I had just gotten back to Newark, DE after a 500-mile marathon drive from Charlotte, NC. I was on the downside of a 5-hour energy and the audiobook voices of Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow were running rampant through my head.
Staggering into my room to lay down and rest my frazzled bum, I heard my housemate Taj Schottland screaming from down the hallway. Oh no, I thought.
Was there a rodent loose in the basement? Were there scantily clad babes at the door?
Instead, Taj alerted me that there was a King Eider in southern Delaware at the Mispillion River Inlet. Bzoink. My first reaction was NO. I WON’T. My second, involuntary brain calculation ran as follows a.) King Eider = state bird b.) must go now.
An 1.5 hour later we were standing on the deck of the Dupont Nature Center overlooking the Mispillion River flow into Delaware Bay. After moments of bird-less anxiety, we leaped into the air as a young male eider swam out from its sandbar recluse. The bird was visible for only ten seconds before it swam behind a wall of phragmites. Check out Tim Schreckengost’s account of this bird by clicking here.
Mission accomplished. Delaware year bird #260.
After the momentary elation, a tiny pang of guilt hit us. The come down. 1.5 hours of driving to watch a bird for ten seconds, only to turn around again? What’s wrong with us??
To solve this moral quandary, we drove another thirty minutes south to meet up with Tim Schreckengost and Ben Zyla at the Dogfish Head Brewery in Rehoboth.
What’s the moral of the King Eider Story? The moral is that in Delaware, even after 5 p.m., you can drive to the other end of the state, get a state bird and a couple beers, and get home by 9 p.m.
Okay, now let’s rewind a few months, back when I didn’t care about state and county lists.
That’s the attitude I brought with me when I moved to Delaware for graduate school in January. Although I’m a very serious birder, it took me a month to drive five minutes to see the 1st state record Anna’s Hummingbird. At the same time, I turned a blind eye to countless other nearby vagrants, whether it was a woodstar, fieldfare, or godwit. Rather than mooch off others discoveries, I’d always found greater thrill in the search for the unfound… or… maybe I just saw it as a waste of gas and time.
Then why did I drive down for a King Eider? A bird I’ve seen a bunch of?
You just have to move to Delaware. If, for whatever sadistic reason, you wanted to convert a sane person into a twitching lister, just tell them to pack their bags and move to The First State.
For state and county lists, nowhere is the playing field more level, the terrain more accessible. 3 counties. 1 state. 90 miles north to south, 30 miles east to west. Hilly and deciduous in the north, flat as a pancake marsh, pine, and agriculture to the south. It’s that simple. Highest elevation? A paltry 450 feet. There is nothing standing between you and running circles around this state.
It doesn’t hurt that packed within Delaware’s 2,500 square miles are some of the premier birding hotspots on the east coast, including Delaware Bay, Bombay Hook and Prime Hook NWR. The tiny state boasts around 405 recorded species, including mega rarities like Whiskered Tern, White-winged Tern (three at one time) and European Golden-Plover.
I’ve now lived in Delaware eight months, and have become a compulsive state lister. Whereas I still scoff at breaking it down to counties, I’m not sure about anything anymore. I’m obsessed.
Anyways, I’d tell you more but I’ve got to go… I need to add Black Tern to my fledgling state list. And yes, I’m willing to mooch.
More stories to come.