When the first stop on a waterfowl watching trip produces great looks at newly-arrived Wood Ducks perching on nest boxes, you know it’s going to be a good day. When you notice that the drake Wood Duck is leg-banded(wearing jewelry!), you know it may be an extra-special day afield.
On the Delaware Duck Day trip, our goal is to find as many species of waterfowl as possible. Ducks, geese, and swans are counted as true waterfowl, but we also enjoy observing “honorary” waterfowl like loons, grebes, and rails.
After excellent looks at Dragon Run Marsh at ducks like Green-winged Teal, American Wigeon, Gadwall, Ring-necked Duck, and Northern Shoveler, we crossed the C&D Canal to the legendary Thousand Acre Marsh. The marsh seemed to be carpeted with at least 100 Northern Pintails per acre, with these elegant ducks parading about in their breeding finery. A Bald Eagle on a nest, and a pair of feisty Peregrine Falcons added to the great sights.
We stopped at Little Creek Wildlife Area, where diligent work with a spotting scope revealed a drake Eurasian Wigeon and drake Redhead, both rare and beautiful birds. Tundra Swans, Ruddy Ducks, and Common Mergansers filled the water under a sky that held circling Bald Eagles, Red-shouldered Hawks, and Cooper’s Hawks.
The spectacle at the Indian River Inlet, where the ocean meets the bay, left us speechless. Digital cameras clicked away as we took in the expanse of water covered with Long-tailed Ducks, Black and Surf Scoters, and Red-throated and Common Loons. Purple Sandpipers, Dunlins, and Sanderlings hopped about the algae-slick rock jetty, as they bathed and preened in a puddle.
A nearby vantage point overlooking Rehoboth Bay gave us looks at Red-breasted Merganser, Bufflehead, Brant, and distant Common Goldeneye.
No waterfowl trip in Delaware is complete without a stop at Silver Lake in Rehoboth, and we enjoyed excellent close looks at Canvasbacks, Black Ducks and the ubiquitous Mallards. Ruddy Ducks just coming into breeding plumage bobbed with their stiff tails pointed skyward.
We completed our day with a stop at the wildlife-rich Prime Hook NWR, where a purple-pink sunset and a clamoring flock of Snow Geese and pintails helped cap off our day afield. With 26 species of waterfowl observed and great warm weather, we’d had a ducky day!
Below is a video slideshow of the day’s highlights: