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Field Trip Reports

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Ocean City & Assateague Island, MD
February 7, 2019
7 members & 50 species! Highlights were a little blue heron and a glaucous gull. We also had good looks at red-breasted mergansers and long-tailed ducks. There are 11 eBird checklists for this trip; here are 3 of them:

Glaucous Gull and Red-breasted Merganser    photos © Dick Plambeck

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Delaware Seashore State Park & Silver Lake, Rehoboth Beach
January 9, 2019    (Above photos © Dick Plambeck)
Sussex Bird Club's first trip of 2019 had 10 members birding the south side of the Indian River Inlet from the parking lot and inlet walkway before we moved west for better looks at eiders. The weather was 40F, strong winds, partly sunny. Wind chill made it feel 10 degrees colder. Several dolphins were observed as was one human surfer!!!
eBird Checklist:
Next we birded the DSSP campground parking lots and Burton Island Causeway:
Our last stop was at Silver Lake in Rehoboth Beach to look for a Red-Head amongst the hundreds of Canvasbacks to no avail.
eBird Checklist:
Cape Henlopen State Park
December 20, 2018
This was Sussex Bird Club's last field trip of 2018. Nine members started at the Seaside Nature Center birding the feeders and woods behind the center, then went on to the Breakwater Harbor and distant views of the Cape Henlopen Point and fishing pier. We then parked at lower Gordon's Pond Trail and hiked the Walking Dunes Trail to the two bridges through the marsh, then  ended our day by looking at the ocean at Herring Point. It started to rain lightly as we got back in our vehicles. The weather was 35-40 F, overcast with almost no wind. Surprisingly we saw very few land birds in the woods and fields.
There is one eBird checklist for this trip:
Ocean City & Assateague
December 5, 2018

Ten SBC members carpooled from the Safeway in Rehoboth to Ocean City, MD. We birded Skimmer Island and the bay from Fourth Street Park and Hoopers Restaraurant.  Highlights were a black-crowned night heron flushed from the marsh as the group approached the water on the west side of the bridge, a flock of dunlin and a single oystercatcher. See the eBird checklist for a complete list.


Then we headed to West Ocean City Pond which was full of waterfowl including about 100 canvasback and several gadwall and wigeon:


South Point boat ramp yielded several horned grebes and a flock of bluebirds:


Assateague Island National Seashore was open despite the national day of mourning for former president George H.W Bush. The water did not yield much new but the brushy scrub on the island was full of songbirds including many cardinal, flickers, yellow-rumped warblers and goldfinches. See


As we made our way back to Ocean City we stopped at the Bayside Development pond and were rewarded with a mixed flock of ring-necked duck, gadwall, American widgeon and two adult bald eagles that locked talons and tumbled in the air.


Ocean City Inlet was our last birding stop and yielded brant, common eider and Forster’s tern but no harlequin duck. We finished the day with some 52 species.


By now it was about 2:30 PM and the group was cold through and through. We stopped at Cottage Café in Bethany on the way home, ate, warmed up and then carpooled back to the Safeway. Discretion was the better part of valor as we did not stop at Indian River Inlet and Silver Lake although some of the diehards thought about it until threatened by the more reasonable birders. Hopefully our two prospective members were not driven away from future participation!


Photos © Carol Blye

Delaware Seashore State Park
November 17, 2018
Five members and three guests of Sussex Bird Club carpooled to Indian River Inlet on the south side of Delaware Seashore State Park to look for sea birds. Delmarva Ornithological Society held its first Seawatch of the season at the same place and time. All three species of scoter, common eider, brant, red-throated loon and common loon were observed. A full list of birds can be seen at:

Next the group crossed the inlet and headed to the trailhead for Burtons Island. On the hike around Burtons Island they saw herons, diving ducks, dunlin, songbirds and three bald eagles. A full checklist is available at:


On the way back to Lewes they detoured to Silver Lake in Rehoboth with the goal of finding canvasback or a cackling goose, to no avail. They did see other ducks, gulls, cormorants and one of the many red-breasted nuthatches around this winter. See the complete list at:

Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge
November 1, 2018

15 SBC members birded Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge on a beautiful, warm, sunny and windy mid fall day. We birded the parking lot productively (three eagles flew over plus pileated and flocks of robins) then walked the boardwalk trail and half way out dike trail and back. The marsh held many green-winged teal and hundreds of dunlin. We again saw a pair of eagles roosting together. See an eBird checklist at


Then we carpooled up Route 1 to Prime Hook Road, then Cods Road. Lots of Canada geese and ducks at the Cods Road bridge and one coot seen by some. Then on to Fowler Beach where we found sparrows in abundance but the wind kept them down and hard to see. Rob and Sharon did pull a Lincoln’s sparrow out of the grass among many swamp, song and white-throated sparrows. Who knows what else was hidden along the side of the road! We walked out to the Bay and saw many savannah sparrows and a few yellow-rumped warblers. On the water we saw two species of scoter and a Caspian tern, among others. See the eBird checklist at


We finished the day with 59 species plus unidentified sparrows and shorebirds.

Photos © 2018 Dick Plambeck

Gordon's Pond & Herring Point, Cape Henlopen State Park
October 25, 2018

The Sussex Bird Club held a field trip at Cape Henlopen State Park. We started with 11 members and guests at the Gordon's Pond trail and walked southbound to Mile Marker 1.5 to look for the reddish egret - to no avail. We were treated to three bald eagles, a peregrine and hundreds of yellow-rumped warblers and first  of season juncos, white-throated sparrows and ruby-crowned kinglets.


We then looked over the dune at Herring Point for sea birds which yielded some scoters and a few very distant northern gannets but no loons. Then to the Nature Center feeders where we quickly saw a female purple finch and three pine siskins. Lastly we climbed the stairs to the Hawk Watch to log an hour of volunteer time and try for the golden eagles seen yesterday. Instead of eagles we did see and hear two American pipits. We ended the morning with 55 species of birds and four hours of absolutely beautiful fall weather.

Here are the eBird checklists for this trip:

White-throated sparrows ©Dick Plambeck

Thompson Island & Indian River Inlet, DE Seashore State Park
October 4, 2018
10 SBC members went on this coastal field trip. Our first stop was at Silver Lake (Rehoboth Beach) to look for the Ruddy Shelduck that had been reported--to no avail.
Our next stop was the Thompson Island trailhead, and from there we walked to the observation platform and back.
Our final stop was the Delaware Seashore SP on the south side of Indian River Inlet where we birded the inlet jetty and beach.
Middle Run Valley Natural Area
September 5, 2018


Six SBC members and guide Bill Stewart met in the parking lot on Possum Hollow Road.  

We walked the bird trail looking and listening for fall neotropical migrants and lingering breeding birds. Highlights were several white-eyed and red-eyed vireos, black-and-white, chestnut-sided, black-throated green warblers, American redstart and one Acadian flycatcher. Although the trip was deemed a great success we did not experience the fallout of migrants we had hoped for. An eBird checklist is presented at:

Cape Henlopen State Park
August 21, 2018
Sussex Bird Club birded CHSP and a great time was had by all (14). We walked Gordon's Pond trail south to bench 5 and back, during which we found several species of terns and gulls, kingbirds, yellowlegs and multiple ospreys. We then headed for a brief visit to the Cape Henlopen Hawkwatch in hopes of catching a glimpse of a parasitic jaeger, to no avail. Lastly we hiked down the dune crossing on the bay side of The Point where we did find oystercatcher and piping plover among many other interesting birds. Here's the link to the eBird checklist and more photos:
Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge
August 8, 2018
There are 3 eBird Checklists for this trip:
Headquarters area and Boardwalk Trail:
Broadkill Road marsh:
Prime Hook Road:
Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
July 25, 2018

Seven SBC members carpooled from Lowes to Bombay Hook and met with three additional members at Refuge headquarters. It rained incessantly on the way up and it was still raining as we exited the vehicles. All three cars stayed in touch on the drive and speculated as to whether we were wasting our time because of the rain. As we stretched our legs after the drive, the sky lightened and the rain stopped!


Our birding started from the parking lot of Bombay Hook headquarters where we walked into a grass field to get good looks at the early migrant bobolinks and other grassland birds and then we drove straight to the far end of Bear Swamp to search for the continuing ruff. We encountered lots of roadside birds and avocets in the distance as we made our way to Bear Swamp.


Sue and others diligently searched for a ruff in the midst of many yellowlegs, peeps and short-billed dowitchers. Finally Sue sang out, “I got it”. The id was confirmed by Carol who had seen the same bird Sunday on the DOS trip. Everyone got good, definitive looks at the ruff and many got photographs. In addition we saw pectoral, semi-palmated, Western, least and stilt sandpipers, semi-palmated plover,  Forster’s tern, both night herons, five species of heron including a little blue with 6 white immatures following along. To complete our trip we went to the corner of Bear Swamp for the night herons, to Finis pool and beyond for white-eyed vireo and Acadian flycatcher, Allee house, Shearness for more shorebirds and flyover a least bittern and ended the day with a second drive by Raymond Pool which we did not look at closely the first time by. A link to the eBird checklist for the trip is presented below:


We finished the day with an incredible 73 species, most seen by everyone who stayed until the end. As we left, we all commented on the serendipitous decision to stay despite the wet start and forecast.

Ruff © Sharon Lynn
Little Blue Herons © Dick Plambeck

Willow Flycatcher ©SLynn

Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge
June 28, 2018

Sharon, Rob & Carol led a group of 10 birders. We started from the parking lot of Prime Hook headquarters where we walked out on the Refuge Entrance Road to look for grassland birds and then walked the boardwalk trail ( Highlights were several singing dickcissels, grassphopper sparrows plus blue grosbeak, orchard oriole, eastern phoebe and cooperative immature bald eagle and a very visible yellow-breasted chat.


We carpooled to Prime Hook Road (,

Cods Road (

and Fowler Beach Road ( We were rewarded with a singing willow flycatcher, least terns, a wood duck and multiple seaside sparrows singing, feeding young and flying all over the place. One car saw a saltmarsh sparrow as we drove into the saltmarsh at Fowlers Beach. As we were departing we called up a clapper rail.


Rob and Carol’s friends from Denver, Doug and Mackenzie, were on a quest for 100 species in all 50 states and needed about 12 in Delaware so the four continued to bird Sussex County all day and ended with some 84 species for the day and 134 for the state. Our last birds were chuck-wills-widow about 10:00 PM on Camp Arrowhead Road.

Ricketts Glen (PA) State Park & PGC State Game Lands 57
June 21-24, 2018
Sussex Bird Club conducted its second trip to northeastern Pennsylvania beginning on Thursday June 21 through Sunday, June 24, 2018. We started out down the Glenn Falls Natural Area trail. The falls are spectacular and the trail is very steep and arduous. Rob’s GPS logged some 4.2 miles all downhill with about 15 waterfalls of from 95 to 15 feet high. On the way down we saw or heard Acadian flycatcher, winter wren, several warblers and a juvenile slate-colored junco.
Our morning Friday started at Coalbed Swamp and a brief tour around the mine shaft (hermit thrush and blackburnian warbler showed well and sang for us) and edge of the spruce bog. We birded our way out of the swamp and around the area ending up at the Hayfields and village of Ricketts pull off. We birded at several places on Mountain Springs Road and hiked the Hidden Hemlock trail where some heard a Swainson’s thrush. Also evident were chestnut-sided warbler, black-throated green, black throated blue, American redstart and hooded merganser with young.
Saturday morning started with a rainy visit to a known spot for sandhill crane which yielded swallows, bobolink, eastern meadowlark, Baltimore oriole and brown thrasher – but no cranes. We hit several of the hotspots from the day before and picked up several alder flycatchers for Sharon, singing white-throated sparrow and lots of common yellowthroats. We ended the day with a long drive birding Dutch Mountain Road north all the way to Route 87 (turkey, prairie warbler and field sparrow).
Sunday morning we hit the crane spot again (more bobolinks and meadowlarks), stopped for breakfast, and then struck out for home. Rob and Sue guided us to a white pelican at 1000-acre swamp south of Delaware City and then headed to the DOS picnic to receive an award for the Roadrunner’s BirdAThon success. Sharon, Carol and Rob kept birding and found some 30 species including two fly over sandhill cranes, cave swallows, a pheasant and little blue herons.

We finished the PA trip with about 64 species. (See species list.) To download a more detailed trip report click here.

Fair Hill NRMA ©CBlye

Bobolink ©DPlambeck

Fair Hill NRMA, Cecil County, MD
June 13, 2018

Sussex Bird Club conducted its first trip to Maryland’s 5600-acre Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area, Cecil County, MD on Wednesday June 13, 2018. Three leaders and seven other members made the trip. Birding commenced at 9:00 AM from parking lot #3 at the corner of Black Bridge Road and Appleton Road.  Eastern meadowlark and bobolink were visible from the parking lot. We were greeted by two park rangers who suggested we take the 3-mile loop trail through both grassland and forest so we headed east through the spectacular waist high grass on a gravel trail, then south on a two track through the grass to the Gravel Union School Road. Breeding red-winged blackbirds, eastern meadowlarks and bobolinks were everywhere. Everyone got good looks at all three species through Rob's scope. We flushed some fledglings and observed adults feeding young.


After the beautiful grass meadows we walked through mature deciduous forest, an old farmstead, a small wetland area and the yard surrounding the Nature Center that had a pond. Highlights were singing orchard oriole, a male Baltimore oriole, warbling vireo, yellow warbler, nesting phoebe and house wrens feeding young. Then we trudged up Black Bridge Road along Big Elk Creek were we heard and saw Acadian flycatcher, wood thrush, veery, ovenbird, American redstart and a lone Kentucky warbler.

We walked just over 5 miles (including zigs and zags) in three hours. The parking lot was a welcome sight but we did finish the day with 53 species and life birds for several participants. Eight of the group ate lunch at the Deer Park Tavern in Newark on the way home where we picked up a parking lot fish crow. One car stopped near Dover to pick up bank swallow for 2018 to yield a trip total of 55 species.  An eBird checklist is available below.

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