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The Coastal Bays Are Where to See Birds in Winter - January 13, 2019

Summer is when tourists flock to the Coastal Bays behind Ocean City and Assateague, but in winter there’s a different kind of flocking going on.

 

Harlequin Ducks, Tundra Swan, Snowy Owls, falcons and more than 25 species of duck and goose are on full display in the mid-Atlantic for about four months a year, and Maryland’s only coastal watershed is the place to find them.

 

Thanks to an extensive array of habitats protected by coastal parks, conservation easements, and wildlife management areas, the Coastal Bays remain one of the country's last migratory bird strongholds. With more than 300 bird species recorded here, it’s no wonder Audubon Maryland-DC has designated both Assateague Island and the Coastal Bays as two of its esteemed Important Bird Areas in the state.

 

Here, tidal creeks, bays, ponds, and farm fields combine to bring unparalleled avian diversity to one of the most heavily used migratory areas in the Western Hemisphere. Whether it’s warblers or waterfowl, Delmarva’s seaside bays and open space are the place to be.

 

One of the best ways to see these birds is to shed those winter blues, dust off the binoculars, and get outside. The 2019 Winter Delmarva Birding Weekend invites hundreds of nature enthusiasts to the shore January 25-27 to enjoy memorable winter experiences including a near-shore maritime boat cruise, waterfowl, seal, and eagle-watching trips, and jaunts through some of the most pristine habitats on the East Coast.

 

Guided by fun-loving local birders with decades-long experience on the shore, the trips accommodate visitors from the curious nature lover to fowl fanatics. Last year, birdwatchers from more than a dozen states flocked to the winter event.

You can sign up for a trip or two on the award-winning weekend at www.DelmarvaBirding.com. This fall, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan issued an acclaimed 2018 Transactional Tourism Award for the popular event. This represents another example of how important natural resources are to our local economy.

If seeing so many bird species isn't enough, bird watchers should feel even better knowing that they’ve helped Delmarva's birds by promoting birding and habitat conservation. Birders, both novice and experienced, make an important statement about the economic value of birds and their habitats through the money they spend in local hotels, restaurants, and shops.

 

Nationwide, 47 million birders spend nearly $107 billion annually on travel and equipment-related expenditures associated with birding, and generate $13 billion in local, state, and federal tax revenue.

 

Worcester, Sussex, and Somerset counties, local hoteliers, and the Maryland Coastal Bays Program recognize this by sponsoring the event every year. Hosted the weekend between the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl, the winter birding weekend trades pigskin for feathers for a short gridiron respite.

 

Whether observing thousands of Snow Geese lifting off a farm field, a majestic Bald Eagle soaring over the marsh, Long-tailed Ducks bobbing on the waves at the inlet, or the lazy nap of a seal on the South Jetty, an outdoor experience is the true draw. Short walks traverse acres of both public and private land opened up on these special weekends by conservation-minded property owners. Boat trips boast indoor cabin space and a loo to treat the cold and coffee that are an essential part of winter birding. 

 

If cool temperatures aren’t your cup of tea, on April 25-28, 2019, the Spring Delmarva Birding Weekend will celebrate the migration of the spring suite of warblers, shorebirds, waterfowl and raptors. Registration for the spring weekend will be on-line later this month.

   

Please get outside and join us for these memorable events.

 

Wilson is the co-founder of Conservation Community Consulting and guest writer for the Maryland Coastal Bays Program.



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