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Delaware Birding Trail debuts with unveiling of
new map, web site and birding competition winners


In a first-of-its-kind collaboration, Delaware Audubon, Delmarva Ornithological Society, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service have joined talents to create the Delaware Birding Trail.

“With Delaware’s rich diversity of birds – migratory shorebirds along our bay beaches, songbirds in our forests and waterfowl in our wetlands – our state plays a significant role in global wildlife conservation,”  Governor Ruth Ann Minner said when she was presented with a copy of the trail’s brochure map. “The new Delaware Birding Trail invites our residents and visitors to discover and enjoy this unique diversity, and serves as a great resource to promote the importance of conserving Delaware’s wildlife for future generations.”

More than a year and a half in development by the Delaware Birding Trail Task Force, the trail features 27 birding hotspots throughout Delaware. A formal unveiling of the trail map, along with the web site, was held at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Smyrna.

To introduce both novice and experienced birders to the new birding trail, a week-long birding competition, "Bird the Trail," began at midnight December 1, and concluded the day before the trail was dedicated.

Forrest Rowland of Hockessin, who served as the hawk watcher at Ashland Nature Center this past fall, had the highest individual total, with 148 species observed. With Derek Stoner of Hockessin, president of the Delmarva Ornithological Society, Rowland scored the highest single-day total of 114 species. Rowland also earned the competition’s grand prize for his time, energy and enthusiasm in exploring the new trail.

In the Words and Images category, Stoner was recognized for his photo of a hermit thrush and Roger Masse, an avid birder who is working on his master’s degree at Delaware State University, took the prize for his whimsical poem “2 Hours at Bombay Hook: a poem for the trail.” Bird of the Week honors went to the red crossbill found at Cape Henlopen State Park by Bill and Sally Fintel of Lewes. Honorable mention was a blue-headed vireo spotted at Cape Henlopen by DNREC Delaware State Parks staffer Chris Bennett of Milford.

The primary purpose of creating the Delaware Birding Trail is to educate, inform and encourage both instate and out of state birders to experience the incredible wealth of birdlife and bird habitat Delaware has to offer. Internationally known as the Shorebird Capital of the world, the bay shoreline along Kent and Sussex counties is ablaze in both spring and fall with hundreds of thousands of migratory shorebirds.

But the abundance of birds calling Delaware home or just taking a needed rest stop does not end with shorebirds. Fall and winter bring hawk migration along with thousands of waterfowl and the snow goose spectacle, and spring and summer begin with colorful migrant songbirds and end with the breeding season.

“Delaware’s resident birders as well as those in-the-know from neighboring states have long enjoyed observing the wide range of birds that change with our seasons. This new trail will open up this best-kept secret to an even wider audience,” said DNREC Secretary John A. Hughes. “By offering an up-close look at these wild creatures in their natural habitat, the trail will draw Delawareans and visitors to experience for themselves the importance of wildlife conservation – which is one of this agency’s main missions.”

“In creating the Delaware Birding Trail, our Fish and Wildlife staff and their conservation colleagues in Delaware Audubon, Delmarva Ornithological Society and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have assembled a wonderful tour of Delaware’s natural places to allow people to see some of its most unique inhabitants. We’re proud and pleased to present this opportunity to the public,” said Pat Emory, director of the Division of Fish & Wildlife.

New Delaware Birding Trail maps are available at Delaware State Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, and other locations, and after December 8, via the web site. Maps can also be obtained by calling the Division’s Wildlife Section at 302-739-9912.

Photo by Liz Gordon

To kick off the Delaware Birding Trail, a Bird the Trail contest was staged for sighting species in Delaware within a week's timeframe. Forrest Howland, above, a hawk watcher at the Ashland Nature Center, won first prize by spotting 148 species of the 166 sighted by all contestants during the week. Teaming with Derek Stoner, president of the Delaware Ornithological Society, he also scored a single-day sighting score of 114 species.


To guide birders on the trail, the task force has created both the full-color brochure map version and a web site,, using dramatic photography by Delaware wildlife photographer Kim Steininger and distilling decades of field experience by hundreds of Delaware birders to create informative and user-friendly text.

“Our goal was to present information that will be useful and interesting to a local family seeking a fun outdoor adventure as well as to an experienced birder from far out of state. Most of all, we also aimed to produce a guide that would make us all more aware, more proud, and more protective of the natural beauty that surrounds us in Delaware,” said Trail project coordinator Jeffrey Gordon, who is also an author and nationally renowned birder.

Maps are available at Delaware State Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, and other locations, as well as via the web site. Maps can also be obtained by calling the Division’s Wildlife Section at 302-739-9912. Plans also call for distributing the trail maps to many schools throughout Delaware. Maps are free to the public.

The trail’s debut event is open to the public and will feature a brief presentation by Gordon on the trail. The event will culminate in a short birdwalk through the refuge. Light refreshments will be served.

In addition to Gordon, the Delaware Birding Trail Task Force members are: Chair Ann Rydgren, Delaware Audubon; Karen Bennett, DNREC Division of Fish & Wildlife; Sally O’Byrne and Bill Stewart, Delmarva Ornithological Society; and Andy Urquhart, Delaware Audubon.

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