Exploring Birds on the Eastern Shore

If you live on the Eastern Shore, you probably know that this is a very birdy place! Perhaps you have visited Kiptopeke State Park during hawk migration and witnessed raptors swirling in thermals overhead, or have been fishing on the seaside when thousands of shorebirds suddenly took flight, forming a dark cloud over the marsh. Maybe you have been curious about learning more, and not quite sure how. Here are some tips to get you started!

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1.       Find the best location for the time of year. There are so many different habitats here on the Shore from marshes, to open water, to maritime forest and these differing habitats provide home to a diverse variety of bird species. To find the best places to see birds on the Eastern Shore of Virginia and for detailed information on what species can be found at various locations and different times of year, check out the Birding Eastern Shore website and map (www.BirdingEasternShore.org).

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2.       Learn about the birds. Knowing the names of all of the 436 different species that have been seen on the Eastern Shore could be a difficult challenge, but learning the common species can make birding a lot more fun. A Field Guide to the Birds can be purchased from any bookstore, or if you prefer technology, web-based identification aids and smartphone Apps are available. For beginners, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology provides a FREE smartphone App called Merlin. Other Apps, available for a fee, include field guides from Sibley, National Audubon Society, and Peterson. These Apps also provide location maps and recordings to identify the songs and calls of various species. The website www.allaboutbirds.org provides the same information but without the mobility of a smartphone App.

3.       Go Explore! The Birding Eastern Shore website features local public lands, often funded through tax revenue, that are open to all. Once you decide to venture out for a birding walk on a local trail, be sure to bring binoculars, your field guide or app, and appropriate attire. Prepare for the possibility of mud and bugs. The best time to see bird activity is early in the morning, and it is best to walk slowly and speak quietly. For those with mobility limitations, check out easy access locations like the hawk watch platform at Kiptopeke State Park or the marsh overlook at the Willis Wharf boat ramp. For wheelchair access, the paved bike trail that begins at the Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge can be very birdy during fall warbler migration.

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4.       Feed the birds at home! Of course, the Eastern Shore is a great place to see many bird species in your own backyard! Set up a hummingbird feeder in the summertime to see these jewel colored birds. Feeders filled with sunflower seeds and thistle seed will bring cardinals, titmice, chickadees and finches all year round.

Should you want to learn more and join other birders, contact Birding Eastern Shore at info@birdingeasternshore.org. Good birding!

Birding on the deck

Birding on the Deck at the Island House in Wachapreague has been a great success. The idea for this event was hatched by Meriwether Payne of Seaside Ecotours. We brought people together on the deck of the Island House to enjoy watching shorebird migration on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. What could be better than watching birds, enjoying discounted beverages and appetizers, having the use of scopes and binoculars and benefiting from the advice of birding experts in a gorgeous setting? Black Narrows Brewing, from Chincoteague Island enhanced the experience with their Plover Season beer. This brew is made with local ingredients in honor of our special visitors-Plovers. Plovers seen in our area include Piping Plovers, Killdeers, Semipalmated Plovers and Black-bellied Plovers.

These weekly events were educational and fun, drawing teachers interested in expanding their knowledge, a PhD ornithology student from William and Mary, fishermen curious about what we were seeing, avid birders and beginning birders. The experts joining us, Jen Elmer, Sue Rice, Karen Terwilinger, and Barry Truitt graciously shared their vast knowledge with everyone who joined us each week. We hosted visitors from a broad area, including Virginia Beach, western Virginia, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New Mexico.

Photo Credit Zenchi Artworks  Lots of great shorebirds stopped by including Whimbrels, fattening up before their push to Arctic breeding grounds. Clapper rails were vocal but elusive until week five (5/13) when they finally ventured into the open by the piers. Forsters, Least and Common Terns gracefully ventured by each week. Laughing Gulls and Herring gulls awaited the return of fishermen each week for an easy meal. A Red-breasted Merganser was seen as late as 5/20/2019. A Bald Eagle was often seen in the distance towards the old Coast Guard station.  American Oystercatchers and Black skimmers joined the show the last couple of weeks, along with Dowitchers, Dunlins, and Black-bellied plovers in their gorgeous breeding plumage.

Photo Credit Zenchi Artworks

Lots of great shorebirds stopped by including Whimbrels, fattening up before their push to Arctic breeding grounds. Clapper rails were vocal but elusive until week five (5/13) when they finally ventured into the open by the piers. Forsters, Least and Common Terns gracefully ventured by each week. Laughing Gulls and Herring gulls awaited the return of fishermen each week for an easy meal. A Red-breasted Merganser was seen as late as 5/20/2019. A Bald Eagle was often seen in the distance towards the old Coast Guard station.

American Oystercatchers and Black skimmers joined the show the last couple of weeks, along with Dowitchers, Dunlins, and Black-bellied plovers in their gorgeous breeding plumage.

Other birds we saw during the Birding on the Deck evenings included Brant, Osprey, Snowy Egrets, Greater Egrets, Mallard and Mallard hybrids, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Red-throated Hummingbird, Belted Kingfisher, Purple Martins, Fish Crow, Boat-tailed Grackle, House Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbirds, Eastern Meadowlark, and European Starlings.

We hope to make this an annual event and are hatching plans for more great birding activities in the near future.  Stay tuned.

Photo credit Roberta Kellam

Photo credit Roberta Kellam

Birding Eastern Shore Website Launch

Welcome to the Birding Eastern Shore blog!

This is the place where we will post news and events, noteworthy bird sightings, field trips, projects, and other fun stuff!

We officially launched the Birding Eastern Shore website with a celebration at the Lemon Tree Gallery in Cape Charles, VA, with help from our friends at Blue Heron Realty, Eastern Shore Signs, and Sunset Beach Resort and Hotel – thank you! And thank you to all who attended! We continue to work with our web designer, Liz Watson, and content editor, Ned Brinkley, to further refine and improve the website for both the traveling birder and local community.

So what is next for the Birding Eastern Shore group? We are planning some public shorebird watching experiences this spring, and an event called Birds, Brews and Barbecue for this fall. In addition, we have been working on 2 projects – facilitation of improved birding access at the Northampton County landfill at Oyster, VA, and enhancement of a bird habitat area at Kiptopeke Elementary School for educational purposes. Check back to our blog for updates and other news in the coming months!

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