Maryland Coastal Bays

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Birds and Birders Flock to Delmarva - April 19, 2015

A Blue Heron stalks through the marshes, its long legs making barely a ripple in the murky water. A Osprey plunges down into the water, sharp talons digging into its prey. A Bald Eagle proudly surveys its surroundings from its nest, perched high in a tree. Tiny Piping Plovers scurry across the beaches on Assateague island, waves crashing nearby as they look for food. 

The Delmarva Peninsula is a truly unique place, containing numerous different ecosystems from barrier islands, to cypress swamps and tidal wetlands, to upland forests. Delmarva's ecosystems provide diverse habitat for hundreds of species of flora and fauna to live year round, and provides a critical resting area for species undergoing migration. Birds especially seem to flock to Delmarva; we have recorded more than 400 different bird species along the peninsula, between year-long residents and migratory visitors. 

The return of the aforementioned birds, and many other species, to Delmarva herald the return of spring and warmer days ahead. Spring migration is already well under way, with many species of birds having already returned to Maryland to start nesting or are already on their way here. Some species of birds, especially waterfowl and shorebirds, will only visit Delmarva briefly to rest and refuel on their long migrations North and South.

There are four major North American flyways, or migration routes, that birds use when they migrate between summer and wintering grounds. The four North American flyways include the Atlantic, the Mississippi, the Central and the Pacific Flyways. Except along the coasts, the flyway “boundaries” are loosely defined and eventually the flyways merge together or overlap each other as they reach their Northern or Southern most points. 

Maryland and the Delmarva Peninsula lie along the Atlantic Flyway, a North-South migration route that tends to stay between the Atlantic Coast of North America and the Appalachian Mountains. The Atlantic flyway reaches over most of North America and into South America and the Caribbeans. The flyway extends from several regions of Northern Canada, down the Atlantic coast to the region surrounding the Gulf of Mexico and Florida. Once in Florida, the flyway diverges into a path over eastern Mexico and a longer path across the Caribbean Sea via Cuba and Jamaica.

The Atlantic Flyway is used by hundreds of bird species for numerous reasons. For starters, flying along the coast might be easier for navigation on the long migration of hundreds, if not thousands, of miles. Also, there are fewer geographic obstacles to overcome because there are few mountains or major hills to have to fly over. Furthermore, the flyway provides numerous sources of water, food, and cover along the way so birds can rest and refuel when necessary. 

Delmarva is a birding paradise year round, however during the spring, summer and fall the peninsula is a major hotspot of bird activity and migration, making the Eastern shore the place to be if you're of the avian persuasion. In the upcoming weeks and weekends there are lots of activities and events to choose from if you like birds, birding or being outdoors: 

 

- Delmarva Birding Weekend - 

The 20th annual Delmarva Birding Weekend will be held from Thursday, April 23rd to Sunday, April 26th. The four day long event is a celebration of all things birds and bird watching, with numerous activities, field trips and more planned throughout. 

The event is a great chance to come out and meet other birders, enjoy the beauty of Delmarva, and hopefully check off some boxes on your birding list. The event not only celebrates, but helps birds by promoting bird and habitat conservation. Birders, both novice and experienced, can make an important statement about the economic value of birds and their habitats through low-impact tourism on Delmarva and beyond. Thanks to the Worcester County Tourism, the Beach & Beyond, along with numerous other sponsors, partners and volunteers for helping to organize and lead the annual Delmarva Birding Weekend. For more information on the Delmarva Birding Weekend, please visit: http://delmarva-almanac.com/birding/index.php/contrib/birdinghome/

 

-Ward World Championship - 

This year we celebrate the 45th annual Ward World Championship Wildfowl Carving Competition and Art Festival. The annual even is organized by the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art with sponsorship from local restaurants, Macky's Bayside Bar and Grill and BJ's on the Water, along with Delmarva Public Radio, Salisbury University and other organizations and individuals. 

The World Championship is an international event where carvers, collectors, and visitors convene at the end of each April at the Ocean City Convention Center in Ocean City, MD. From highly decorative works of art to functional hunting decoys, about 1200 different wildfowl carvings representing more than 150 species from around the world can be viewed at the premiere, most prestigious competition in the world. Competitors of all levels--from youth to world champions--compete against their peers for the chance to win prize money, as well as other recognition including ribbons, medallions, plaques and trophies. For more information on the Ward World Championship, please visit:https://www.wardmuseum.org/SpecialEvents/WorldChampionship/tabid/115/Default.aspx

Delmarva is the perfect place for birders, young or old, novice or expert, to come and view a stunning array of shorebirds, waterfowl, raptors, and more. Whether they have come to nest for the summer or are just stopping for a quick rest or some food, the birds that flock to the Eastern shore are truly as unique, beautiful and diverse as our Delmarva Peninsula. 

Harrison Jackson is the Coastal Stewards Coordinator for the Maryland Coastal Bays Program.

 


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