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Eagles to warblers, Delmarva Birding Weekend has it all - April 19, 2012

The 2012 Delmarva Birding Weekend is set to bring hundreds of nature enthusiasts to the Shore April 26-29 to enjoy a weekend of eagles, herons, warblers and egrets. Many trips are nearly full, but space remains on each.

Guided by professional birders from around the East Coast, the walking tours, boat trips, bike rides and canoe paddles will accommodate visitors from the curious nature lover to fowl fanatics.

The Delmarva Peninsula is internationally recognized as a migratory hot spot for both shorebirds and songbirds. Last year, birdwatchers from 20 states flocked to the event.

Kicking off the avian affair are four walking and paddling trips on Thursday, April 26.

In Maryland, on Ayers and Trappe creeks just east of Berlin, paddlers can stroke their way through picturesque beauty along the unspoiled banks of these Newport Bay tributaries. The Coastal Bays Program recently helped preserve a 440-acre tract between the creeks. Ayres Creek Kayak Adventures will offer additional trips here throughout the weekend. A Chesapeake Hoots trip will supplement the Thursday offerings with an evening trip for owls and rails at the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center in Grasonville.

In Delaware, the Birds of Bombay Hook will give visitors an easy walk and caravan tour for some of the most spectacular marsh bird habitat on the East Coast.

A similar trip will take place Friday at the Rookery Golf Course near Milton. At the DuPont Nature Center at the Mispillion Harbor Preserve, participants will search for migratory shorebirds, wading birds and waterfowl along Slaughter Beach and learn about the connection between horseshoe crabs and shorebirds.

On Friday, a highlight of the weekend is the tally rally at Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats in Rehoboth Beach from 5-7 p.m. There, folks can meet fellow participants, speak with guides and hear some birding tales from the field while enjoying food and spirits.

Also on Friday, participants can explore the salt marsh and shallow Sinepuxent Bay by Castaways Campground near West Ocean City. The nearby mudflats are rife with shorebirds and usually elusive piping plovers. This trip is also offered Saturday at sunset.

During the Chesapeake Beach Birding Trip, folks will be able to enjoy a view of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge at Terrapin Park Nature Area near Stevensville, Md.

The nice variety at this site includes beaches, ponds, fields and forests.

Friday also brings the Cape Birding Escape at Cape Henlopen State Park. Ocean dunes, tidal flats, and maritime forest make for nice habitat mix. Later that night, Pickering Creek Audubon Center features the Owl Prowl. Screech owls, barred owls and great horned owls are regulars on this jaunt.

On Saturday, a popular highlight is the Shorebird Explorer that explores the backside of Assateague and the rich breeding colony at Skimmer Island just north of the Route 50 bridge. Again this year, the Coastal Bays Program worked with state and private partners to restore sand on the shrinking island to help endangered black skimmers and royal terns that breed there.

The numerous guides on this inexpensive pontoon boat trip make it an informative one for nature lovers. From April through July access to the island is prohibited so the close looks at the sensitive birds via boat can be a rare treat for passengers.

Nassawango Creek and the Pocomoke River feature some spectacular birding for song birds. The walking trip, Warbermania, and paddling trips, Warblers on the Water and Prothonotary Paddle, are favorites for those wanting to delve deep into the cypress swamp. Warblermania is also offered Sunday morning.

On the ocean side, Assateague Coast to Coast offers a three-hour hike with birds galore and of course the famous Assateague ponies.

Further west, the leisurely Nature of Smith Island trip boasts shorebirds, pelicans, a walking tour, and lunch. Saturday night trips this year include Night Birds of the Marsh at EA Vaughn Wildlife Management Area along Chincoteague Bay and Assateague at Dusk, both teeming with owls and rails.

On Sunday morning, trade church for chirping on the famous Newport Farms Diversity hike and the Meandering Meadows walk, both on preserved private land with multiple habitat types and a divine assortment of bird species. Rounding out the weekend is the Heron Rookery Paddle that takes canoers across the Wicomico River to see osprey nests up close, and up Cherry Bridge Creek to see a large heron rookery high in loblolly pines.

The Birding Delaware Seashore State Park trip is the latest of the day and includes a great mix of beaches and marshes plus the bird-rich Indian River Inlet.

The not-for-profit Delmarva Birding Weekend is sponsored by Delmarva Low Impact Tourism Experiences and supported by Worcester County Tourism, the Maryland Coastal Bays Program, Southern Delaware Tourism, the Delmarva Discovery Center, Somerset County Tourism, Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the Ward Museum and the Rural Development Center at UMES.

Sign up for trips at 800-852-0335. Visit www.delmarvabirding.org for more detailed trip descriptions, including times and locations. All trips are guided.

Wilson is the executive director of the Maryland Coastal Bays Program.


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