Fun on a Wing

Looking to do something different outdoors? Grab some field glasses for an up-close view of the area's many birds--before some become extinct.


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Common terns are favorites of  birders.
photograph by Larry Graff, courtesy of Delmarva Ornithological Society 

 

The fall might be known as a shoulder season at the beach, but there are still plenty of reasons to return. Those looking for something new should try a hobby that’s, well, for the birds.

Grab those hiking boots and a pair of binoculars, then go birding. This past summer at the Governor’s Tourism Summit, the notion was presented that tourism in Delaware could flourish by letting out a secret residents already know: The state is a prime spot for birding—especially near the beaches.

You don’t have to tell that to Sally O’Byrne, president of the Delmarva Ornithological Society. She’s been touting the fact for years. She thanks Delaware’s geographical diversity for the wide variety of birds that make the state a resting spot.

“In Texas you’d have to travel three or four hours to get what we can get in a much smaller place,” O’Byrne says. “We have the piedmont, which is like the rolling foothills of the Appalachian. We have the coastal plains. We have salt marsh. We have freshwater marshes, and we have the Delaware River and the ocean.”

If the success of “March of the Penguins” taught us anything, it’s that learning about the natural rituals and habits of animals can be fascinating to observe on screen or first-hand. Jeffrey Gordon, an author and bird expert from Lewes, says birding offers a connection to a world busy people might not see.

“It’s a great way of keeping up with the natural world. There’s a real sense of change and movement, a sense of history, rituals that have been going on forever,” Gordon says. “It’s kind of an antidote to the modern world, the schedules and routines and the pace. Seeing this, getting out to nature, really helps to plug people back into the natural order of things.”

 



A green heron is a find for birders.
photograph by Chris Bennett, courtesy of Delmarva Ornithological Society

For bird enthusiasts, varying landscapes mean a rich assortment of terns, gannets, herons, ducks and sandpipers. And because of migration, the kinds of birds you see change with the seasons. The best months to go birding are October and May, when you’ll see birds of the north coming to enjoy milder Mid-Atlantic winters and snow birds flying by to go farther south.

“So in the winter, for example, a lot of the birds which nest in the far north, like a lot of ducks, spend their winters here,” O’Byrne says. “If you see a line of birds that are flying in a line or in a V along the ocean, those are probably going to be scoters, which are a kind of duck. Another line of birds you might see migrating south would be cormorants. Gannets, a white seabird with orange-tipped wings, are always up and diving into the water. They’re not always there, but when they are, they’re really cool to watch.”




An osprey carries its catch at Assawoman Wildlife Area.

photograph by Maurice Barnhill, courtesy of Delmarva Ornithological Society

 

Keep your binoculars focused for large predatory birds such as osprey. The osprey is one of the largest winged hunters in the area. These are the birds that you often see nesting on top of buoys. They thrive along the water, as their diet consists almost exclusively of fish.

 



Snowy egrets are a common sight.

photograph by Larry Graff, courtesy of Delmarva Ornithological Society 


But they aren’t the only fishing birds. Herons and egrets can be seen—and sometimes closer than you think. “Herons and egrets, which are birds that stand in water and fish, are very tall and graceful,” O’Byrne says. “In fact, herons and egrets are also the ones who will go through the ponds in your backyard and eat your goldfish.” Among them are the great blue heron and the snowy egret, which, in the early 1900s, was hunted to near extinction because its feathers were coveted by hat makers. Egrets are since well-protected, thanks to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

One endangered bird that makes its home along the Delaware coast is the piping plover. This bird, recognized by its short bill, sand-colored feathers, black banded forehead and a black ring around the neck, often blends with its background. But the real reason birders may not notice them is that there aren’t many left. Piping plovers come to Delaware to make nests—small depressions in the sand—and hatch eggs, but foxes, off-road vehicles and beach-goers often destroy the nests. If you do see them, do not disturb the birds while they are feeding or nesting.

 



A red knot wades at Indian River Inlet.
photograph
by Larry Graff, courtesy of Delmarva Ornithological Society 

 

Red knots are another rare find. The small birds with long bills flock to Delaware in spring, when they feast on the eggs of horseshoe crabs to fuel up for their migration. They sometimes stay till early September. Year-round birders know that red knots can be quite eye-catching, with red plumage along the head and neck during the breeding season. But as early as August, the birds trade their red plumage for brown and gray feathers.

If you head out in November and December, you won’t have to work too hard to find birds. That’s because snow geese descend on areas like Bombay Hook by the thousands. “[Seeing them] can be a spectacular thing,” says Matthew Bailey, a biologist for Delaware Natural Heritage.

 



The Indian River Inlet attracts many breeds of terns.

photograph by Chris Bennett, courtesy of Delmarva Ornithological Society 

 

 

Birders can get all the scoop on where to go from tours and trips hosted by groups such as the Delmarva Ornithological Society. (Find a schedule at www.dosbirds.org.) The outings are a great way for novice birders to learn from experts and perhaps experience the feeling that bird lovers everywhere get from watching.

“I think for many people that birding can be spiritual,” O’Byrne says. “When you’re by yourself and you’re walking, you become hyper aware of what’s around you—the sounds of the forest, the wind in your face. Then you catch just a little movement in a tree, so you look up with the binoculars, and there’s a flash of color.”

Looking to strike out on your own? Here are some of the best locations:

Cape Henlopen State Park: Near Lewes, Cape Henlopen State Park offers many trails, fishing piers and sand dunes where people can spot birds and enjoy majestic scenery. This past year has seen an abundance of hawks, which attracted birders from all over the area. Gordon suggests that visitors check out the Gordon’s Pond area of the park. “There’s a nice loop for walking or biking, there are observation platforms, and you can see so much—herons, bald eagles, song birds, shore birds, ocean birds. It’s really great because there are so many diverse spots just in this one area.”

Bombay Hook and Prime Hook national wildlife refuges: “Bombay Hook (near Smyrna) has always been the best known, but Prime Hook, which is east of Milton, is just as good,” Gordon says. “Bombay Hook is great because it’s easy to figure out. It’s one big chunk of land with one road leading in, and you know it when you get there. Prime Hook is a little harder, because of all the state roads that run through it. It can be a little harder to navigate, but it’s really outstanding.” Bald eagles and American avocets have been spotted at Bombay Hook during the summers. American woodcocks appear during the spring at Prime Hook. New trails and viewing areas are being built at the refuge to make it more birder-friendly.

 



The great black-backed gull is common in the area. 
photograph
 by Larry Graff, courtesy of Delmarva Ornithological Society 

 

Indian River Inlet State Park: “Indian River Inlet is a nice place to go birding because there are certain gulls and terns and other birds, which are

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February 2018

A winter warm up of colorful, vibrant paintings. Marlene Dubin - bold mixed media abstracts; Elaine Lisle - regional landscapes in oil; Mary Ann Weselyk – whimsical animals and still life...

Cost: free

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The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
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Delaware Art Museum
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Cost: 10

Where:
Greater Philadelphia Expo Center
100 Station Ave
Oaks, PA  19456
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Sponsor: MarketPlace Events
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Delaware Theatre Company
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Cost: $10

Where:
Cinema Art Theater
17701 Dartmouth Drive, #2
Lewes, DE
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Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
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Cost: $10-$15

Where:
Wilmington Drama League
10 West Lea Blvd.
Wilmington, DE  19802
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Sponsor: Wilmington Drama League
Telephone: 302-764-1172
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Cost: Free

Where:
Mezzanine Gallery
Carvel State Office Building, 2nd Floor
820 N. French St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Sponsor: Delaware Division of the Arts
Telephone: 302-577-8278
Contact Name: Roxanne Stanulis
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A winter warm up of colorful, vibrant paintings. Marlene Dubin - bold mixed media abstracts; Elaine Lisle - regional landscapes in oil; Mary Ann Weselyk – whimsical animals and still life...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

By Simon Stephens (playwright of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time") Directed by Matt Pfeiffer REGIONAL PREMIERE! Amidst the bustle of a crowded London train...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Delaware Theatre Company
200 Water Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »

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Cost: $15 adults; $10 UD faculty/staff/alumni & seniors; $5 students

Where:
Gore Recital Hall
110 Orchard Rd
Newark, DE  19716
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Sponsor: University of Delaware Department of Music
Telephone: 130-283-12578
Contact Name: Megan Everhart
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"What the water said…Flowers, Places, & Faces," an exhibition of watercolor paintings by Hugh Phibbs, will be on view in the Mezzanine Gallery from February 2-23, 2018. A free...

Cost: Free

Where:
Mezzanine Gallery
Carvel State Office Building, 2nd Floor
820 N. French St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Delaware Division of the Arts
Telephone: 302-577-8278
Contact Name: Roxanne Stanulis
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A winter warm up of colorful, vibrant paintings. Marlene Dubin - bold mixed media abstracts; Elaine Lisle - regional landscapes in oil; Mary Ann Weselyk – whimsical animals and still life...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

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Cost: Call for cost.

Where:
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital
801 Middleford Road
Seaford, DE  19973
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Telephone: 302-629-6611 x2288
Contact Name: Nanticoke's Diabetes Education Department
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By Simon Stephens (playwright of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time") Directed by Matt Pfeiffer REGIONAL PREMIERE! Amidst the bustle of a crowded London train...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Delaware Theatre Company
200 Water Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »

More information

Show More...
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"What the water said…Flowers, Places, & Faces," an exhibition of watercolor paintings by Hugh Phibbs, will be on view in the Mezzanine Gallery from February 2-23, 2018. A free...

Cost: Free

Where:
Mezzanine Gallery
Carvel State Office Building, 2nd Floor
820 N. French St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Delaware Division of the Arts
Telephone: 302-577-8278
Contact Name: Roxanne Stanulis
Website »

More information

A winter warm up of colorful, vibrant paintings. Marlene Dubin - bold mixed media abstracts; Elaine Lisle - regional landscapes in oil; Mary Ann Weselyk – whimsical animals and still life...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

This community-curated exhibition brings together three painters—Alan Soffer, Brian Dickerson, and Moe Brooker—who are attuned to harmonies and contrasts in abstract forms. Each artist...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
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Cost: FREE

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Faith Victory Christian Center
301 Commonwealth Avenue
Claymont, DE  19703
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Sponsor: Faith Victory Christian Center
Telephone: 302.354.6726
Contact Name: Alvin Walker
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By Simon Stephens (playwright of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time") Directed by Matt Pfeiffer REGIONAL PREMIERE! Amidst the bustle of a crowded London train...

Cost: Varies

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1810 N. Dupont Street
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Cost: Free

Where:
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Newark
420 Willa Road
Newark, DE  19711
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Telephone: 302.368.2984
Contact Name: Richard Field
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"What the water said…Flowers, Places, & Faces," an exhibition of watercolor paintings by Hugh Phibbs, will be on view in the Mezzanine Gallery from February 2-23, 2018. A free...

Cost: Free

Where:
Mezzanine Gallery
Carvel State Office Building, 2nd Floor
820 N. French St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Delaware Division of the Arts
Telephone: 302-577-8278
Contact Name: Roxanne Stanulis
Website »

More information

A winter warm up of colorful, vibrant paintings. Marlene Dubin - bold mixed media abstracts; Elaine Lisle - regional landscapes in oil; Mary Ann Weselyk – whimsical animals and still life...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

This community-curated exhibition brings together three painters—Alan Soffer, Brian Dickerson, and Moe Brooker—who are attuned to harmonies and contrasts in abstract forms. Each artist...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

By Simon Stephens (playwright of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time") Directed by Matt Pfeiffer REGIONAL PREMIERE! Amidst the bustle of a crowded London train...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Delaware Theatre Company
200 Water Street
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STAR Health Sciences Complex
540 S. College Ave
Newark, DE  19713
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Cost: $20 members; $30 non-members

Where:
Delaware Center for Horticulture
1810 N. Dupont Street
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Sponsor: Delaware Center for Horticulture
Telephone: (302) 658-6262
Contact Name: Mackenzie Knight-Fochs
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Tickets are $15 adults; $10 UD faculty/staff/alumni & seniors; $5 students. Tickets are available at the door. Cash or check only.

Cost: $15 adults; $10 UD faculty/staff/alumni & seniors; $5 students

Where:
Gore Recital Hall
110 Orchard Rd
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: University of Delaware Department of Music
Telephone: 130-283-12578
Contact Name: Megan Everhart
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

"What the water said…Flowers, Places, & Faces," an exhibition of watercolor paintings by Hugh Phibbs, will be on view in the Mezzanine Gallery from February 2-23, 2018. A free...

Cost: Free

Where:
Mezzanine Gallery
Carvel State Office Building, 2nd Floor
820 N. French St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Delaware Division of the Arts
Telephone: 302-577-8278
Contact Name: Roxanne Stanulis
Website »

More information

A winter warm up of colorful, vibrant paintings. Marlene Dubin - bold mixed media abstracts; Elaine Lisle - regional landscapes in oil; Mary Ann Weselyk – whimsical animals and still life...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

The area’s largest sale of gently used books has been scheduled by the Wilmington branch of the American Association of University Women. The 49th annual Dollars for Scholars Used Book Sale, to...

Cost: free

Where:
Concord Mall
4737 Concord Pike
North Wilmington, DE  19803
View map »


Sponsor: American Association of University Women
Telephone: 302-428-0939

More information

This community-curated exhibition brings together three painters—Alan Soffer, Brian Dickerson, and Moe Brooker—who are attuned to harmonies and contrasts in abstract forms. Each artist...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

Glory of Stories introduces young visitors to art and the Museum through a story reading followed by an interactive tour of relevant works of art and a studio art project. This program encourages...

Cost: Free to Members, $5 per child and one adult free for Non-Members

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »

More information

By Simon Stephens (playwright of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time") Directed by Matt Pfeiffer REGIONAL PREMIERE! Amidst the bustle of a crowded London train...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Delaware Theatre Company
200 Water Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »

More information

Meeting every Friday, Bayhealth Kent General Hospital, 640 s. State Street, Dover, 7:30 pm., Private Dining Room #3 in the basement. For those who have, or think they may have a gambling problem....

Cost: 0.00

Where:
Bayhealth Kent General Hospital
640 S. State Street
Private Dining Room #3
Dover, DE  19901
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Telephone: 800-855-2CALLGA
Website »

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Show More...
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A winter warm up of colorful, vibrant paintings. Marlene Dubin - bold mixed media abstracts; Elaine Lisle - regional landscapes in oil; Mary Ann Weselyk – whimsical animals and still life...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

The area’s largest sale of gently used books has been scheduled by the Wilmington branch of the American Association of University Women. The 49th annual Dollars for Scholars Used Book Sale, to...

Cost: free

Where:
Concord Mall
4737 Concord Pike
North Wilmington, DE  19803
View map »


Sponsor: American Association of University Women
Telephone: 302-428-0939

More information

This community-curated exhibition brings together three painters—Alan Soffer, Brian Dickerson, and Moe Brooker—who are attuned to harmonies and contrasts in abstract forms. Each artist...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

Ronald Barron was principal trombonist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1975 until 2008. He joined the orchestra in 1970 after being a member of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, and also...

Cost: Free

Where:
Gore Recital Hall
110 Orchard Rd
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: University of Delaware Department of Music
Telephone: 130-283-12578
Contact Name: Megan Everhart
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free; donations accepted

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

By Simon Stephens (playwright of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time") Directed by Matt Pfeiffer REGIONAL PREMIERE! Amidst the bustle of a crowded London train...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Delaware Theatre Company
200 Water Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »

More information

For this Saturday’s activity, visitors will have fun with fluid dynamics and hydraulics - Pascal would be proud! Visitors of all ages are invited to discover solutions to science and engineering...

Cost: Free with admission; Adults: $14, Children 6-14: $5, Children 5 and under: Free

Where:
Hagley Museum and Library
200 Hagley Creek Road
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-658-2400
Website »

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Lights of Life Goes Disco Nights is Delaware’s premier breast cancer fundraiser to benefit the local programs and services of the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition. Join us for a glamorous, fun...

Cost: *VIP $125.00; *Silver Mirror Ball $50.00

Where:
Dover Downs Hotel
, 1131 North Dupont Highway
Dover, DE  19901
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Sponsor: Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition
Telephone: 302-778-1102
Contact Name: Eliza Mohler
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Cost: 0 - $20

Where:
Newark United Methodist Church
69 E. Main St.
Newark, DE  19711
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