A Guide to Bird Finding in Delaware

by Maurice Barnhill

This is a list of places to go birding in and near Delaware . I have described the best birding locations and given directions for finding the sites.

I have had help from other birders and have acknowledged that help in the text. Special thanks are due to Gene Hess who has found several grammatical and spelling glitches. Andy Ednie and Gene Hess have provided much helpful locality information. I am especially grateful to DOS for taking over the hosting of this page.

Copyright © 1995, 1996, 1997, 2002, 2003. Last revision 12/9/2003. This quide may be freely distributed as long as no changes are made in any distributed copy and there is no implication that the distributer contributed to the content or support of the document. Other non-personal use requires the approval of the author or of the Delmarva Ornithological Society. Individual contributers are acknowledged where their contributions appear. They are not responsible for any errors introduced by my editing and adapting of their words.

The guide is stored in a single file, to facilitate downloading. I have kept the formatting rather plain, in particular no graphics other than a small map of Delaware, to keep the size at a minimum.

I have normally used the names or numbers shown by Mapquest unless I know that the road signs use a different name or use numbers only. County road numbers can usually be found on the posts holding stop signs, often on the side opposite the sign.

There is an official Delaware State Parks website with much useful information about the parks.

Index to Delaware locations

Piedmont

DE-birding-sites

Approximate locations of sites. Modified from a public-domain map at the University of Texas.

  1. Brandywine Creek State Park
  2. White Clay Creek
  3. Elk Neck State Park [MD]

Delaware-Bay Coast

  1. Fort Delaware State Park
  2. Gunning Bedford/Dragon Run
  3. Chesapeake and Delaware Canal
  4. Augustine Wildlife Area
  5. Bombay Hook NWR
  6. Little Creek Wildlife Area
  7. Ted Harvey Wildlife Area
  8. Slaughter Beach
  9. Prime Hook NWR
  10. Cape Henlopen State Park

Atlantic Coast

  1. Cape Henlopen State Park
  2. Rehoboth Beach
  3. Indian River Inlet
  4. Assawoman Wildlife Area

Inland in South (Sussex County)

  1. Redden Forest/Ellendale State Forest
  2. Trap Pond State Park
  3. Pocomoke Swamp
  4. SW Delaware

 

Birds mentioned

Brandywine Creek State Park

MapQuest road map
General description of the park from Delaware Division of Parks and Recreation

By Andrew P. Ednie

Location: From the intersection of Del 100 and Del 92 go east on county road 232 (Adam’s Dam Road) about 1/4 mile to entrance sign.
Specialties: Landbird migration, Pileated Woodpecker. Especially good for migrating Empidonax flycatchers, Connecticut Warbler (fall), Mourning Warbler (spring).
Suggestions: The best procedure is walk the trails along the creek, but most other parts of park that don’t have crowds of people are good. There are three areas for parking, the Nature Center, the Hawk Watch, and along the Brandywine at Thompson’s Bridge on Del 92.The Nature Center is located in the northern corner from the main park entrance. The center, which is also park HQ, can be reached by traveling along the entrance road, continually bearing left. It is directly in front of the Tuliptree Woods. This woods is one of the most outstanding features of BCSP because it is mostly a virgin woodlot. There is a feeding station behind the center that is excellent. There is also a list of recent sightings that can be found on the door to the auditorium. A map of the property can be obtained from the front desk. The current [July 1996] naturalist at the park is very knowledgeable and birder friendly. The park was originally an active farm owned by the duPonts, who refused to log the woodlot. The woods are an excellent area to see Pileated Woodpecker, White-breasted Nuthatch, and Veery (summer). Walk from the nature center to the east through the woods and follow the stream (Salamander Run) that is on your left. This takes you down into the woods along the Brandywine. Near the creek here there is a small oxbow pond called Hidden Pond. The brush around this pond is excellent for warblers and flycatchers. There is a small wooden foot bridge that allows you easy access to the pond. Warning: Do not wear shorts during the summer to bird this area it is full of stinging nettles!The Hawk Watch Parking Lot can be reached by turning right as you drive up the entrance road. Watch the stone walls as you drive for roosting Eastern Bluebirds. (These same walls were featured in the movie “Dead Poets Society”.) The hawk counts are usually taken from the picnic table that is on the far side of the parking lot, directly in the middle, near the stone wall. You get a splendid view of the Brandywine Valley from the watch. Hawks can be seen flying down the valley from Labor Day to Thanksgiving. The peak is usually between 15 to 20 September when the Broad-wings go through. This is one of the few places in Delaware that you can find Northern Goshawk and Golden Eagle. The best times to look for these two species is late October through November.If you park at the hawk watch, turn right and walk through the break in the stone wall. Walk along the stone wall to the crest of the hill, then follow the path down the hill to the maintanence sheds. Behind the sheds is a path that turns to your left and goes down the hill. This takes you to the freshwater marsh that is formed by the dam and mill race at Rockland Mills. This marsh has harbored Virginia Rail, Sora, andMarsh Wren. The woods along the creek are excellent for migrants in both spring and fall. You can also find Warbling Vireos in the trees from late April to early September. Walk north along the creek until the marsh ends. This is one of the hot spots forConnecticut Warbler in the fall (usually from Labor Day through September). The thicker wooded areas along the creek also harbor Barred Owls. Listen for scolding passerines to locate the owls. The woods at Bradywine Creek also has a very high density of Eastern Screech Owls. Use of a screech owl tape to attract passerines will usually also produce an owls return call.

If instead of driving to the main entrance from the intersection of highways 100 and 92 you take highway 92 north, you reach the creek at “Thompson’s Bridge.” This is an excellent site for catching migrants. There are No Parking signs here that are rigorously enforced. Watch the tree snags along the creek in the fall for Olive-sided Flycatchers. This is a good spot for Yellow-throated Warbler in early April.

Back to index

White Clay Creek State Park

MapQuest road map
General description of the park [Delaware Division of Parks and Recreation].
More detailed birding guide [Mark Keese and Gene Hess, Friends of White Clay Creek State Park]; choose Birder’s Guide.

Location: From Del 2 West in Newark immediately after the business section turn north on College Ave., which becomes Creek Road and eventually (on maps at least) Tweed’s Mill Road. From Del 2 East turn north on College Ave. one block east of the University’s parking garage. Creek Road is usually closed to vehicles between Wedgewood Road and Hopkins (Hopkins Bridge) Road. Use Del 896 (New London Road), west of Creek Road, to drive between the two open segments.
Specialties: Spring warblers, Cerulean Warbler, Pileated Woodpecker, fall landbirds.
Suggestions: Almost anywhere along the road is good. The following tables describe the area starting at Newark and working north. At the White Clay Creek Preserve Headquarters the road turns into a walking trail which continues for 2-3 miles. See “North of Headquarters” and “Thompson’s Bridge Loop Trail” for a description of the trail.

 

“Fisherman’s Parking Area”
Location: Broader than average shoulder on the right side of Creek Road coming out from Newark, where a dirt trail/road leads to an electrical transfer station and a small dam.
Specialties: Spring warblers, some summer and winter landbirds
Suggestions: Check the sides of the road in both directions, especially where the trees are high. The pines north of the parking area are the best anywhere along Creek Road. Sometimes (not always) it is productive to walk past the transformers, turn left, and follow the trail to the dam.

 

Second View of the Creek
Location: Further out Creek Road where it returns to the creek. There is a large field and two houses on the side of the road opposite the creek.
Specialties: Woodpeckers, winter feeding flocks
Suggestions: Walk along the flat section of the road.

 

Intersection with Wedgewood Road
Location: Wedgewood Road is the first intersection on Creek Road going out from Newark.
Specialties: Spring and Fall landbirds, some landbirds in winter
Suggestions: Walk back towards Newark. The area on the right going back is sometimes rather wet and may have the corresponding birds. The activity here usually picks up when direct sun hits the bushes; earlier than that Prairie Warbler Hill is apt to be better. You can also walk upstream from here, and on the left, about 100 yards further along Creek Road, is a trail which basically parallels the road but is partway up the hill. The first part of this trail may be slow, but the further stretches can be productive in spring. This trail eventually connects with others mentioned under “The Monument.”There is a pedestrian bridge crossing the creek opposite Wedgewood Rd. On the other side you can walk a short distance downstream or you can go upstream all the way to Hopkins Road. If you do the latter, cross back over the creek on Hopkins Bridge and walk back to Wedgewood along Creek Road. This loop is an excellent short birding hike.

 

“Prairie-Warbler Hill”
Location: Trails on the southwest side of the Wedgewood/Creek Road Intersection.
Specialties: Spring migrants, Blue-winged Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Grasshopper Sparrow
Suggestions: The trail is pretty obvious, starting in the grove of trees on the corner. After the trail turns right to go up the hill, there is a good line of oaks on the left behind the first open area. Beyond this slight clearing the trail gets enclosed in brush, the visibility deteriorates, and the birding is rather unproductive. The trail ends at a large open field. Working around the right (west) side of the field gives several chances to cut through to Wedgewood Road and walk back to the intersection with Creek Road. Eventually there is a gated entrance to the field from Wedgewood. At this point a distinct trail crosses the field, andGrasshopper Sparrows can be seen and heard from this trail. The low trees along Wedgewood at this point frequently have migrating warblers.

 

Water Pumping Station
Location: The only building visible from Creek Road on the far side of the creek, reachable from the path between the pedestrian bridge and Hopkins Road.
Specialties: Cerulean Warbler
Suggestions: From here to Hopkins Road gives the best chance along White Clay Creek for Cerulean Warblers. The Creek Road side is much better than the east side. Ceruleans are very hard to see because they stay near the very tops of the trees. Their song is similar to that of the Parula Warbler except that it is shorter and replaces the lower note at the end of the Parula song with a less buzzy, upwardly slurred note.

 

Intersection with Hopkins Road
Location: The second intersection after leaving Newark going north on Creek Road
Specialties: Migrant warblers in spring
Suggestions: In addition to walking Creek Road, look at the trees from either end of the bridge over the creek.

 

“The Monument”
Location: From the intersection of Hopkins Road and Creek Road go west on Hopkins 1/4 to 1/2 mile. The monument, marking where the circular part of the Delaware border begins, is on the left just past a gated road on the right.
Specialties: Spring warblers, Hooded Warbler, winter flocks
Suggestions: Walk the trails southward. You can walk back to the parking lot in Carpenter Park, but the lower parts of the trails are better. The pine woods here is dying, perhaps crowded out by deciduous trees, so it is best to skirt the pines rather than take the trail directly through them.

 

Nature Center
Location: North end of Creek Road. There is a parking lot on the west side.
Specialties: Bluebird, Chat, sparrows, White-breasted Nuthatch, other winter landbirds.
Suggestions: Walk around the small field and along Creek Road back to Hopkins Road. There is a good trail going north along the creek. You can also walk north along the road (no cars permitted). The road becomes a trail at the private driveway and continues north.

 

Beyond the Nature Center
Location: North of the parking lot at the Nature Center
Specialties: White-breasted Nuthatch, woods birds, birds of brushy edges
Suggestions: Walk at least to the far base of the hill where the tall trees end and the trail crosses a small ditch.

 

Thompson’s Bridge Loop Trail
Location: The trailhead is off Chambers Rock Road at the bridge over White Clay Creek.
Specialties: Cerulean Warbler, Acadian Flycatcher, Kentucky Warbler, migrant thrushes and warblers. Wood Ducks along the Creek in spring and usually in summer.
Suggestions: Park in the lot west of the bridge and north of the road. Take the trail going north along the Creek from the parking lot. When the trail reaches Creek Road (the “road” is only a broad trail at this point) turn left and walk back to Chambers Rock Road. The stretch of Creek “Road” north of Chambers Rock Road is much the best part of the loop, and once you have found this trail junction you will want to walk the loop in reverse. Turn left on Chambers Rock Road to walk back (slowly during migration) to the parking lot, or continue on Creek Road towards the Nature Center and double back later.

Back to index

Elk Neck State Park [MD]

More Detailed Birding Guide [Cecil Bird Club]

Location: Take Md 272 south from either I 95 or US 40 and go through the town of Northeast, MD. Drive to the end of the road (about 30 minutes) where there is a small parking lot.
Specialties: Fall migration of landbirds and hawks. Impressive numbers of Accipitersand Blue Jays, and substantial numbers of buteos and falcons are present. There is a variety of migrating warblers, vireos, and flycatchers, as well as other landbirds. Bald Eagles are common, at least in fall. TheCecil County Chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society runs ahawk watch here in fall.
Suggestions: Although the northern section of the park may be worth exploring, Turkey Point is the best spot in the park. Turkey Point is a SW-pointing peninsula that collects migrants, especially Hawks. Walk the trail from the parking lot at the end of Md. 272, going all the way to the lighthouse at the point and working the margins of the fields all the way. Watch overhead, especially at the point and at the last field before reaching the point. The Hawk Watch is run from this last field, on the SE side of the trail.

Back to index

Fort Delaware State Park

General description of park [Delaware Division of Parks and Recreation].
MapQuest: Delaware City

Location: Take the boat from the end of Clinton Street in Delaware City. You can check both the ferry schedule and the park schedule on the web, but the park web site suggests calling the park office for confirmation.
Specialties: There is a heron rookery on the island where the fort was built.
Suggestions: Take the trail to the observation tower to see the rookery.

Back to index

Gunning-Bedford/Dragon Run:

MapQuest: Delaware City

Marsh From Del 9 in Delaware City turn southwest at the stop light onto county road 411( Clinton Street, which becomes Cox’s Neck Road). Go 3 blocks to the marsh on right; check the marsh and climb the embankment on the left side of the road to check the pond on the other side. The marsh is one of the more consistent locations for Least Bitterns in Delaware.

Trails behind Gunning-Bedford school Continue on Road 411 beyond the marsh to the school. Park at the back of the lot on the west side of the school and walk northward on the trail just beyond the left side of the water tower.

Dragon Run Park Turn west off Del 9 one block north of the stop light in Delaware City. There is a good view of the marsh here.

Del 9 just north of Delaware City has a pulloff with a decent view of the marsh.

Back to index

Chesapeake and Delaware Canal:

MapQuest: Delaware City

Location: Take Del 9 south from Delaware City and cross the high bridge over the canal. Turn right at the end of the bridge and continue around the sharp right turn to a T intersection at the canal.
Specialties: Shorebird migration, Black- and Yellow-crowned Night Herons flying overhead at the end of the canal at dusk.
Suggestions: Explore in both directions. Obey all keep out signs; they are enforced.

Back to index

Augustine Wildlife Area:

Location: South of Port Penn on Del 9 at the intersection of county road 37 (Vance Neck Road).
Specialties: Sparrows and “half-hardies” in late fall and winter, Cliff Swallow in summer.
Suggestions: Since 1993, Cliff Swallows have bred frequently under the second bridge on Del 9 north of its intersection with road 37. Land birds can be found by walking the gated dirt road opposite road 37, in the field south of road 37, and on the areas on both sides of road 37 about 50 yards west of Del 9. For the latter two areas you can park on the north side of 37 just short of the strip of pines. Check both sides of the road.

Back to index

Shorebirds in Delaware

Delaware Bay is a major staging area for shorebird migration, with truly spectacular numbers visible during the peak of migration. In spring the birds are dependent on the eggs of Horseshoe Crabs. It is generally believed that the food along Delaware Bay is important in allowing shorebirds to arrive on the breeding grounds with adequate fat reserves, so the size of the crab population crucial for the numbers of shorebirds in all of eastern North America. Several locations for viewing this phenomenon are given below.Shorebirds around Delaware Bay probably get most of their food from mud flats along the edges of the Bay and the larger guts (tidal creeks). These mudflats are much more extensive at low tide than at high, so shorebirds tend to be mostly along the Bay at low tide and resting in various impoundments, around rain pools, or in fallow agricultural fields around high tide. The impoundments in Bombay Hook and the state refuges provide some feeding territory but are lightly occupied around low tide. Which impoundments and rain pools will have birds depends on water levels, which can change significantly from day to day, especially after a strong thunderstorm.Some places away from the Bay are better feeding than others, of course. Taylor’s Gut in particular seems not to have much movement in and out with the tides, provided of course that the water level is low enough there to attract any shorebirds at all. As a rule of thumb, it is best to be along the Bay (Port Mahon, the north end of the Ted Harvey Wildlife Area, or Slaughter Beach) when the Bay tide is lower than midtide, and to move to one of the impoundments at times around high tide. Raymond Pool in Bombay Hook, for example, is most interesting from about one hour before high tide on the Bay to around two hours afterward. The exact times vary, perhaps depending on the heights of high and low tide. On the other hand, the mud flats opposite Shearness Pond in Bombay Hook are best when the tide is an hour or so away from low tide at that point (not on the Bay; see below).

Tides along the Bay move inland from Cape Henlopen to the upper ranges of the Bay and are later up the creeks and guts than along the edge of the Bay. The height of water and the time of high tide in the upper reaches of the guts depend on the strength and direction of the wind. The tides at the mouth of the Mahon river give a good indication of the tides near Bombay Hook and Little Creek; they run about 1.5 hours later than the tides at Breakwater Harbor or Cape Henlopen at the base of Delaware Bay. It takes an additional 1.5 to 2 hours for the tides to reach the creek opposite Shearness in Bombay Hook. NOAA maintains tide tables at http://co-ops.nos.noaa.gov/tpred2.html#DE. Another place to check ishttp://www.tidesonline.com/.

Judging from reported rarities and birds with individually-recognizable plumages, shorebirds seem to spend 7-10 days around Delaware Bay before continuing their migration. The length of the stay presumably depends on the quality of food available as well as the condition of the individual bird. During springs with a poor crop of Horseshoe Crabs the birds seem not to stay that long, leading in particular to less spectacular peak numbers. This possibility should be kept in mind when comparing numbers of shorebirds between years or between Delaware Bay and the breeding grounds. When chasing rarities it is also important to remember that as always birds are seldom found the day they first arrive, especially if that day is a weekday.

Bombay Hook NWR

Location: Off Del 9 east of Smyrna. The entrance road is Whitehall Neck Road (county road 85), and there is a sign on Del 9.
Specialties: Shorebird migration, Bald Eagle, Ducks and Geese in season, American Avocet and Black-necked Stilt in summer.
Suggestions: Check the birding log at Headquarters, but take it with a grain of salt. Cover the entire tour route. The impoundments are best within about two hours of high tide on the Bay, and the flat opposite Shearness Pond around low tide at Bombay Hook, which is one or two hours after low tide on the Bay. Allow lots of time here in case the birding is good, and have an alternative in mind in case it isn’t.It is a good idea to check fields along the entrance roads to the refuge and adjacent stretches of Delaware route 9 for resting birds. North of the federal refuge, along route 9 just north of route 6, there is a small state refuge, the Woodland Beach Wildlife Refuge, that has impoundments worth checking for small numbers of birds very close to the road. The state requests that birders stay inside their cars in this area. Just north of the Woodland Beach Wildlife Area on route 9 is Taylor’s Gut, which can be very good when water levels are right. The first road north of Taylor’s Gut is Lighthouse Road; there is a turf farm along this road which has a few “grasspipers” in fall. This is the only reasonably productive turf farm I know of in Delaware.

Back to index

Little Creek Wildlife Area

Port Mahon Road: The only road (county road 89) going east from Little Creek. You soon come to marshes, with a set of petroleum storage tanks on your left. Check the impoundments on the right, the flats along the Bay, and all the marshes. In spring, Black Rails used to be heard after dark singing from the marsh, most often at the first little bridge or at the far end of the road. They were usually well out into the marsh. There are, however, very few recent records. The stretch of the road along the Bay shore can be under water during especially high tides.

Headquarters: Just south of Little Creek off Del 9; looks private but isn’t; look for sign inside multiflora hedge. Turn left at the fork behind the ranger’s house. The road ends at a gate. Here you can walk out between two impoundments or take the boardwalk to a small tower overlooking the impoundment on your right.

Southern Entrance: Just west of Pickering Beach, north of county road 349 (Pickering Beach Road). There is a 1/4 to 1/2 mile walk into the impoundment. Bring Greenhead-Fly repellant in season.

Back to index

Ted Harvey Wildlife Area

Location: From the intersection of US 113 and Del 9 take county road 68 (Kitts Hummock Road). Turn south at a sign marking the Logan Tract of the Ted Harvey WA, about 3 miles east of Dover Air Force Base or 2 miles west of Kitts Hummock.
Specialties: Shorebird migration, White-winged Tern in late summer.
Suggestions: There is a house about 1/4 to 1/2 mile down the road. Here a side road runs to the left and goes to the Bay. Rerely either or both roads may be closed, and the area is hunted in season. There is good land birding along the side road, and excellent shorebirding at the end along the Bay shore. The side road is closed by a gate near the Bay. Park here and walk along the causeway to the beach (100 yards or so). If permitted, walk south along the shore of the Bay from the end of the road. When you are done, return to the house and turn left on the main road. Where the road takes a sharp left (with a smaller, gated road going straight) continue on the left fork. The impoundment at the end of this road is excellent. White-winged Tern was seen more frequently at this impoundment than anywhere else in Delaware, but has not been present anywhere in several years.

Back to index

Slaughter Beach

Location: East end of Del 36.
Specialties: Huge numbers of shorebirds in late spring
Suggestions: Work the far north end along the bay and the marina at the end of county road 203, which leaves Del 36 just west of the bridge over the Creek west of Slaughter Beach.

Back to index

Prime Hook NWR

Headquarters From Del 1 near Milton go east on Del 16 towards Broadkill Beach. Turn on the only paved road going north prior to reaching the causeway to the beach. Explore the two ponds, the trail eastward from the main road, and the two trails around the headquarters itself.

Causeway to Broadkill Beach Just past the abrupt left turn going towards Broadkill Beach on Del 16 there is a shallow pond on the south and a marsh on the north. You can hear American Woodcocks here and along the causeway back towards headquarters in early spring.

Back to index

Cape Henlopen State Park

General description of park [Delaware Division of Parks and Recreation].

Big Dune at south end Turn south before the entrance station and take the road through the National Guard area to the small parking lot at the end. There is a high ocean overlook. The pond that is just visible to the south of the overlook is Gordon Pond, best reached from Rehoboth Beach. The trail into low pines just inland of the parking lot is sometimes good.

Fishing pier Turn north just after the entrance station and go to the parking lot at the end of the road.

Ocean overlook at bathhouse The bathhouse is at the sharp left turn in the main road inside the Park. The best observation platform is at the extreme north end of the parking lot.

Parking lot at the point Entrance into the dunes is forbidden at all times; walking around the bay side of the point is forbidden during Piping Plover breeding, but using four-wheel drive is permitted for fishermen with permits on the ocean side at all times! Birders are not permitted to use four-wheel drive; you must have fishing equipment and bait in the car and be actively fishing whenever your car is not moving.

Back to index

Rehoboth Beach

Spring Lake Apartment complex off Del 1 at Rehoboth Beach. Check the pond in winter and the state-owned woods behind the apartments in spring. The pond may have Redhead in winter.

Silver Lake Coming north from Indian River Inlet on Del 1, go straight (may be Bayard Ave.) instead of turning left with the highway when it turns inland. Go about 8 blocks to the lake. In winter there are usually many Canvasbacks and occasionally Redheads

Henlopen Hotel North end of boardwalk. This is a good spot to scan the ocean.

Henlopen Acres Continue north from Henlopen Hotel, then go straight on Surf Ave (which becomes Zwaanendale) instead of taking the sharp right turn onto Henlopen Ave. to continue near the ocean. Find the marina near the end of Zwaanendale and, in spring, listen for migrating warblers throughout. There are Brown-headed Nuthatches in and around the marina.

“Whiskey Beach”/Gordon Pond Take Henlopen Ave. and continue parallel to the shore (Ocean Dr. when it gets to Gordon Pond) instead of going into Henlopen Acres. This area can also be reached directly from State Route 1A as it enters Rehoboth. Turn left just after the bridge over the canal and then quickly turn right onto Columbia Ave. Finally turn left at the end of Columbia and follow the road parallel to the shore. In either case, park in the lot at the end of the road along the ocean. The Gordon Pond area is part of Cape Henlopen State Park. The pond is reached on a trail from the NW corner of the parking lot.

Back to index

Indian River Inlet

(Delaware Seashore State Park)

General description of park [Delaware Division of Parks and Recreation].

Location: Route 1 crosses the inlet about 5 miles south of Rehoboth Beach.
Specialties: Bay and Ocean watching fall to spring. Purple Sandpiper
Suggestions: Check Haven Road and the picnic pavilion, both on the west side of Del 1 north of the IRI bridge. There is a wildlife trail on Burton’s Island, reached from the north side of the inlet by following the road to the right around the marina and boat-storage area.The marina on the south side has a rock jetty and distant views of sand flats at low tide. The inlet is best on an outgoing tide or just after the flow starts back inland.

Back to index

Assawoman State Wildlife Area

Location: Although AWA is on most Delaware maps, it took me three tries to find it for the first time, and the directions in Wilds’s book are wrong. Coming from the north is easier, and the key is to watch for signs to Camp Barnes. Take Del 26 west from Del 1 at Bethany Beach. Turn south on road 361 (Kent Ave.) at a sign for Camp Barnes. After crossing a canal, turn left on road 363 (Camp Barnes sign was missing May 1995). The first county road on the left is several miles. Turn left onto road 364 (Camp Barnes sign if you are lucky). (If you get to Bayard, you have gone about 1/2 mile too far.) Follow 364 (avoid 364A which appears to be the main road where 364 curves left) to the Assawoman sign on the right, just before the road turns “private.”
Specialties: Ducks, some shorebird migration, landbird migration, Brown-headed Nuthatch
Suggestions: This is one of the best locations in Delaware for Brown-headed Nuthatch. Listen for their squeaky calls around and beyond the observation tower.

Back to index

Redden State Forest/Ellendale State Forest

Location: These two cover much of the land along US 113 south of Del 16.
Specialties: Vesper Sparrow, southern-affinity warblers, some spring migration
Suggestions: Look for wet spots along any of the roads, especially creek crossings. The fields in this area have breeding Vesper Sparrows and no Song Sparrows.
Vesper Sparrows Bushes, low trees, and hedges beside open fields are the best locations. Gene Hess tells me that Vesper Sparrows can be found anywhere in Sussex County “especially where corn and soybean fields are adjacent.” Driving around looking for sparrows on telephone wires sometimes works, but stopping at a few promising locations works better. Try the following: Go north 1 mile on US 113 from its intersection with Del 16 just west of Ellendale to the first road on the right, county 224. Take 224, cross road 213, and stop near the railroad crossing. The Vespers are seen most often in the low trees along the railroad or the fields west of the track. It is worthwhile to walk a short distance either way along the track. This year (May 1995) both Vesper and Grasshopper Sparrows were seen in the first low trees along the track going south from the road. If no luck, continue on road 224 until the first full intersection, with road 38. Check the fields and fences at this intersection. If no luck, turn right on 38 and drive slowly to the intersection with road 232. This intersection has produced Vespers. Continue right on road 232 to the intersection with road 226. This intersection is also good; work back along 232 from the intersection and on both sides of the intersection of 226. I believe that there is a house at this corner; if so check the shrubs along the driveway. If you still have no Vespers, either take 226 northwest back to the original spot and repeat, or turn left on 226, continue to the intersection with 231 and look around there. Then turning right on 231 takes you back to Ellendale.

Back to index

Trap Pond State Park

General description of park [Delaware Division of Parks and Recreation].Take Del 24 east from Laurel and turn south at a sign onto county road 449.

Picnic Area on the southwest side Trail going southest from the picnic area on the south side of the lake. There are Summer Tanagers in the woods opposite the bath house in the picnic area [Gene Hess].

Cypress Point On the northeast side of the lake

Road 450 Summer Tanagers can be found along road 450 beyond the entrance to the campground and Cypress Point. Stop about 100 yards before the open field at the intersection with 422A. The Tanagers may also be found in the campground and along the road to Cypress Point [Gene Hess suggestion].

Trussum Pond West of the State Park on road 449.

Back to index

Pocomoke Swamp

Location: From US 113 at Selbyville take Del 54 west. There is one stretch of wet forest along this road which is good. Further west, turn left with 54 where road 417 goes straight. Turn left (south) on the next road, county road 418. This entire road is good. Just south of the intersection with road 419, at the edge of the field, is the Maryland line. The Maryland part of the road is even better.
Specialties: Southern-affinity warblers, some landbird migration, Pileated Woodpecker, occasional observations of Swainson’s Warbler in Maryland
Suggestions: Walk the dirt roads and the side of Del 54 where there are wet woods.

Back to index

 

Southwest Delaware

MapQuest road map

Location: I don’t know this area well, but it is good. See below for information graciously contributed by Glen Lovelace. One spot I am familiar with is Phillips Landing west of Portsville. From Laurel, go southwest on Del 24. Just past Horseys Pond turn right on road 494. Take the next right, on road 497. Road 497 will join road 495, which ends at an intersection with roads 492 and 493. Turn left, and go through Portsville to Phillips Landing (Cherry Walk on some maps) at the end of road 496.
Specialties: Southern-affinity landbirds

MapQuest: Seaford

 

The Chapel Branch Area by Glen Lovelace III
Heading south on US 13 through Seaford, turn right on DE 20 at the light at McDonald’s. Go all the way through town to the last light at Sussex Ave. (there is an old shopping center and PNC Bank on right, and a school on the left). Turn left and follow Sussex Ave. to the next light at the DuPont Plant. Turn right (Woodland Rd.), go around the sweeping curve to the left, and turn right into a parking lot. This is Chapel Branch Nature Area (though the sign may be missing). There is a short loop trail (mile and a half) and a long one (one mile extra) plus extra side trails. The woods is full of Ovenbirds, Worm-eating Warblers (anywhere there is laurel undergrowth), Red-eyed Vireos, Wood Thrushes, Pileated Woodpeckers, and the like. Scarlet and Summer Tanager are common (Summer more so on the long loop) and a Yellow Throated Vireo should be found somewhere along the way. The only Prothonotaries and Yellow-throated Warblers here are at the far end of the long loop where the creek is tidal. The long loop seems to be better for migrant thrushes (Veery, Swainson’s and Gray-Cheeked (2002)) nearby. It is also the best area around Seaford for warbler migration. Over time, I have seen most of my Bay-Breasted Warblers here (4 years out of 6 – 2nd weekend of May). Also Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green, Parula, Blue-winged, Blackpoll, Blackburnian (1 year), Magnolia, and more. The large trees just before and on the hill after the boardwalk are usually good. Beware, there is a Yellowthroat off to the right of the trail at the boardwalk that sounds for everything like a Kentucky Warbler. It’s not and I have never seen Kentucky here.After leaving Chapel Branch, turn right and continue south on Woodland Rd. Stop at the bridge over Chapel Branch. You are very near the far end of the long loop, but Yellow-throated Warbler is more often seen here. The next couple of miles is mainly houses. Stop at the second bridge for Prothonotary Warbler, Summer Tanager, and maybe Rough-winged Swallow. Continue to a stop sign, turn left and then bear right. This is the village of Woodland. Stop at the ferry or the church parking lot and scan the river. There are Forster’s Terns and sometimes Royals, and maybe a Spotted Sandpiper. Listen for Baltimore Orioles, House Wrens, Barn Swallows and Cuckoos. As a brief side trip, turn right from the last stop sign and pause by the chicken farm on the right (within sight from the corner). There always seem to be Chimney Swifts here.

The next mile or two below Woodland are excellent. The road runs very close to the river. Look for Yellow-throated and Prothonotary Warblers and Pileated Woodpeckers. In Spring 2001 I had a Northern Waterthrush here. Barred Owl and Whip-poor-will may be heard after dark. At the small creek, there may be a Swamp Sparrow on the mudflat. Around the curve past the creek (at an obvious hot-mix patch of a washout on the right) is one of the few spots I have had Louisiana Waterthrush north of the river (once or twice).

Back to index

Send comments to mvb@udel.edu