The Birds of Cape May, Delaware and Maryland

Some interesting birds fly through Cape May, New Jersey in late September. From Vermont, it takes us almost eight hours to drive to Cape May and as we enter this historic resort town, a Welcome Center stands off to the right next to the highway. This is Exit 0 off of the Garden State Parkway. Ironically, the “welcome center” is closed, but the birds are quite active and even welcoming in the marsh across the road. The very first bird we see is a Tricolored Heron fishing in the marsh. I run back to the van, grab my 600 mm lens and start shooting. Click, click, click.

Tricolored Heron
Tricolored Heron

After we arrive at our hotel and get settled in our rooms, we venture across the street to the beach. Before we can even feel the sand in our toes, the Black Skimmers come calling. The one time I do not have my camera with me, as we are headed out to the restaurant. Darn! So I have no photo to show, but the Skimmers are one of the coolest looking birds on the planet. Sorry, but you will have to google it. 🙂

We get up early the next day and pile into the van. Several warbler species appear to us off the trail in and amongst the trees. Magnolia, Northern parula, black and white, etc. Yellow warblers and vireos abound.

Magnolia Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler

The Carolina Chickadee is fairly abundant on the mid Atlantic Coast and they look very similar to the Black-capped Chickadees we have up north. Their call is a little different, however.

Carolina chickadee

The call of the Carolina Wren is enough to jar one awake in the morning, even behind closed doors. It is loud and persistent and whenever we cannot identify a bird, we yell out, “Carolina Wren!” And we are correct ninety percent of the time.

Great and Snowy Egrets are just about everywhere, fishing in the wetlands. This beautiful Snowy Egret, with its bright yellow face and booties, stares into the water, hungry for lunch. It ignores me as I inch slowly towards the large boulder on which it sits. This is the closest I’ve ever been to a Snowy.

Snowy Egret w/ Yellow Booties.

At the Edward Forsyth National Wildlife Refuge, ten Great Egrets stand in the brackish water all facing the same direction. Even the gulls face in that direction, too – maybe it has something to do with the wind. I could google it, but I like to leave it a mystery. Two of them are bucking the trend – hey, why not?

10 Great Egrets.
Great Egret in flight.

A Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs stand side by side. This way, you can see the difference in size.

Lesser Yellowlegs (left) and Greater Yellowlegs (right)

Forster’s Terns circle and dive, circle and dive. One of them begins to hover in the air as it sets its sights on the water below.

Forster’s Tern

Delaware

An Atlantic Ghost Crab runs sideways across the sand. Its two eyes are located above its head.

Crabs are ubiquitous in Delaware…

As we walk closer, it escapes into a metal enclosure that was set up to protect the Piping Plover chicks.

We keep searching for the Clapper Rail, which is known to haunt these brackish waters. We finally see one… The Clapper Rail is an elusive bird, constantly ducking in and out of the reeds.

Clapper Rail.

Either Chip or Ali spot a huge contingent of American Oystercatchers in the distance. We cannot get any closer unless we hike for seven miles on the sand.

A little later, we come across one lone Oystercatcher, enough for us to get really good looks.

We keep a respectful distance…

The next place we go is incredible. It is called Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge and it is a 12 mile birding loop, all in a brackish marsh that is larger than the state of California. No… just kidding, but it does seem to go on and on, which is such a delight when you are birding. This is seriously the largest area of ocean marsh, tidal pools and mudflats I have ever seen.

Here we see American Avocets, Oystercatchers, Rails, Godwits, short and Long-billed Dowitchers. Shorebirds Galore. Many first sightings for me, and so much beauty that I can hardly stand it.

263 Avocets
American Avocet
Two American Avocets on the mudflats.

Some peeps fly over the ocean waves.

The CLAW

I recommend you zoom in on this one. These fiddler crabs have one big yellow claw that will grab you when you least expect it! As soon as a gull flies over, they all simultaneously disappear beneath the sand in an instant.

Maryland

The next day we drive through Ocean City, Maryland. It seems like a misnomer or oxymoron until you actually see it. These buildings take up every square inch of this coastal marsh, taking away critical bird habitat and migratory stopover areas. This is what they mean by development.

Ocean City
Grass hut in Ocean City, Maryland.

Below, a Green Heron sitting in the grass… Must be named after the green mark between its eye and its bill.?

Assateague Island, Maryland

As soon as we cross over the bridge onto Assateague Island, we see the wild horses. They graze along the side of the road and at different spots around the island. We stop next to the visitor center to bird, and we spot White Ibises in a tree. There are several of them roosting up high and we try to get a little closer.

White Ibis

Large boardwalks like this one exist all over the island and it makes it very easy and pleasant to walk around and view wildlife.

The group spots a Little Blue Heron fishing in the marsh below the boardwalk. This is one of my favorite photos of the trip.

Little Blue Heron

One of the wild horses on Assateague Island.

I am really not sure we have spiders like this in New England. This is a garden spider in its web that set itself up along the boardwalk.

I will leave you with one final image of a Great Blue Heron and a Great Egret sitting in the grass together. They’re really not so different, are they?

There is so much beauty in the world.

Thank you so much for reading my blog. PLEASE let me know if you read the whole thing, leave me a comment and let me know what you think! It would be extra nice to hear from my fellow travelers on the Cape May trip. We had so much fun!

2 thoughts on “The Birds of Cape May, Delaware and Maryland

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