Birding the Prime Hook of Delaware
If you are traveling to Delaware and want to do some bird watching away from the bird-watching crowd at BombayBeach, two of the other good places are FowlerBeach and the Prime Hook National Wildlife Area. The Refuge has over 10,000 acres and over 100 species of birds that nest at or migrate through the area. FowlerBeach has a wood-frame watch platform that gives a good view of the Delaware Bay, close to the Atlantic Ocean. In winter, huge flocks of Snow Geese cover the land so heavily they actually do look like snow. Northern Harriers and Bald Eagles scan the fields and rivers for food. Hooded Mergansers and Northern Pintail are also abundant in winter in the ponds of the Prime Hook. All summer Herons, Egrets and shorebirds wade the pools during their migration stop-over. During spring, summer and fall, you may see so many Osprey that you get tired of them.
Places to See in the Prime Hook:
From Route 1, which runs north and south cross the state of Delaware, turn onto Route 16, Broadkill Beach Road. This takes you to Turkle Pond Road and the Prime Hook Wildlife Refuge Headquarters/Visitor Center. Near the center is a boardwalk that leads through the wetlands where you can see Great Egrets and Green Herons. Black Farm Trail is a wide dirt trail that goes along fields, tree lines, ditches and ponds. Part of the trail leads to a photo blind that overlooks a pond. From Turkle Pond Road a turn-off leads to Turkle Pond, Fleetwood Pond and Goose Pond where Wood Ducks may be seen.
Viewing from Broadkill Beach Road
Heading back out from the VisitorsCenter, go east on Broadkill Beach Road. Along the road are pull-over areas where bird watchers set up their scopes for viewing shorebirds in the pools along the Broadkill Beach Road. August is the best time for viewing migrating shore birds. Black-necked Stilts, Glossy Ibis, Dowitches, Plovers and Moor Hens can easily be seen even without a scope or binoculars.
Prime Hook Creek
To get to Prime Hook Creek take Route 1 to the Prime Hook Beach Road. Heading east, turn right onto Little Neck Road. This takes you into the managed area of the wildlife refuge where the state works to maintain water levels that helps to guarantee good viewing of ducks even in a dry season. Further east on the Prime Hook Beach Road is another pull-over for viewing birds in grasslands and pools.
From Prime Hook Beach Road, turn north on Cods Road (roads signs are visible) and right on Fowler Beach Road. At the end of Fowler Beach Road is the wood-frame watch platform that allows views of the Delaware Bay. Again, there are plenty of open fields and pools of water that attract Snow Geese, Canada Geese, Great Horned Owls and Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail and Green-winged Teal. During summer Common and Least Terns, Laughing Gulls, Cormorants, Willets and other shore birds can be seen.
Winter is the easiest time to be in this marsh and wetland habitat. Biting flies in summer can make it a challenging experience. Hunting season for doves and waterfowl in Delaware is from September 1 to January 20, so stay in the open, on highways and wear bright colors.
The Prime Hook national Wildlife Refuge is about five miles from the town of Milton, Delaware. Take Route 1 south. Turn on either Route 5 or Route 16 west to Milton. Hotels and Bed and Breakfasts are available in Milton and in the surrounding towns that all welcome tourists. Places to stay in Milton are listed at www.historicmilton.com/stay.html
The Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge and Milton are in SussexCounty and are a two-hour drive from Washington, D.C. and a four-hour drive from New York City.
Copyright 2007 by Patricia Hilliard