienced ones and where the birds are more noticeable than ever.
Also, the Delmarva Spring Birding Weekend isn’t just about birds. Because there are groups of people taking coordinated romps around the local lands, other wildlife is bound to eventually show up.
“We didn’t see anything too rare. Turtles, snakes, seals and a wide variety of reptiles and amphibians,” he said. “But all exciting in their own ways.”
Next, Wilson is planning for a Baltimore Birding Weekend, May 18-19.
“You don’t think of Baltimore as a great place to find birds, but because of all the development, they’re all pushed to the parks, like Druid Hill Park,” Wilson said. “It’s super popular.”
Closer to home, Wilson said he is preparing to once again offer 11 tours of colonial bird nesting grounds throughout summer.
“You can build your own trip, so if you have a group of six ready for 4 p.m. on Tuesday, you’ll go on your trip at 4 p.m. on a Tuesday,” he said.
Terns, herons and other wading birds, those that stand in the water to hunt for food, nest together in colonies close to the shoreline. The tours will be by boat, and cut a 28-mile circuit around those areas to get a good close look at the occupants.
For more information on upcoming trips or to register, visit www.delmarvabirding.com.