Newsletter of the Delaware Ornithological Society
 The Flyer 
Volume 53 | Number 2 | October 2021
Next meeting: October 20th!
An American robin perched on a tree branch. The background is yellow autumn foliage. Photo by Mike Moore.
American Robin by Mike Moore.

Letter from the President


A profile photo of Michael Moore.

Black-chinned Hummingbird, Calliope Hummingbird, Rufous Hummingbird, Painted Bunting and Lark Sparrow. What do these rare birds have in common? Last year all of these showed up at private feeders in Delaware. In all these cases, homeowners did not open their yards to visiting birders, so few birders had a chance to see them. DOS would like to start a list of Rarity Host volunteers to maybe make it easier to get access to private homes with rare birds at their feeders. 

We would like to have a list of volunteers who would be willing to work with homeowners to make access possible. This is done frequently in neighboring states. A Rarity Host would work with the homeowner to organize visits by birders and deal with issues like parking, viewing locations, visiting hours, notifying neighbors, reservations (if needed), etc. This would take the burden off the homeowner and make it more likely we could get access to these rare birds. 

If this is something you would be willing to help with in the case that a rarity shows up near you, please email me at [email protected]. I will need your name, email address and the city where you live. Who knows, maybe you will be the first to see a Bullock’s Oriole or Black-headed Grosbeak that shows up in someone’s yard!

-Mike Moore, DOS President
Renew your membership now!
Have photos of yourself birding? The Flyer would love to feature you! Send your birder selfies to [email protected]. Photo above by Shannon Modla.

DOS Flyer Archive

Click here to read digital copies of past Flyers.

October 20th Meeting:
"Restoring Delaware's Forests" with Kate Hackett

A portrait photo of Kate Hackett

Kate will be talking about DWL’s forest acquisition and reforestation projects and new work on the sustainable forestry program at the Great Cypress Swamp.  This will include updates about plans and existing projects at the Passmore Farm, Fortner Farm, and Great Cypress Swamp….as well as a new project she hopes to announce!  There are also four volunteer tree planting events coming up so information will be provided about those as well.

Kate has more than 25 years of leadership experience in land and water conservation and management including land acquisition, protection of water resources, public policy, government relations, fundraising, grant writing, strategic communications, and constituency building She works with a broad range of stakeholders, including: local residents; landowners; non-profits; advisory boards; local, regional, state, and Federal governments; for-profit companies; public-private collaborations; and environmental organizations. She serves as the Executive Director of Delaware Wild Lands and has worked there for 10 years. Prior to joining Delaware Wild Lands, she worked for The Nature Conservancy in Delaware, the United States Forest Service, UNICEF, the Eritrean Ministry of Water Works, and Tompkins County Planning Department (in upstate New York), among other organizations.

Kate has degrees from Yale University and the University of Michigan School of Public Policy. She presently resides in Wilmington, DE with her husband Dr. Kent Messer. In her spare time, she’s an avid hiker, paddler, and fairly unsuccessful beekeeper!

The meeting will be held online via Zoom software.

Members will receive an email with Zoom login info prior to the meeting.  If you are not a member and would like to attend, please fill out this form.

The Delaware Wild Lands Logo.

Upcoming Field Trips
A Hermit Thrush perched in the forest.
The Annual Ticking Tomb Bird Stroll
October 2 @ 8:00 am – 10:30 am

Ye Gods! Abandon all hope, ye who enter here……! This DOS bird walk heads through White Clay Creek State Park near the London Tract Meeting House and Cemetery, home of the infamous “Ticking Tomb.” We will start off quaking with terror near the tomb then find serenity by heading into the woods to search for late warblers, thrushes, sparrows, and…..who knows what else!

Meet at the London Tract Meeting House parking lot, at the intersection of London Tract Rd, Sharpless Rd, and South Bank Rd, Landenberg, PA at 8AM.

Trip leader is Ian Stewart, contact via [email protected] if you have questions! More information on DOS is available at the society’s website.

A Lincoln's sparrow perched on a branch.
Searching for Sparrows

October 10 @ 7:30 am – 10:30 am

Join Andy Ednie to search for sparrows in beautiful Burrow’s Run! October is the perfect time to find migrating sparrows, welcome back our winter birds, and study our year-round residents too! We’ll look for White-throated, White-crowned, Lincoln’s, and others on this pristine private property in the Red Clay Valley.

Meet at Burrow’s Run gated entrance off of Ashland-Clinton School Rd, just uphill from Center Mill Rd. Wear boots and prepare for some hill climbing! ***Please note, Covid19 vaccination is required to attend this trip per leaders’ request***

Trip leader is Andy Ednie, contact at [email protected] if you have questions More information on DOS is available at the society’s website.
A Ruby-Crowned Kinglet.
Little Creek Wildlife Area
October 16 @ 8:00 am - 12:00 pm
Join Chris Bennett on a search for Fall migrants in and around the Little Creek Wildlife Area. We will be driving and walking the Wildlife Area roads, and, depending on time and group size, driving to Port Mahon or Pickering Beach for a little bonus birding! The Red Knot Youth Birders are welcome to come along for this trip.

Meet at the Fish and Wildlife Boat Ramp at the south end of the town of Little Creek, DE.

***Please note, DE Conservation Access Pass is required to enter the Wildlife Area, boat ramp is open access***

Trip leader is Chris Bennett, contact at [email protected]. More information on DOS is available at the society’s website.

A bald eagle perched on a branch. The background is a blue sky. Photo by Mike Moore.
Bald eagle by Mike Moore.

Red Knot Youth Birders Trip:
Conowingo Park and Octoraro Creek Trail
November 13th @ 8:30am to 10:30am

Join the Red Knot Youth Birders for a trip to Conowingo Park on the opposite side of the Susquehanna from Conowingo Dam.  We will explore the forested trail along Octoraro Creek and enjoy some Bald Eagle watching at the base of the dam. Loaner binoculars will be available but please feel free to bring your own if you have them! Please RSVP to Jessica Shahan at so we know to expect you.

Meet at 19 Ratledge Ln, Conowingo MD 21918

Get to know DOS member
Holly Merker!

A photo of Holly Merker holding binoculars. The background is a marshy wetland.
Holly is an environmental and ornithological educator who recently served on DOS Council as Secretary. Additionally, she serves as the Pennsylvania State Coordinator for Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s, and has been the Chair and a Voting Member of the Pennsylvania Ornithological Records Committee.  Holly also serves or has served on the Boards of Directors for Hawk Mountain Sanctuary and Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology, and is a Founding Member and Co-Chair of the annual Frontiers in Ornithology: A Symposium for Youth. She is passionate about connecting the next generation to birds and nature, and fostering conservation leaders through youth development and birding programs. Holly spends any extra time she can find studying anything with wings, contributing to citizen science, exploring new music, antiquing, and spending time with her friends and family.  You can also learn more about Holly’s collaborative book, mentioned below, at!

How long have you been a DOS member? 
I think I first became a member in 2012 or 2013 or so? I joined because I wanted to be a part of an organization that does so much for bird conservation and for people.

What is the best thing about being a part of DOS? 
Being a part of an organization that is action oriented and committed to birds and conserving their habitats is vital to making any sort of impact in the world around us. Conservation starts in our own backyards. DOS is nationally recognized for its conservation work in the state of Delaware and sets an example for all other similar volunteer-run organizations – not just bird clubs. As members of DOS, we should all be proud of the work DOS has accomplished thus far, and the impacts it strives to make going forward.

Do you have a ‘spark’ bird?
It’s hard to pinpoint a specific species which was a “spark bird” since all birds have been wondrous to me since childhood. Two species that stunned me when I first saw them in my yard were Pileated Woodpecker when I was a teen and a Blue Grosbeak a few years later – both of which sent me running for the field guides on hand. Living in coastal Southeastern Virginia for several years while in my twenties triggered my formal entry into “birding” as I had access to shorebirds, wading birds, and a terrific array of colorful songbirds – including Pine Warblers which I had just about trained to eat
homemade suet from my hands in winter!

What is your favorite bird and why?
The true answer has to be whichever bird I am looking at in the moment. This includes starlings, House sparrows, and cowbirds!

What is your favorite bird song?
Western Meadowlark…and after that Anna’s Hummingbird followed by the Wood Thrush. Gray Catbirds and American Robins are also top contenders!

Do you have a favorite birding patch?
I can’t really name a single favorite, but in Delaware I prioritize visiting Bombay Hook and Ashton Tract, and love spending time at Ashland Nature Center on Hawkwatch Hill in fall – because the people there are great!

Do you have a favorite book about birds?
Okay, I’m a little biased here as I just co-authored a book (along with Richard Crossley and Sophie Crossley, Crossley Books 2021) called Ornitherapy: For Your Mind, Body, and Soul! Because this was a labor of love for me, and because I believe so strongly in the power of connecting to birds for our overall wellbeing, it will always feel like my life’s work - helping deliver the message that birds are good for us, and guide people into deepening their own connections to the natural world around them for their own overall wellbeing, using birds as the gateway.
The cover of Holly's book "Ornitherapy" which features the silhouettes of a kingfisher, a hummingbird, and a swallow-tailed kite against an orange sunset background.
When is your favorite time of year to bird?
I’m a migration junkie – fall first followed by spring.

Do you have a favorite ‘type’ of birding?  (e.g. hawk watching, backyard birding, shore-birding, etc.)
All of the above! But watching birds in my own yard/garden “fills me up” in a different way as I view the birds as invited guests who accept an invitation to visit - because of the native trees and plants in my yard, or because of the bird feeders I’m providing. In a sense they are coming to me, versus me going out to find them. During the pandemic lockdowns, when traveling to see birds far from home was prohibited, these connections in our own neighborhoods were vital, and provided me with joy and hope in ways I needed. I also love taking time out to intentionally watch the sky above my yard to see what passes over: it’s relaxing, and I get a better sense of what’s using the airspace – a sometimes forgotten habitat!

Who’s been your most influential birding mentor?
I have many mentors who have helped me and continue to help me learn along my journey as a birder. I could name dozens of people – including many beginning birders who have taught me to see or learn something new about a bird already familiar to me. However, one person stands out as someone who was the most influential in teaching me how to connect and engage other people in conservation and the love of birds, and that person was Bill Stewart, former DOS President. Bill was someone who made big conservation dreams come true. He set incredible examples of putting ideas into action and inspired armies of people young and old, and like you and I, to make things happen in conservation –and share our love of birds with others. I aspire to be like Bill, connecting people to birds and conservation – for the bird’s sake and our own.

How have birds changed your life?
Birds didn’t just change my life - they saved my life. And because of this, I’ve dedicated my life to helping save them the best I can. Connecting to birds and nature was a front-line weapon in a battle I waged with breast cancer. For me it was as powerful as the conventional treatments enlisted to restore my health. But birding had far more pleasant side effects! Birding brought me peace, mental recharge, and restoration of energy in ways I cannot describe. Scientific studies suggest that connecting to nature and being outdoors lowers our cortisol levels, helping build resilience and strength in our immune systems and our body’s ability to fight disease. I truly believe nature’s therapy and Ornitherapy allied together with chemotherapy and surgical interventions I used to fight my cancer. Birding while undergoing treatment set me on a path towards healing and recovery, and into a metamorphosis of my “new normal.” The respite Ornitherapy provides from the chronic grip of crisis can be likened to opening a door into a temporary world of peace. My focus while birding shifted from my own survival to the survival of birds and pressure they face. I lost my hair from chemo on Mother’s Day eve. The next morning, I went out to search for birds and process this loss. I walked into the woods that morning to be with the birds because I knew they would not judge me for how I now looked, and I could just be me – Holly the birder. I remember being completely in the moment of observation when I serendipitously found a nest of Cerulean Warblers. The experience of watching another young family in survival mode put a lot into perspective for me as I worked through my own will to live. I was able to live in the moment with the birds as I watched them (this is Ornitherapy), because birds too live in the moment – not worrying about the past or what the future holds ahead. During tough times in life, we all need to find what fills us up and helps us recharge. We can then find fortitude and peace amidst the storms in our lives. Birds are my go-to therapy and medicine. I hope they will be yours, too.

Access Pass Reminder

Don't forget: Conservation Access Passes expired at the end of June! These passes are required to visit state wildlife areas such as Augustine (including Ashton Tract), Assawoman, Cedar Swamp, and Woodland Beach.
The cost to renew your pass is $32.50 for Delaware vehicles and $65.00 for out-of-state vehicles. Click here to get your pass!
A roseate spoonbill flying against a blue sky. Photo by David Lewis.
The Roseate Spoonbills are still at Bombay Hook NWR! Photo by David Lewis.

Hawk Watching in Delaware

Soaring broad-winged hawk. Photo by David Brown.
Broad-winged Hawk by David Brown.
The fifteenth season of the Ashland Hawk Watch started on September 1st and will continue daily through the end of November. The count started out rainy as the remnants of Hurricane Ida passed through. Totals for many species remained low through mid-September. American Kestrels and Northern Harriers seem particularly low so far this season. At the time of writing the peak day was September 19th with 761 migrant raptors including 627 Broad-winged Hawks.

Non-raptor highlights have included two Red-headed Woodpeckers, two Caspian Terns, and a flock of ten Laughing Gulls. A presumed escapee Zebra Finch gave us a surprise one day as well. Groups of Common Nighthawks were commonly seen in the early evening in the first few weeks of September.

As we head into October we will see the end of the Osprey and Broad-winged Hawk migration and instead have increasing numbers of Accipiters and falcons. Visitors are welcome to join us at the Ashland Nature Center in Hockessin.

-David Brown, Ashland Hawk Watch Coordinator


Cape Henlopen Hawk Watch

Every hawk watch depends on good winds to carry migrants their way. September is unpredictable with the changing season and the occasional hurricane or tropical storms. Whether there are cooler Northwest winds or tropical humid South or East winds make all the difference in the quantity of raptors that fly over. Considering that raptors are traveling from northern breeding spots, winds from the NW are what hawk watchers wait for. 

Cape Henlopen had hot humid southerly winds for the first half of September resulting in low counts, but when a cold front passed and the wind direction changed, the birds rolled through. Osprey numbers were especially high on NW wind days, with 127 on Sept 6, 226 on 9/18, and 323 on 9/19 - giving CHHW the highest Osprey numbers for several years. Those latter two days also brought high falcon numbers; 95 Kestrel, 110 Merlin, and 36 Peregrines. The upcoming weekend (after this column is submitted) will have NW winds after several days of East winds and a storm, so it ought to be terrific.

Other interesting notes; A juvenile Mississippi Kite was observed Sept 15, which is interesting considering all the kites that were in Delaware during the cicada emergence in June. How many kites have been wandering north of their usual range this summer? Other unusual birds at the hawk watch this past month included an adult Lark Sparrow and Sooty Tern. A juvenile Lark Sparrow was seen the same week in 2020 - could it be the same bird? The Sooty Tern was far off shore and observed by two people and is only the third record for the state.

Cape Henlopen has been helped this year by some very keen eyes and enthusiastic volunteers - thanks to all the people who have helped Jen in her daily count. 

Jen Ottinger
Sally O’Byrne
Funding for the hawk watches is provided by the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife, which is a partner in this project.
We have found that the more eyes on the sky, the more birds that are found. If any of you would like to help out, please come to either hawk watch. Do not let lack of experience deter you - you will learn!

If you are interested in becoming a trained volunteer who can work on a regular basis, please contact:

Ashland Hawk Watch: Joe Sebastiani @239-2334, X115 (work), [email protected].
Cape Henlopen Hawkwatch: 
Rob Blye, [email protected] or 302-945-8618 (home) or 610-213-2413 (mobile)
The Wild Birds Unlimited Logo.
- Your backyard bird feeding specialist -

"Wild Birds Unlimited in Hockessin takes recycling seriously.
We've partnered with Eco Plastic Products of Delaware to recycle our seed bags into boards. Charles went a step further and is making Bark Butter Feeders from the boards. " 

A car full of wild birds unlimited bird food bags awaiting recycling!
A flicker eating at a recycled food bag feeder!

Wild Birds Unlimited-Hockessin 
Open Monday to Saturday 9 am to 5 pm.

Lancaster Pike & Yorklyn Road
Hockessin, DE

Bird ID Pop Quiz!
The bird ID pop-quiz photo!
What's this bird? Click here for the answer.
Photo by David Lewis.

DOS Backyard Birding Challenge

Aaron Reb's unbroken reign continues, now leading by 34 species, a 9 species gain in lead over last month! Will he break 200 species for the year?!

The next three ranks remain unchanged, with Andrew Dunn in 2nd, Sharon Lynn in 3rd and Jeff Kietzmann in 4th. Bob Edelen rose a rank to 5th place. Mike Moore moved up two ranks to 6th, with an impressive addition of Connecticut Warbler. Gary Griffith and Philip Thompson remain on the board, followed closely by Amy White and Theodora Burke, who are tied for 9th.

Will the elusive top 10 rankings shift as rarities sweep through Delaware? Now is the time to bird your yard!!

Compete by submitting eBird checklists from your own yard. Learn more here.
*Rankings as of September 30, 2021.

Member Photo Gallery

A brown headed nuthatch peering down along a pine tree trunk.
A portrait of a Canvasback duck swimming in water.
Brown-headed Nuthatch by Shannon Modla. Canvasback by Mike Moore.
Want to see your photos in the Flyer? Submit them to [email protected]!
Copyright © 2020 Delaware Ornithological Society, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
DOS, P.O. Box 4247, Wilmington, DE 19807

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