ITINERARY: August 3–10, 2023
(Please note: This is a sample itinerary which is subject to change pending weather, local conditions, and other circumstances)

Thursday, August 3rd, 2023 (Day 1): Arrival in Lewes; Welcome and Orientation

Campers should plan to arrive at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) no later than 1:30 pm today. From PHL vans will transport campers to Lewes, Delaware, just shy of a two-hour drive south. Campers arriving by vehicle should plan to arrive at Virden Center in Lewes, DE between 4:00 pm and 4:30 pm.

After all campers are checked in and settled into our rooms, we’ll meet in the courtyard for introductions, then head to the dining room together. After dinner, we’ll go over expectations, an overview of the camp schedule, and then head out for sunset birding at the historic Cape Henlopen State Park.

Friday, August 4th, 2023 (Day 2): Birding Delaware

Following breakfast, we’ll jump into the vans to take a short trip to visit some of the nearby birding hotspots in Sussex and Kent Counties, Delaware.

In early August, shorebirds are winging south and drop into the sandy shores of the Delaware Bay, while herons and egrets are in post-breeding dispersal and in good supply. We will seek out and study Seaside Sparrow and Saltmarsh Sparrows that nest in pockets of the spartina grasses along the bayshore. Clapper Rails are often easily detected with effort, as the soundtrack of the marsh echoes Seaside Sparrow and Boat-tailed Grackles in concert.

Stops on this day may include the Mispillion Harbor, a famed birding hotspot, where arctic-bound migratory shorebirds wing in to refuel on horseshoe crab eggs in May before sling-shotting to arctic nesting grounds. In August, evidence of migration is less condensed than in spring, but still hosts a wide array of birds to study. We will look for “fall migrants” such as plovers, oystercatchers, Black-necked Stilts, Whimbrel, and Red Knots. Terns are a highlight, with an array of species possible, including Forster’s, Least, Caspian, Royal, Common, and if we are lucky, Black Tern. A special focus on the ID of all these species will be done in a field workshop style of birding.

Saturday, August 5th, 2023 (Day 3): Birding Delaware

Early morning skywatches at Virden Center often reward early birders with flyover ibis, both White and Glossy, and an array of egret and heron species, so some pre-breakfast courtyard birding at Virden Center is always an option.

After breakfast, we’ll hit a location within Prime Hook NWR, and then continue to explore other sites in the region.. A strong focus will be on showcasing eastern coastal forests and landscapes, and offering opportunities to find lingering Prothonotary Warbler, Veery, Great-crested Flycatcher, Ovenbird, and possibly other warblers and early migrants. The afternoon will feature a workshop and other fun activities and options. Evening birding is planned, as we take advantage of cooler temps and the beautiful golden light.

Sunday, August 6th, 2023 (Day 4):

After an early breakfast, we’ll head north to Kent County and land within Delaware’s crowning jewel of wildlife refuges: the globally acclaimed Bombay Hook NWR. We’ve timed our arrival early so that we have a best shot at the outgoing high tide, which typically boasts thousands of shorebirds into this coastal impoundment in optimal morning light. Here we can expect to see hundreds of American Avocets, a few lingering Black-necked Stilts, test our skills in picking out Long-billed Dowitchers among thousands of Short-billeds, and study and scan the “peeps” – hoping to pick out something unusual (let’s find a stint)! Bombay Hook offers a variety of songbirds to study and enjoy, including songbirds like Grasshopper Sparrows, Wood Thrush, Red-eyed Vireos, Scarlet Tanagers, and Acadian Flycatchers. Migrant warblers are always possible in the wooded areas. We’ll have our boxed lunch here, and afterwards work our way south.

Next, we’ll visit Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge hoping to glimpse a Prothonotary Warbler, and other early migrants. Here, Acadian Flycatchers, Eastern Wood-Pewees, Indigo Buntings, Blue Grosbeaks, Bobolinks, and Eastern Meadowlarks add to our birdscapes in this region. We’ll again focus on coastal waders, both herons and egrets and shorebirds, and continue to build on ID skills and learn natural history.

Monday, August 7th, 2023 (Day 5) : Ferry to Cape May and Cape May Birding

After breakfast, we’ll depart for the first ferry out of Lewes, crossing the Delaware Bay enroute to our new home base in Cape May, NJ. The 90-minute ferry ride itself offers excellent seabirding and pelagic opportunities, complete with possibilities of Wilson’s Storm-Petrels and jaegers, along with nice studies of other coastal species. After arriving in Cape May, we’ll be welcomed by some iconic birders, and will enjoy visiting some of the famed hotspots of Cape May, meeting some of the researchers known for their work along the frontiers of avian technology and science!

Lunch will be in the field, and birding starts with Cape May Point State Park, The Meadows, and other locations as we follow the birds. We’ll end up at our new home base later in the day: the lodge at the Belleplain State Forest in northern Cape May County. Birds like Summer Tanagers, Prothonotary, Hooded and Yellow-throated Warblers, are highlighted nesting species here, among many others.

Tuesday, August 8th, 2023 (Day 6): Cape May Birding

We will head out early, venturing to some of the best birding hotspots in eastern North America. Locations will include Higbee Beach, where the seasonal Morning Flight is officially conducted, Cape May Point State Park, The Meadows, and other locations as we follow the birds. The local guides will lead us on another day of adventure, and we’ll learn more about beach nesting birds, opportunities in avian science as a career, and see some of the “behind the scenes” workings of biologists and researchers in the region.

The afternoon will include more birding around Cape May, then heading back to Belleplain for an early dinner before setting out to head north to the famed Edwin B. Forsythe NWR in Brigantine, NJ to end the day with the golden light of sunset.

Wednesday, August 9th, 2023 (Day 7): Cape May Birding

We will take grab-and-go breakfasts with us as we head out early, venturing to some of the best birding hotspots in eastern North America once again. Locations likely include a return to Higbee Beach, or somewhere similar, to watch potential Morning Flight. The local guides will lead us along the birding trails and beaches.

In the afternoon, we’ll maximize our opportunities to see new places and find more birds! Dinner will be early so that we can make it to the Ocean City, NJ Welcome Center to watch the herons, ibis, and egrets arrive en masse to their evening roost site. Photo ops can be spectacular, and we’ll watch thousands of birds here till darkness falls.

We’ll eventually return to the lodge at Belleplain, a campfire with S’mores and fun will round out our last night of camp!

Thursday, August 10th, 2023 (Day 8): Departure

We’ll say our goodbyes after breakfast on site, pack-up and head out into the world with new friends, new birds, and new experiences to add to our lives. For those traveling by air we’ll load up the vans and head to Philadelphia International Airport, a little over an hour away. For campers traveling home by vehicle, pick up will be at Belleplain State Forest lodge, 10:00 am or earlier.

Autor Laura Guerard

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