Coastal Delaware Birding Blitz

Derek Stoner is the Publicity and Outreach Coordinator for the Delmarva Ornithological Society.  A past president of the organization, he is the co-founder of the Delaware Dunlins Youth Birders Club, a leader of the Delaware Bird-A-Thon, and an avid field birder who enjoys creating events that help to popularize birding and encourage the next generation of birder-conservationists.


Will someone find another Delaware Gray Kingbird? Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Will someone find another Delaware Gray Kingbird? Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Delaware is renowned for the beautiful coastal locations that draw throngs of tourists each summer, to the lower bayshore and the resort towns along the Atlantic coast. After the end of peak tourist season, another large flock of visitors descend upon these same locations. Fall migration funnels huge numbers of birds through this region of the First State, ushered along by strong Northwest winds driving them Southeast where they fetch up along the edge of the coast before the winds drive them over the vast expanse of open ocean. Rivers of raptors, waves of waterfowl, and streams of songbirds push on through in the months of September through December, many of which are bound for South America or the southern United States.

Western Kingbird (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Western Kingbird (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

There are a few avian visitors, however, that do not intend to visit this location and are in fact thought to be mis-placed migrants. The better term for these birds is vagrants, as they typically do not occur in this region and are then considered rare when they appear here. A Western Kingbird that typically migrates through Texas and Mexico on its way to the tropics for the winter may end up on the East Coast if it gets caught up in strong Westerly winds (or has an off-kilter internal compass). In its normal range in the Western US, that kingbird is very common and an expected sight in summer. Here in Delaware, that same kingbird is considered very rare, and catches the attention of excited birders.

Back in September after a very successful inaugural Fall Warbler Weekend in Delaware, I asked Delaware-based members of the highly-skilled and bird-savvy Nemesis Bird blog team if they would be interested in running an event to look for vagrant birds and other interesting Fall migrants. Of course their answer was a resounding “Yes!” and that set in motion a plan for an organized pursuit of the “prize birds” of Fall migration.  

Wearing my hat as Publicity and Outreach Coordinator for the Delmarva Ornithological Society, I am honored to be teaming up Alan Kneidel, Alex Lamoreaux, and Tim Schreckengost — all incredibly knowledgeable, enthusiastic field birders who are part of the Nemesis Bird team. We decided to create a birding opportunity modeled after the great birding tradition in Maryland known as the Rarity Roundup. For fifteen years, amazingly dedicated teams of Maryland birders have combed the coast of their state on a mid-November weekend, turning up an impressive tally of rarities and uncommon birds. Birders in Virginia and Maine also conduct Fall Rarity Roundups, so I decided it was time that Delaware held its own unique event to take advantage of an incredibly exciting time to be in the field in pursuit of birds.  

With the Indian River Inlet Sea Watch and the Cape Henlopen Hawk Watch regularly turning up fantastic Fall rarities, we are already aware of the potential for rarities to be discovered along the coastal areas. And there are plenty more interesting birds just waiting to be found by lucky observers.

I invite you to join us for the first annual Coastal Delaware Birding Blitz, and I will let the talented Tim Schreckengost take it from here in explaining the plans for the event!

The Coastal Delaware Birding Blitz (CDBB) will be held on November 15th, 2014 and there will be two scouting days the previous weekend – November 8th and 9th. The main target area for the blitz is coastal habitat between Fowler Beach Road and the Indian River Inlet, with primary focus on scrub habitat, but the bay and ocean will not be neglected. Over the next few weeks, we will publish a potential species list, areas that will be targeted during the CDBB, and a specific strategy for folks covering the target areas.

The Who: We need birders of all skill levels to help with the CDBB!

The What: Scouring scrub-shrub habitat and the bay/ocean for rarities (list to come).

The When: November 15th will be the primary blitz day. Scouting will occur on November 8th and 9th. Follow-up will occur on November 16th.

The Where: Coastal Delaware from Fowler Beach Road to the Indian River Inlet

The How: To register for the CDBB, please contact Alan Kneidel at akneidel AT gmail DOT com.

More details will be released over the next week.

Good birding,
Derek and Tim