Delaware's Birding Spectacles
Shorebirds, Shorebirds, Shorebirds!
Commonly known as "the Shorebird Capital of North America", Delaware hosts a one-of-a-kind natural phenomenon that exists between migrating shorebirds and horseshoe crabs each May. After flying north for over five thousand miles nonstop, a four day journey, Red Knots depend upon the millions of horseshoe crabs eggs laid along the Delaware Bay shoreline starting after the first full moon in May. The birds time their arrival to coincide with the horseshoe crabs spawning and feast upon the protein and fat rich eggs that will fuel their migration to their breeding grounds in the Arctic Tundra, another 1000 plus miles in two days! The result : a two week staging area for the world's largest remaining population of Red Knot rufa, accompanied by thousands of Ruddy Turnstones, Sanderlings, Dunlin, Semipalmated Sandpipers and other shorebirds - a spectacle not witnessed anywhere else on Earth! Viewing this incredible phenomenon is easily achieved throughout the entire Slaughter Beach area and enhanced viewing is possible at The DuPont Nature Center at Mispillion Reserve http://www.dupontnaturecenter.org/
During both Spring and Fall migrations, rarities such as Curlew, Ruff, godwits and phalaropes are regular sightings. Although the Spring migration is short, it is filled with large numbers of shorebirds covering the bay coastline as far as your optics can focus! Starting in July and continuing into October, the Fall shorebird migration is marked with large flocks of American Avocet, plovers and the more uncommon Baird's, Buff-breasted and Upland sandpipers easily found in newly tilled farmlands.
Due to it's geographical proximity to the Atlantic Ocean coastline, the Delaware River, extensive marsh habitat, Delaware and Chesapeake Bays and the Atlantic Flyway, Delaware hosts huge numbers of both wintering and staging waterfowl. Prime months for viewing this spectacle are mid-October through early March. Massive flocks numbering in the tens of thousands of Snow Geese make their annual migration southward to the farmlands and refuges of Delaware each winter.
The ocean coastline and near-shore birding during winter is exceptional with staging flocks of scoters, Long-tailed Ducks, mergansers and loons, with the occasional Common Eiders and Harlequin Ducks. Scanning the ocean's horizon will often produce Gannets and jaegers to add to the excitement of birding Delaware's ocean coastline.
On a typical late Fall-early Winter birding adventure, over 25 different species of waterfowl can be found, many providing large numbers and excellent viewing and photographic opportunities.