Saturday, May 24, 2008

Redetermined Migration, Part III

24 May, 2008: Slaughter Beach, DE

Following two earlier stops we resumed our migration south, intending the next stop to be our destination, Chincoteague NWR, VA. But the call of an actual beach was too enticing, especially since there were small parking areas between summer homes every quarter mile or so allowing public access. The DuPont Nature Center was pretty much a "stationary count" so we quickly decided to take off the shoes and stroll in the surf before committing to an afternoon in the car.

We weren't the only ones with that in mind. The beach was covered in shorebirds, almost exclusively Sanderlings.

Sanderling Flock
This small flock was just the beginning. Imagine replicating that group of shorebirds and tightly packing new groups all along the coast, as far as your eye, aided with 10x binoculars, could see. In both directions. More birds flew in, but fewer flew out. Like the surf is never still, the beach seemed to be constantly quivering as distant birds scurried back and forth. I couldn't give you an accurate estimate. Thousands of birds? Tens of thousands? I'd probably be off by an order of magnitude.

SanderlingAlways casting a wary eye, some birds were bolder than others.

They were on this beach for the same reason they covered Mispillion, and for the same reason they were covering beaches all over Delaware Bay. Unfortunately, no Red Knots available for close-up photo ops.

Horseshoe CrabsMale Horseshoe Crabs, smaller in size,
attempting to mate with the larger female.

Horseshoe Crab eggs were probably everywhere, though we didn't find any, probably because we didn't look. Reina was worried about some of the stranded crabs, those that couldn't right themselves while on their back, those that were high on the dry sand feebly trying to make their way back to the ocean. She and Donna helped save crabs, I couldn't help but watch the shorebirds.

DunlinA handsome, breeding-plumaged Dunlin wades in the surf.

Finally we decided really needed to get going. In the scrub as we reached the parking lot I ticked the only landbird for this stop, a striking Common Yellowthroat.

Common YellowthroatCommon Yellowthroat in the dunes along the shore.

How close was he? Look closely and you can even see a filoplume emerging from the back of his head.

Finally it was on to Chincoteague.


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