After completing the wildlife drive loop at Bombay Hook, I headed back south past Port Mahon to the Dupont Nature Center at Mispillion point. This is traditionally one of the best gathering points for shorebirds on the Delaware side of the bay, and that held true today as well. The beaches surrounding the inlet hosted several hundred Red Knots (perhaps thousands), Dunlins, Semipalmated SP, Turnstones, Dowitchers, and Black-bellied Plovers. I was joined by many other birders viewing the spectackle, and particularly enjoyed the company of a birding couple visiting from Kentucky. They had just spent nearly two weeks at Magee Marsh in Ohio during the peak of warbler migration and could not praise this birding hotspot enough!While we stood at the viewing platform chatting, I spotted a fly-by Black Skimmer and shortly after I detected a first-summer Lesser Black-backed Gull swimming amongst the many Ring-billed, Laughing and Herring Gulls. A Royal Tern rested for a minute on the dock pilings:
At a creek near the Dupont Center I spotted several Clapper Rails scurrying around in the mud. While sitting on a rock waiting for a rail to come closer, a Seaside Sparrow decided to take a bath in a tiny pool of water right next to me:
My final destination of the day was Fowler's Beach, part of the Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. Rumors were that a recent storm had made significant damage to the sand dunes, placing the protected brackish inland lake in direct contact with the sea through an inlet dug out by the storm waves. What was at first considered an ecological disaster may turn out to be a beneficial change of the habitat, because most of the dune sand had been pushed inland to form a sand bar in the shallow brackish pool now the home of a huge colony of Least Terns! I counted at least 76 individuals sitting, most in pairs, with a steady stream of birds flying in and out of the inlet bringing food to their mates: The sandbars in the pool also functioned as a roost for resting terns and shorebirds, with several hundred Red Knots (above), Sanderlings, Black Skimmers, Forster's and Royal Terns, a Common Tern and an extremely late migrant Bonaparte's Gull!
A great day to be out:o)