On Saturday I toured Bombay Hook and Delaware Bayshore with DC Audubon. Bombay Hook NWR is one of the very best birding spots within about a two-hour drive of Washington, D.C. Its 16,000 acres present a variety of habitats, each of which brims with birds. We had a small group of seven people that included two visitors from New Mexico.
The regular colony of purple martins has returned to the Nature Center for another summer of breeding. The wooded edge to the meadow was full of warblers - black-and-white, black-throated green, redstart, prothonotary, Louisiana waterthrush, and the ubiquitous yellow warblers and common yellowthroats. We heard their songs and chatter from every wooded or brushy patch in the refuge. Feeders at the Nature Center were attended by ruby-throated hummingbirds, my first of the year.
Fields along the initial stretch of auto tour yielded singing chipping and swamp sparrows, a blue grosbeak, and a ring-necked pheasant. A small wooded patch held yellow-rumped and blackpoll warblers, a yellow-billed cuckoo, a singing red-eyed vireo, a veery, and nesting brown thrashers. On the boardwalk trail we saw white-eyed vireos and western sandpipers, while listening to the distinctive songs of marsh wrens, seaside sparrows, and a clapper rail.
Shorebirds were rather sparse in the impoundments and mudflats close to the auto tour route. They seem to have followed the receding tide to feeding areas on the farther reaches of the refuge's mudflats. Still, we saw representatives of the refuge's regular May visitors - short-billed dowitchers, semipalmated plovers, black-bellied plovers, willets, and graceful black-necked stilts. After seeing dunlin in basic plumage several times this winter, it was fun change of pace to see them in their colorful alternate plumage.
Our next stop after the refuge was Port Mahon Road, which has a thin strip of beach bordering Delaware Bay. This is normally a good spot to find red knots since horseshoe crabs come ashore to lay eggs; unfortunately, on Saturday no knots were present. We did see sanderling, hundreds of ruddy turnstones, a least sandpiper, and a group of oystercatchers in flight. Pickering Beach had the same shorebirds and gulls as before, with the exception of a very late Bonaparte's gull. Like at Port Mahon Road, horseshoe crabs lined the water's edge.
Tuckahoe State Park in Maryland was our next site. There we had good looks at Baltimore and orchard orioles, a blue-gray gnatcatcher, and our first green heron for the day (my first for the year). After the brief stop at Tuckahoe we headed back to Washington. While it was not a full-blown big day, we ended up seeing over 100 species anyway because the sites along our route were so productive.
BIRD SPECIES: 100
Great Blue Heron
American Black Duck
Great Black-backed Gull
American Herring Gull
Great Crested Flycatcher
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Black-throated Green Warbler