BERLIN — The 2017 Delmarva Birding Weekend has invited hundreds of nature enthusiasts to the shore to explore the bays and ocean by boat for seals, waterfowl and shorebirds through April 30. Registration for the popular event is now open at www.delmarvabirding.com.
While the four-day event offers lots of great hiking trips, boats remain an easy and relaxing way to see wildlife. For non-paddlers, the weekend offers a seal- and gannet-laden trip that leaves from Fisherman’s Wharf in Lewes on Friday, April 28 at 2 p.m. There is also a chance to see whales on this trip.
On Saturday, April 29, the Assateague Explorer departs at 2 p.m. from Ocean City to explore the coastal bays behind Assateague. Eagles, loons and sometimes seals and piping plovers can be seen on this trip. Popular pontoon rides are also offered on the eagle-rich lower Pocomoke River and at Trap Pond where an owl prowl takes place Saturday, April 29 at 6 p.m.
For the adventurous lot, the Birding Weekend offer a full day trip on Saturday to the world-famous Smith Island replete with homemade Smith Island cake and fresh caught crab cakes. The trip to the isolated village sneaks rare glimpses at the secluded Martin National Wildlife Refuge as the boat slinks by.
Paddling enthusiasts can choose from eight offerings including a soothing sojourn from the James Farm along Indian River Bay Thursday morning to both evening and morning paddles on Ayres and Trappe creeks on Friday and Sunday. A Trails to Rails trip slips along the saltmarsh trails in Rehoboth Bay on Friday morning and the warbler-filled Pocomoke and Nassawango kayak trips through expansive bald cypress swamp are again offered Saturday and Sunday mornings.
Walkers and hikers can get an early start to the weekend with shorebirds along the Delaware Bayshore at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge and the Mispillion Harbor or stroll along a private farm near Assateague. On Friday, April 28, you can start your morning at Redden State Forest and follow it up with a shorebird spectacle at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge in the afternoon.
On Saturday, April 29, folks can traverse the beautiful wilderness at the landings of Maryland’s Chincoteague Bay and slip into the marsh for the Night Birds trip surrounding 11,000 acres of protected land. On Sunday morning, April 30, nature lovers who prefer walking can choose the Warblermania trip nestled in the depths of the Pocomoke cypress swamp or hike through fields, ponds, forest and saltmarsh on the celebrated Newport Farms Diversity Walk.
Several field trips regularly sell out, so interested birders are encouraged to register soon.
“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, Del., normally inaccessible private lands and Maryland’s Chincoteague Bay through some of the most pristine habitats on the East Coast.
“The April weekend is spectacular,” said Southern Delaware Tourism Director Scott Thomas. “Imagine hiking a trail at Trap 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 happy hour in Rehoboth. 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 allow participants to add to the species checklist and swap birding stories with new friends.
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.
If boasting that many species isn’t enough, participants should feel even better knowing that they’ve helped Delmarva’s birds by promoting birding and habitat conservation. Birders, both novice and experienced, make an important statement about the economic value of birds and their habitats through the money they spend in local hotels, restaurants, and shops.
“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.”