Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Delaware Birding - Species, seasons and habitats
In terms of species, seasons and habitat, the range of possibilities while birdwatching in Delaware are endless, but one of the state’s foremost birding experts has some helpful recommendations for visitors who want to get a taste of Delaware’s diversity. Starting in the north and working his way south, wildlife biologist Anthony Gonzon of the Division of Fish and Wildlife offers his Top Birding Sites in Delaware:
-- Brandywine Creek State Park, northwest of Wilmington: A beautiful example of the rolling hills of the Piedmont region, this park situated near Delaware’s Du Pont family mansions in the Brandywine Valley is an excellent place to see the spring and fall migration of songbirds.
-- White Clay Creek State Park, near Newark: Another great place to see the spring and fall migrations, but also bountiful in summer and winter, this wooded area boasts the kind of terrain that makes an expedition easier. “It’s an easy place for people to go walking and find birds,” Gonzon says.
-- Delaware City, along the Delaware River at the end of Clinton Street: Gonzon says this is a great viewing location for the birds of Pea Patch Island, which has one of the largest gatherings of heron north of Florida. From March to August, thousands of wading birds head back and forth, from shore to island (May-July is the peak time). Delaware City is also home to a selection of restaurants and shops.
-- Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, southeast of Smyrna. Exceptional bird and wildlife viewing throughout the year, the bayside refuge is made visitor-friendly by the Auto Tour loop road that traverses a cornucopia of habitats, including fresh and salt marshes, ponds, mudflats, woodlands and fields.
-- For the spectacle of shorebirds feasting on horseshoe crab eggs (peaking in the last half of May), insiders recommend several ideal spots: DuPont Nature Center at Mispillion Reserve at the north end of Slaughter Beach; Port Mahon Road east of Little Creek; bayshore areas of Milford Neck, and Prime Hook.
-- Ted Harvey Wildlife Management Area, just outside of Dover near the town of Little Creek: Great for viewing shorebird migration in the spring and fall, and waterfowl in the winter.
-- Redden State Forest, just north of Georgetown. Comprising 12,400 acres and more than 44 miles of trails, Redden State Forest is known for hosting a unique variety of species in late spring – the best viewing is in the area of the headquarters building, Gonzon says. “Plus, they have redheaded woodpeckers there,” he said. “Quite a few. They’re not super common in Delaware.”
-- Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. Known for excellent year-round birding (may be buggy in summer, Gonzon warns), Prime Hook is THE place to witness thousands upon thousands of snow geese, and marvel as they all take flight simultaneously whenever a bald eagle approaches. “It’s like a whiteout,” he says.
-- Cape Henlopen State Park, near Lewes. “It’s one of the sites that does have good birdwatching year round,” Gonzon says, but fall is especially nice because of the hawk watching platform that operates seven days a week, from September to November. The post is situated atop the ocean bunker, just behind the primary beach dune near the Beach Bathhouse.
-- Nanticoke Wildlife Area, near the boat ramp at Phillips Landing, Seaford. Thus unique habitat has a great walking trail and plenty of songbirds, especially in spring and summer. “If people want to see eagles outside of Bombay Hook and Prime Hook, it’s the place.’’ About 150 to 200 bald eagles winter here.
-- Assawoman Bay State Wildlife Area, near Bethany Beach. “Fantastic” for waterfowl viewing, especially in late winter and early spring, Gonzon says.