Assateague Island, Virginia
Walt and I crossed over from Chincoteague Island onto Assateague Island a little before 7:00 a.m. It was sunny, but bitterly cold. We had decided to head north, but wanted to give the Assateague Island National Seashore another try before we left.
Great Blue Heron
As we drove along the hard-packed sandy beach road, gulls were dropping shellfish on the road to crack them open, and one nearly landed on top of my car.
Great Black-backed Gull having its breakfast
After a quick drive around the area, we headed southwest to the Saxis pier and the Saxis Wildlife Managment Area. By the time we got there, the skies were completely cloud covered, and the lighting had gotten very dark. I had read reports of several of my target birds being seen there recently, but we only saw a few birds at and near the pier, and finding the WMA was a real challenge. The Virginia DGIF wildlife book said to turn off of route 695 onto route 788 but we couldn't find route 788. There was a small sign to the WMA, but the road sign there was 688. When we turned onto that road, my car GPS read 788! The DGIF guide also mentioned two named marsh areas in the WMA, but there wasn't any signage indicating where they were.
Our next planned stop was the inlet at Ocean City, Maryland. I suggested to Walt that we stop along the way at the north end of Assateague Island (in Maryland) to look for the Snowy Owls, and he agreed it was worth a try. When we were driving near Berlin, MD, we turned the car around when we saw Snow Geese in a large field. The line of geese was about 300 yards long.
As we got closer, we could see that the line of geese was six to ten geese deep, and that there were a few dark morph Snow Geese (Blue Geese) in the flock.
Snow Geese: white morph juvenile (front), dark morph adult (middle); dark morph juvenile (back)
All of a sudden, the entire flock of Snow Geese took off, flew around in a large circle, and then landed back in the field. They must have needed some exercise! It was interesting to see that most of the dark morph Snow Geese found each other in flight and flew as a small group.
Dark morph Snow Geese
By the time we got to the north end of Assateague Island, it looked like the forecasted night time snow was going to start early that day. As soon as we crossed the bridge over to Assateague Island, we were surprised and happy to see six of the wild ponies along the road.
We drove into the national park area, and it started to snow. We searched a bit in the cold and snow for the Snowy Owls, but almost all the birds were hunkered down. All we saw was a loon in the ocean. As we drove back, some of the ponies were still by the bridge road.
It was still snowing when we reached the Ocean City inlet, and all we saw there were a few Surf Scoters and another Common Loon.
The Indian River inlet in Delaware was much more productive. The skies were still dark, but the snow had stopped. The wind had picked up as well, making the wind chill difficult to tolerate. But the inlet and nearby ocean was filled with ducks and gulls - mostly Surf and Black Scoters, but a few other surprises for us as well.
Scoters, gulls, and more
One of my favorite ducks is the Long-tailed Duck, and I had been trying to see one for several years, only being successful for the first time last December. I counted 26 of them right in front of me in the river, and there were that many or more of them around the ocean inlet.
We searched a marsh near the inlet and saw about a dozen Brant Geese (another target bird and my life bird #529).
I have never seen so many ducks in one place, but there were more to come in the rest of our trip. As we drove through Rehobeth looking for a place to spend the night, we saw a small lake filled with hundreds of ducks. Almost all of them were Canvasbacks, but there were a few other species as well such as Ring-necked.
Canvasbacks and Ring-necked Ducks
Click here to go the day #3 report and photos: Rehobeth to Dover.
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