|Endangered Delmarva Fox Squirrel|
It's been over four years since we have visited Chincoteague NWR on Assateague Island, VA. So Sharon and I made the three hour fifteen minute drive there this past week. We really lucked out on the weather as it was around 70 degrees each of the three days we were there. Upon our arrival we made a circuit around the island to see what had changed. We noticed a few new hotel chains have been supplemented to the many already existing ones, along with some restaurants, but the big change was the effect that Hurricane Sandy had on the beach area. The roads that used to be paved are now just sand which you are permitted to drive.
The one thing that Chincoteague is famous for are the wild ponies. Usually we can spot them fairly quickly but we missed them all together the first day of our sojourn. But eventually we ran across a herd and a few singles here and there.
|Dude in shorts in November viewing pony.|
Of course we also did a little birding. At the beach, I managed to add my only new state bird of the trip, a Lesser Black-backed Gull. Actually, there were quite a few. My high count was 18 gulls.
|Note yellow legs and bi-color wings of LBBG|
|Sharon and Lesser Black-backed Gull|
While at the beach we noticed a very good flight of Northern Gannets passing fairly close to shore. There was a steady stream of them the whole time we were at the beach and the flight continued on each day we were there.
|One of several thousand Northern Gannets|
There were also Sanderlings still running along the beach and three Ruddy turnstones put in an appearance.
I was scanning the fresh waters pools when I noticed a large flock of shorebirds flying around. They eventually flew out over the ocean and were badly backlit so I couldn't figured out what they were. Fortunately, they veered around and landed directly in front of us as we were standing on the beach. It turned out there were Willets, possibly western Willets. Any comments about the ID would be appreciated. A flock of about thirty-five.
|Gray coloration on Willets|
|Possible western Willets??|
|Photo included to show wide wing stripe|
Since the weather was so nice, we spent a lot of time on our bikes. The 3 mile inner wildlife loop of the refuge doesn't open to auto traffic until three in the afternoon so we had several hours of biking time to spend watching the birds on the wildlife loop. The surprise of the visit came when we found White Ibis in the impoundment. But not just one we found close to 80 of them, both immatures (70%) and adults.
Royals Terns were also present in copious numbers with lots of Forster's terns too.
|Royal Terns and one Forster's on right|
|Female Boat-tailed Grackle|
|A real fixer upper if you're interested|
|Sunset from our hotel balcony|
|Sunset at Tom's Cove|
|One Final Look|