Registration open for Winter Delmarva Birding Weekend

Date Published: 
January 5, 2018

Registration for the Winter Delmarva Birding Weekend is now open at www.DelmarvaBirding.com for the birding extravaganza slated for Jan. 26-28.

Nature lovers may be aware of the Spring Delmarva Birding Weekend held in April, but organizers have again planned another schedule of field trips in late January to showcase Delmarva’s diversity of winter wildlife.

“We enjoy such a big difference in bird species in winter and spring that it just made sense to host two weekends,” said Worcester County Tourism Director Lisa Challenger. Now waterfowl, raptor and songbird lovers can enjoy an arctic experience on the peninsula.

Travelling thousands of miles, harlequin ducks, eiders, purple sandpipers, falcons and more than 25 species of duck, goose and swans are on full display in the Mid-Atlantic for about four months a year. More than 105 species were tallied in 2017.

There are also opportunities to see unusual winter rarities, such as a snowy owl or snow bunting. Both species have been seen recently along the Delmarva coast. Birding Weekend organizers said the only way to see the birds is to shed those winter blues, dust off the binoculars and get outside.

Seals are a draw, too, with close-up looks at harbor and gray seals on the breakwaters in Delaware Bay during the Lewes boat trip that departs from Fisherman’s Wharf.

Guided by local birders with decades-long experience on the shore, the walking tours and boat trips accommodate visitors from the curious nature lover to fowl fanatics. Last year, birdwatchers from surrounding states flocked to the winter event, organizers said.

“Most folks have no idea how spectacular the winter birding is down here,” said guide and event co-organizer Jim Rapp. “The sheer number of bald eagles and ducks is mind-boggling. We’re hosting the event on the weekend between the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl, so we hope you’ll get off the couch, bundle up and get outdoors!”

The winter trips feature a near-shore maritime boat cruise to enjoy pelagic and arctic migrants, waterfowl and eagle-watching trips, and jaunts in Delaware and Maryland through what are considered some of the most pristine habitats on the East Coast.

Organizers said participants often recount the event in terms of experiences rather than simply observing birds — thousands of snow geese lifting off a farm field, a majestic bald eagle soaring over the marsh, long-tailed ducks bobbing on the waves at the inlets, or the eerie hoot and shadow of a great horned owl at dusk. An outdoor experience is the true draw, they said.

The Delmarva Peninsula is considered one of the country’s premier birding areas, thanks to an extensive variety of habitat protected by coastal parks, refuges and wildlife management areas. More than 400 bird species have been recorded in the region, and previous Weekend tallies have topped 200 species.

“Delaware is teeming with bird species in winter,” said Southern Delaware Tourism Director Scott Thomas, “and this is a great place to experience them.”

If seeing so many bird species isn’t enough, participants can feel even better knowing that they’ve helped Delmarva’s birds by promoting birding and habitat conservation. Organizers of the event said birders, both novice and experienced, make an important statement about the economic value of birds and their habitats through the money they spend in local hotels, restaurants and shops.

Participants are being encouraged to remind local businesses that they are there to enjoy Delmarva’s natural areas and the birds that inhabit them.

“It’s our vast shallow bays and large tracts of protected marshes and bald cypress forests that make the Delmarva Peninsula one of the finest birding regions in the nation,” said guide and event co-organizer Dave Wilson. “During the Weekends, our guests will hike on private farmland and woodland that are normally off-limits to birders, and our waterborne trips go where the birds are. It’s amazing to tally 100 species in a single day on light hikes and boat trips in our own backyard.”

Gift certificates and customized private birding tours are available as holiday gifts.

The Spring Delmarva Birding Weekend, held April 26-29, celebrates the migration of the spring suite of warblers, shorebirds, waterfowl and raptors. Registration for the spring event will open later this month.

In addition, 2018 continues the Beans, Birds & Beers day-trip series, starting in February and continuing throughout the year all over the Lower Shore. Participants can enjoy local coffee, birds and craft brews on half- or full-day excursions.

Sponsorship and event registration information can be found at www.DelmarvaBirding.com.