Delmarva Coast, February 24, 2014

Home to Chincoteague

All photos are Marshall Faintich

Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel Island #1

Walt and I got an early morning start, and we made it to our first stop, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel Island #1 at 9:45 a.m. It was cold and very windy, but we were excited to be there under sunny skies. There were lots of ducks, gulls, shore birds, and Double-crested Cormorants on the bridge, rocks, and in the water. The first birds I photographed were two Ruddy Turnstones and a Purple Sandpiper (one of my target birds and my life bird #525). Then I saw some Black Scoters in the water below (another one of my target birds and my life bird #526).

Other ducks there included Greater and Lesser Scaups and Red-breasted Mergangers. We saw Ring-billed and Great Black-backed Gulls, and a large flock of Northern Gannets diving into the water.

Purple Sandpiper

Purple Sandpiper

Black Scoter

First winter Great Black-backed Gull

Female Red-breasted Merganger

Female Lesser Scaup

Eastern Shore National Wildlife Refuge

We made a quick stop at the Eastern Shore NWR where we saw a few ducks and some woodland birds. A vocal Red-tailed Hawk circled above. I was especially interested in checking out the American Wigeons because one of my target birds was an Eurasian Wigeon, and this rare species often joins an American Wigeon flock.

American Black Ducks

American Wigeons

American Wigeons

Red-tailed Hawk

Willis Wharf, VA

Birders Clyde Morris and Joelle Buffa had posted some bird sightings at Chicoteague earlier in the month, and were kind to respond to my e-mail questions. I had asked them about several of my target birds, including a Marbled Godwit. They recommended that I look for the Godwits at Willis Wharf.

A few miles before we got to Willis Wharf, we saw a huge flock of Snow Geese, and a single Snow Goose in a field along the highway. Little did we know that the flock of Snow Geese was only the beginning of what we would see on the rest of the trip.

Snow Geese

As we approached Willis Wharf, I was hoping to see a Marbled Godwit (my life bird #527). As soon as we parked and looked out into the water, I couldn't believe my eyes. There were about 150 Marbled Godwits! With my 400mm lens, I couldn't get the entire flock in one photo. And then we saw some of the Godwits flying to the shore where there were even more of them.

Marbled Godwits

Marbled Godwits

Marbled Godwits

Marbled Godwits

We also saw Willets and Short-billed Dowitchers there. It was 12:30 p.m., and I already had three life birds since arriving at our first stop less than three hours earlier.

Marbled Godwits and Willets

Chincoteague and Assateague Islands

It was low tide as we crossed the marsh and bridge to Chincoteague Island. Oyster beds were exposed, and we saw at least a dozen American Oystercatchers and a few other shore birds and gulls. We also saw a Common Loon and a Red-necked Grebe.

American Oystercatchers

American Oystercatcher

Common Loon

Red-necked Grebe

As an added bonus, we saw a Harbor(?) Seal pup catching some sunlight.

Harbor(?) Seal pup

Harbor(?) Seal pup

We drove across Chincoteague and headed straight for the Assateague Island National Seashore to make the best use of the remaining afternoon sunlight. There were a few wading and shore birds, lots of ducks and gulls, and a fairly large number of Tundra Swans in the cove. I took lots of photos of the ducks, even the distant groupings, hoping to find a Eurasian Wigeon. Sure enough, after processing the photos, I found a Eurasian Wigeon (my life bird #528) with a group of four American Wigeons in one of my photos. I also saw an American Wigeon with some reddish gold coloring on its head - perhaps it was an American x Eurasian hybrid back-crossed with an American Wigeon??

Great Egret

Immature Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Tundra Swan

Tundra Swan

Tundra Swan and American Wigeon

American Wigeons

American Wigeons and Eurasian Wigeon (left)

American Wigeon with unusual coloring

Male Red-breasted Merganser

Female Red-breasted Merganser

Click here to go the day #2 report and photos: Chincoteague to Rehobeth.

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