Annual birding weekend taking flight

Next weekend, the Quiet Resorts of Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island will be for the birds, as the area hosts the 2nd Annual Fall Birding Weekend, Oct. 16-18. More than a dozen different experiences will be available for birders and nature lovers, highlighting some of the area’s most prized natural resources: its birds and wildlife.

Coastal Point • Jesse Pryor

This time of year along the Delaware coastline offers a unique opportunity to see some fine feathered friends.

“We really want to take advantage of the fact that our area is situated right along the Atlantic migratory flyway,” said Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Andrew Cripps. “A lot of species are heading from the northern states down south.”

There’s also a tremendous amount of excitement after the sighting this spring of a rosie spoonbill. In just one year, we really helped build this event and get twice as many people involved and having a good time.”

From migratory to indigenous varieties, more than 300 species of birds have been recorded on the Delmarva Peninsula, and nearly half of those species were sighted during the inaugural birding weekend last year.

The event, organized by the Chamber, is operated through Delmarva Low Impact Tourism Experiences (DLITE), an organization that encourages nature-based tourism throughout the entire Delmarva region.

“What’s happening right now,” said DLITE Director Jim Rapp, “is that our area is attracting birders, not just for festivals and things like that, but we have the resources that attract so many birds. There are a lot of southward migrants, and our region provides them with a stop-over, from mid August to mid-November.

“We’ve got a great influx of raptors and songbirds, all heading south to their winter destinations, but they stop here for food and shelter. So many birds migrate along the coast, and people can immerse in a fantastic birding opportunity.”

Guests can sign up for many different tours and trips throughout the weekend, including kayak and paddling tours, cruises on the Cape May-Lewes Ferry and pontoon boats, or treks through some of the area’s parks. Each birding opportunity is led by an expert who aims to make the trip both educational and enjoyable.

On Friday evening, Oct. 16, a welcoming reception will be held with the event’s guest speaker, birding expert and photographer Jeffery Gordon. On Saturday, Oct. 17, the public can enjoy the Beer, Birds and BBQ event – a benefit for Delaware Center for the Inland Bays that unites friends and supporters with enthusiastic birders for a pig roast, live music and drinks.

“Events like these can be tricky to get started,” said Rapps. “Last year was really a learning year for us, but the folks who came gave us really great feedback and showed us they wanted it again.

“The guides we have to lead the trips are local, or they bird a lot in the area. Each one is eager to share their knowledge and passion for birding, and that’s exactly what brings people back. They are great people who definitely make themselves available and create an opportunity to really enjoy themselves here.”

While the events offered during Birding Weekend are both varied and abundant, they do overlap, so participants can pick the ones they are most interested in, creating their own birding experience. The most popular choices are often fill up early, so signing up as soon as possible means getting the best selection.

“There’s a menu of choices of all different skill levels and experiences,” noted Rapp. “We have the kayak trips for those people who really like to get out there and feel it. Some people prefer to get out in a boat on the bay. That can be an easy way to capture sights of the ocean-going birds. The mouth of the Delaware Bay is a great place to find the region’s water fowl. We have people that dabble in something here and there, and some people go bonkers and sign up for as many as they can.”

The events, he added, are a great way to meet new people and make friends, sharing a passion and hobby that many people in the region have in common.

“It’s fun to not only go out there and go over your field notes of what you saw with somebody,” he added, “but you strike up friendships. There is definitely a welcoming, hospitality aspect of it all. People who come out are tickled by the fact that they make friends in the process.”

Weekend packages are a great way to get in on the fun, with special lodging deals and tour experiences. Registration has already doubled from last year’s numbers, and some events have already sold out, so those wanting to enjoy a quiet relaxing weekend are being encouraged to act quickly.

Check out online for availability and tour and trip rates and requirements. For more information, call the Chamber directly at (302) 539-2100.