Delmarva Birding Weekend Features Hikes, Boat Trips

BERLIN — The 2016 Delmarva Birding Weekend is set to bring hundreds of nature enthusiasts to the shore this weekend to enjoy the full complement of mid-Atlantic birds as the region welcomes warblers, tanagers, and other spring migrants and prepares to bid adieu to its loons, falcons, and waterfowl as they head northward.

Registration for the popular event is open at www.delmarvabirding.com.

Birders can register for just one field trip or multiple field trips each day of the four-day event, which began yesterday, April 21. On Friday, April 22, you can start your morning searching for rails by kayak on Delaware’s inland bays, and enjoy a songbird and shorebird spectacle at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge in the afternoon.

Exploring the bald cypress swamps by kayak around Snow Hill on Saturday morning, April 23 will add several warbler species to your list, and a boat trip behind Assateague and Ocean City in the afternoon can increase your tally for the weekend to more than 100 species. You might choose to take an all-day boat trip to Smith Island on Saturday to welcome back breeding pelicans and herons, and enjoy a slice of Smith Island cake with lunch.

Several field trips have sold out, so interested birders are encouraged to register soon.

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Guided by local birders with decades-long experience on the peninsula, the walking tours, boat trips, and canoe and kayak paddles will accommodate visitors from the curious nature lover to fowl fanatics. Every year, birdwatchers from surrounding states flock to the event.

“This is one of our biggest nature-oriented weekends,” said Worcester County Tourism Director Lisa Challenger. “People go crazy over the number of eagles and herons, but they will see a lot more than that birding with our guides around Assateague Island and our cypress swamps near Snow Hill.”

Boasting patient and fun-loving guides, new trips will feature jaunts around Laurel, Delaware and Maryland’s Chincoteague Bay through some of the most pristine habitats on the East Coast. For the first time, the Delmarva Birding Weekend is co-hosting a showing of the bird documentary, The Messenger, with the Rehoboth Beach Film Society. The film will be shown on Friday, April 22, at the Cinema Art Theater in Lewes, Del.

“The April weekend is spectacular,” said Southern Delaware Tourism Director Scott Thomas. “Picture slinking around a bend in your canoe on Trussum Pond to be met with one of the most beautiful yellows you’ve ever seen… in the form of a prothonotary warbler. Or spend a Friday afternoon at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge or boating around Lewes and the Delaware Bay, followed by craft beer and a movie. That’s what the weekend is all about.”

Social events for new and experienced birders are scheduled throughout the weekend. These “Tally Rallies” are held at local breweries, bars, and restaurants, and provide participants to add to the species checklist and swap birding stories with new friends.

Indeed participants recount the event in terms of experiences rather than simply observing birds – a majestic Bald Eagle soaring over the marsh, a loon in breeding plumage catching fish, or the eerie hoot and shadow of a barred owl at dusk. An outdoor experience is the true draw.

The Delmarva Peninsula is one of the country’s premier birding areas, thanks to an extensive variety of habitat protected by our coastal parks, refuges and wildlife management areas. More than 400 bird species have been recorded in the region and previous Weekend tallies have topped 200 species.

“It’s our vast shallow bays and large tracts of protected marshes and bald cypress forests that make the Delmarva Peninsula one of the finest birding regions in the nation,” said guide and organizer Jim Rapp.  “During the weekend, our guests will hike on private farmland and woodland that are normally off-limits to birders, and our waterborne trips go where the birds are.”

Co-organizer Dave Wilson added that none of the trips were physically taxing and that the event provides a rare opportunity to tally 100 species in a day in places that are normally inaccessible to the public.