By Cindy Hoffman, Staff Writer
(April 13, 2023) People looking for a great way to celebrate spring need look no further than Delmarva Birding Week, April 19-23.
For 27 years, the organizers of the Spring Delmarva Birding Weekend have combined boat trips, paddling treks and expeditions on foot when migrating birds are arriving and passing through the peninsula for nesting season.
The region has an extensive variety of environments, including barrier islands, tidal wetlands, cypress swamps, upland fields and primeval forests. Now is a great time to explore these areas and observe the diversity of birds that pass through or call the region home.
“In Ocean City, we love our big events like Bike Week, but birding does not work that way. Overall, we get between 160-180 people signing up. The most we put on each field trip is 24. That is a sellout. And we are getting there on this one,” said Jim Rapp, organizer of the week and director of the Hazel Outdoor Discovery Center.
Rapp has been organizing birding week since it started.
“I love it. Some people have come every year since the first one. I have known them longer than I have known most of my friends. I love that they still find this interesting,” Rapp said.
“That’s what makes it so fun. Every time you go out, you always see something a little bit new,” Rapp said.
But if you have never joined one of these trips, don’t hesitate to sign up. Rapp said about 50 percent of the event’s participants have never been on a trip before.
Typically, people come from the Baltimore, Washington region, and Philadelphia.
“Come down and go on a couple of trips with us. It’s a great way to learn where to go birding,” Rapp said.
The timing for the event is spring migration, when birds head north to breed. Some make this area their destination, while others continue north.
“We are welcoming back warblers, vireos, and orioles. And we are saying goodbye to some wintering birds, such as loons,” he said.
Common loons winter here. In the winter their coloring gets dull, but when they are getting ready to head north, they are getting their breeding plumage.
“They never look as good as they do when they get their breeding plumage here. Crisp black and white with the bright red eyes, very dramatic,” Rapp said.
Some of the more unusual birds that have been seen during this week include the red cross bill, swallow tail kites, harlequin ducks and razorbills.
“We do a trip called “Night birds of the Marsh” in Girdletree, Maryland. We time the trip around sunset, but we are out there until 9 p.m. We start at Taylor Landing and get to Truitt’s Landing before the sun goes behind the trees. As the sun goes down, that is when the rails start calling,” Rapp said.
He said there have been nights that they have seen king rails, sora rails and clapper rails. There are four species of rails there.
“Finding one of these is a big deal,” Rapp said.
“You worry less about what you are going to see and focus on what you are going to hear.”
There is also a photography workshop and a two-hour boat trip around the mouth of the Delaware Bay with Troy Byrum on Friday. Rapp said this trip is targeted at beginner to intermediate photographers.
“In spring, everything is looking vibrant and showy. The males are trying to show off. Everything is singing and robust. I love the season. It’s the return of the song of the woods.” Rapp said.
To sign up for the Delmarva Birding Weekend, visit https://delmarvabirding.com.