Category Archives: Birding Delaware

Finding the Red-headed Woodpeckers at Lums Pond State Park – December 2015

Two Red-headed Woodpeckers seem to be overwintering at Lums Pond State Park in Bear, Delaware. I was fortunate to catch up with them a few days ago and decided to write this post to help others find the birds quickly.

Red-headed Woodpecker at Lums Pond State Park on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Red-headed Woodpecker at Lums Pond State Park on December 12, 2015. Digiscoped with a iPhone 6 Plus | Vortex Optics Razor HD 20-60×85 | Phone Skope Adapter. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Enter Lums Pond State Park off Howell School Rd. and follow signs for the GoApe Zip Line course, which is located near Area 1 of the park. Park in theĀ GoApe parking lot and walk to the beach. Once on the beach, turn around and look at the trees in between you and the parking lot (map below). The birds have been foraging in this area for a few weeks now. They are extremely vocal and active, so make sure to brush up on their call (below) before going to see them.

Here’s a map showing the exact stand of trees (Red Pin) the birds are inhabiting. The best spot to look and listen for them is on the beach just south of the Red Pin. Zoom out on the map to get a feel for where exactly in the park the woodpeckers are.

Please let me know in the comments if you find guides like this useful. If so, I will make more of them to optimize chasing rarities and county and state birds.

December Highlights – A Glorious Day of Birding in New Castle County

The plan for the day was to check out the Ashton Tract of Augustine Wildlife Area and then to chum for gulls at Augustine Beach. That all changed when Alan Kneidel, Tim Frieday, and I crossed Reedy Point Bridge to find a large flock of geese in a corn stubble field. Every time we see a flock of geese, we have to check it out. It’s like a game of “Where’s Waldo.” There is usually a “waldo” in the flock, but it may take some time to find it. Anyway, we searched and scanned, but came up empty on the goose front. We did, however, hear two Sandhill Cranes calling from somewhere within or around Thousand Acre Marsh!

Canada Geese at C&D Canal Wildlife Area on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Canada Geese at C&D Canal Wildlife Area on December 12, 2015. Digiscoped with a iPhone 6 Plus + Vortex Optics Razor HD 20-60×85 & Phone Skope Adapter. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

The effort was not “empty,” and actually paid off as we discovered the landbird activity was phenomenal in the thickets adjacent to the road, which was part of the C&D Canal Wildlife Area (eBird Checklist). Along the edge, we encountered a number of uncommon birds for December, including Eastern Phoebe, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Gray Catbird, Fox Sparrow, Eastern Towhee, and Baltimore Oriole.

We worked the roadside thickets for a while, then proceeded down a trail that lead to what we call “The Salina.”

C&D Canal Wildlife Area on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

C&D Canal Wildlife Area on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

We pushed birds the entire length of the trail, encountering Ruby-crowned Kinglet and many, many White-throated, Song, and Savannah Sparrows. Brown Thrasher and White-crowned Sparrow were also good ticks.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet at C&D Canal Wildlife Area on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet at C&D Canal Wildlife Area on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

At the end of that trail, we stumbled upon a massive mixed-species flock of sparrows. Mixed in were a handful of American Tree and White-crowned Sparrows (uncommon for the most part in the state), numerous White-throated and Song, and a bunch of Savannah Sparrows.

American Tree Sparrow at C&D Canal Wildlife Area on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

American Tree Sparrow at C&D Canal Wildlife Area on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

We progressed towards the Delaware River, picking through the flock of sparrows. Eventually, the flock dissipated, allowing us to make a run for the river with few(er) distractions.

C&D Canal Wildlife Area on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

C&D Canal Wildlife Area on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

At the river, Alan picked out a Great Cormorant (uncommon in the county) flying upriver and a Marsh Wren sounded off. There was no waterbird movement on the river and landbird activity slowed dramatically on the walk back, so we decided to move on to the next location.

Alan and Tim Frieday scanning the Delaware River at C&D Canal Wildlife Area on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Alan and Tim Frieday scanning the Delaware River at C&D Canal Wildlife Area on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Our next stop was the Ashton Tract of Augustine Wildlife Area (eBird Checklist). Our primary goal here was to study the continuing Glossy Ibis and tick the immature Little Blue Herons that have been hanging around. Alan immediately found the ibis and the herons, which fortunately were close enough for a thorough study session.

Little Blue Herons at Ashton Tract (Augustine Wildlife Area) on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Little Blue Herons at Ashton Tract (Augustine Wildlife Area) on December 12, 2015. Digiscoped with a iPhone 6 Plus + Vortex Optics Razor HD 20-60×85 & Phone Skope Adapter. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Glossy Ibis at Ashton Tract (Augustine Wildlife Area) on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Glossy Ibis at Ashton Tract (Augustine Wildlife Area) on December 12, 2015. Digiscoped with a iPhone 6 Plus + Vortex Optics Razor HD 20-60×85 & Phone Skope Adapter. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Otherwise, Ashton Tract was relatively slow, but we did manage a few new waterbird species for the day, including Gadwall, Northern Shoveler, and American Coot.

American Coots at Ashton Tract (Augustine Wildlife Area) on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

American Coots at Ashton Tract (Augustine Wildlife Area) on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Augustine Beach was next (eBird Checklist). We were extremely pumped to bird at Augustine Beach because we planned on chumming for gulls. We had a trash bag full of freshly-popped popcorn, saltines, and a variety of other goodies. While we roped in almost 200 Ring-billed Gulls, most other species weren’t interested.

Ring-billed Gull at Augustine Beach on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Ring-billed Gull at Augustine Beach on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Ring-billed Gull at Augustine Beach on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Ring-billed Gull at Augustine Beach on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

After nearly 45 minutes of chumming, we drug in a few other species, including Herring, Great Black-backed, and Laughing Gull.

Herring Gull at Augustine Beach on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Herring Gull at Augustine Beach on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Great Black-backed Gull at Augustine Beach on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Great Black-backed Gull at Augustine Beach on December 12, 2015. Digiscoped with a iPhone 6 Plus + Vortex Optics Razor HD 20-60×85 & Phone Skope Adapter. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Laughing Gull at Augustine Beach on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Laughing Gull at Augustine Beach on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Tim (the other Tim) managed to pick out a female-type Black Scoter sitting on the water at a distance. We later saw the same bird flying upriver towards Delaware City.

Augustine Beach was supposed to be our last stop, but we made a last minute decision to check on the continuing Red-headed Woodpeckers at Lums Pond State Park (eBird Checklist). Before we could make it into the park, we found another flock of geese. Of course, we had to spend a few minutes picking through it, but were unable to turn up anything notable.

We then made our way to Area 1, where the woodpeckers have been seen almost daily for a couple of weeks now. The beach at Area 1 is a great place to scan the pond, but today the water was void of avian life.

Lums Pond State Park on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Lums Pond State Park on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

As we were scanning the pond, we heard one Red-headed Woodpecker. The bird was very active, which made documenting difficult. I did manage a few video clips, in which I grabbed this still shot from.

Red-headed Woodpecker at Lums Pond State Park on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Red-headed Woodpecker at Lums Pond State Park on December 12, 2015. Digiscoped with a iPhone 6 Plus + Vortex Optics Razor HD 20-60×85 & Phone Skope Adapter. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

As the bird above was foraging and caching, we heard another bird call behind us. We were able to track this bird down, which was gorgeous in its own right as it had an almost complete, red head.

Red-headed Woodpecker at Lums Pond State Park on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Red-headed Woodpecker at Lums Pond State Park on December 12, 2015. Digiscoped with a iPhone 6 Plus + Vortex Optics Razor HD 20-60×85 & Phone Skope Adapter. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

We watched the two woodpeckers for a while and as we were doing so, a number of other birds joined in a flock-like fashion, including Red-bellied, Downy, and Hairy Woodpeckers, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Dark-eyed Junco, Eastern Bluebird, and more. On the way out, we were graced by the presence of this beautiful Merlin.

Merlin at Lums Pond State Park on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Merlin at Lums Pond State Park on December 12, 2015. Digiscoped with a iPhone 6 Plus + Vortex Optics Razor HD 20-60×85 & Phone Skope Adapter. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Overall, this ended up being one of my all-time favorite days of birding in Delaware. Unfortunately, this may have been my last day of birding in the First State as I am leaving the state on Tuesday. My wife and I are moving to Grove City, PA, where we’ll start the next “chapter” (more on that later).

DOS Local Patch Birding Series – Newark Reservoir Trip Summary – December 5, 2015

Birders searching for avian life at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Birders searching for avian life at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

This morning, I was joined by nine birders for the DOS Local Patch Birding Series trip to the Newark Reservoir. The Newark Reservoir is located in the heart of Newark, Delaware and is surrounded by fragmented forest and urbanization. To this day, 154 species have been recorded at this eBird hotspot.

Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware - December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

The walk started off with Song and White-throated Sparrows sounding off, American Pipits flying over, and a Red-winged Blackbird singing as if it were on territory. As we walked the path around the side of the reservoir, we spotted a beautiful Red-shouldered Hawk perched, in which all participants got excellent scope views.

Red-shouldered Hawk at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Red-shouldered Hawk at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Digiscoped with a iPhone 6 Plus + Vortex Razor HD 20-60×85 & Phone Skope Adapter. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

We reached the top of the path and of course the Red-shouldered Hawk flew off, but we did catch up with it in-flight later in the walk. We were surprised and mildly bummed to only find nine Ring-billed Gulls and a lone Canada Goose on the water. Recently, there have been several hundred Canada Geese and a variety of other waterbirds, but waterbird diversity was not present today.

Ring-billed Gulls at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Ring-billed Gulls at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Additional Ring-billed Gulls joined the crowd as we walked around the loop and seemed to pick up on a food source that was not apparent to us. The gulls eventually landed, allowing us to really study their plumage.

Ring-billed Gulls at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Ring-billed Gulls at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

We were discussing ages of Ring-billed Gulls when Alan yelled, “Snow Bunting on the path!” I couldn’t believe it, a rarity for New Castle County and the first record for the reservoir! The bunting was a lifer for a few folks in the group, which made it an even more savory experience. Plus, the bird was extremely cooperative allowing for great scope views and photo and video opportunities.

Snow Bunting at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Digiscoped with a iPhone 6 Plus + Vortex Optics Razor HD 20-60x85 & Phone Skope Adapter. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Snow Bunting at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Digiscoped with a iPhone 6 Plus + Vortex Optics Razor HD 20-60×85 & Phone Skope Adapter. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Birders admiring the Snow Bunting at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Birders admiring the Snow Bunting at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Warning: This video contains three minutes of pure Snow Bunting cuteness. Soak it in.

After watching the Snow Bunting for ten minutes or so, we moved on to watch Northern Flickers and Red-bellied Woodpeckers fly from tree to tree and a few Canada Geese drop in for a visit.

Canada Geese at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Canada Geese at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

We also stumbled upon several flocks of Dark-eyed Juncos with a few White-throated, Chipping, and Song Sparrows mixed in. Eastern Bluebirds even made and appearance!

Birders checking out the Dark-eyed Junco flocks at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Birders checking out the Dark-eyed Junco flocks at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

To round out the walk, I was telling a story about a Marsh Wren I found at the reservoir a few weeks ago and a Marsh Wren started scolding in the same exact spot! What are the chances of a wren stopping over in the same, small patch of cattails for over three weeks. Birds are awesome!

In the end, we spent two hours birding in calm, sunny conditions at the Newark Reservoir tallying at least 38 species (eBird Checklist). You never know what you will find if you visit a local patch over and over again. The Newark Reservoir is still my favorite birding spot in the state of Delaware. Check out the DOS Field Trip Schedule for upcoming trips to local and regional birding hotspots.

DNREC Needs Brant and Tundra Swan Reports

There was a post to DE-Birds this afternoon requesting reports of Brant and Tundra Swans in the state of Delaware. Details below.

“Greetings all,

The Division of Fish and Wildlife is seeking reports of Brant and Tundra Swans.

For Brant, we are looking for locations where the birds are easily visible so that staff can get accurate counts of individual birds as well as determine age and sex.

For tundra swans, we are interested in specific locations and numbers of swans, especially when the group totals more than 20 birds.

Please send these reports to Jesse Baird at Charles.Baird@state.de.us

Thanks for any assistance you can provide!

Good birding,

Anthony”

Atlantic Brant at the Indian River Marina, Sussex Co, DE on November 2, 2014. Digiscoped with a Samsung Galaxy S4 + Vortex Razor HD 20-60x85 & Phone Skope Adapter. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Atlantic Brant at the Indian River Marina, Sussex Co, DE on November 2, 2014. Digiscoped with a Samsung Galaxy S4 + Vortex Razor HD 20-60×85 & Phone Skope Adapter. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Loggerhead Shrike, 13 curves style!

As I drive around Sussex County, I’m always looking for vagrants/rarities. Western Kingbird, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Mississippi Kite, you name it and I’m looking for it. One species I never seek out, but is always in the back of my mind, is Loggerhead Shrike. Loggerhead Shrike is an uncommon vagrant/migrant in Delaware with only 10 previously accepted records for Delaware.

Bobby Wilcox and I were driving down Thirteen Curves Rd. when I noticed a bird with bold whit wing patches flush off a tree and I yelled, “Shrike!” I immediately pulled the car over and started telling Bobby about how rare to uncommon shrikes are in Delaware.I thought here were more records, but as it turns out there are only ten accepted records. Why not add another to it?

As you can see, there are only TEN previously accepted records by DOS, so this represents the 11th state record, pending acceptance of course. I think this photo, as well as epic shots from Chuck Fullmer (see below), will get the record accepted.

Loggerhead Shrike - Delaware

It looks like a Loggerhead Shrike, or LOSH, right? The records committee should accept it, right? I hope so! I mean, I know my photo is nothing EPIC, but Chuck Fullmer laid down this crushing shot.

That’s what a 600mm lens can do. Some day, some day, I will have something that will produce a photo like this. Chuck is awesome. Everyone should hang out with him! Also, if you have a boat and need it wrapped and stored, check out Pontoon Express!

Everyone likes boats, right?

Connecticut Warbler at McCabe Nature Preserve

Early this afternoon I found a Connecticut Warbler at McCabe Nature Preserve (eBird checklist). I think this is the first record for the preserve, which is located just outside of Milton, Delaware. I had high hopes of landing a Nashville Warbler or Blue-headed Vireo for my Delaware year list, but had no expectation of finding a Connecticut Warbler (CONW). The bird wasn’t acting like a textbook CONW (you know, skulky and hard to see), but was straight up chillin’ on bare branches in a young hardwood stand. Who goes out to find a Nashville Warbler and finds a Connecticut Warbler? Anyway, I don’t have much time to write so here are the photos.

The next three photos are a bit overexposed, but still get the job done.

Lesser Black-backed Gulls at Cape Henlopen SP

Taj Schottland and I spent Saturday morning at Cape Henlopen Sate Park scouring the veg for migrants. We found a Common Yellowthroat, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and two Red-eyed Vireos. Pretty lame, right? It got better as soon as we walked out to the beach near the hawk watch. We found a decent-sized flock of gulls resting on the beach containing Laughing, Ring-billed, Herring, and Great and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. There were five Lesser Black-backed Gulls mixed in with the flock. We later had two flyovers.

Lesser Black-backed Gulls are relatively common along the Delaware coast in fall and winter, but can be found year round.

Lesser Black-backed Gulls records for August through March. Credit – eBird.org

I cannot remember the ages of all five gulls, but I have photos of at least three different birds. Two adults and one immature bird. I don’t have much experience with ageing, but I think the immature bird is a second or third winter bird. Suggestions or corrections are greatly appreciated.

Adult Lesser Black-backed Gull at Cape Henlopen State Park on 28 September 2013. iPhone photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Adult Lesser Black-backed Gull at Cape Henlopen State Park on 28 September 2013. iPhone photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Second or third winter Lesser Black-backed Gull at Cape Henlopen State Park on 28 September 2013. iPhone photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls at Cape Henlopen State Park on 28 September 2013. iPhone photo by Tim Schreckengost.

The four bottom photos were digiscoped with an iPhone 4S + Celestron Regal M2 80ED & Phone Skope Adapter.

Again, let me know in the comments what you think about the ageing of these gulls. Thanks!

Until next time, bird hard my friends.