Delaware Birding Trail
Delaware River Coast Region
Shady streams broaden into marshes lined with cattails and water lilies that feed the Delaware River, creating a rich habitat for herons, rails, ducks, and many other waterbirds. Rewarding birding can be found here at any season.
Fort DuPont State Park
South side of Delaware City
Managed by: Delaware State Parks
Web site: www.destateparks.com/park/fort-dupont/
Fort DuPont State Park, dedicated in 1992, has proved to be an excellent migrant trap, especially in fall, and is a fine vantage point from which to scan the Delaware River. In spring and early summer, birders can enjoy the procession of herons, egrets, and Glossy Ibis making their way to and from the rookery on Pea Patch Island, where Fort Delaware State Park is located.
The best birding is generally along the River View Trail. Scan the river from the overlook just beyond the parking lot. Yellow-crowned Night-Herons, scarce in Delaware, are commonly seen flying along the river banks. Follow the trail as it winds around and through a large grove of trees and past some old military bunkers. Be alert for songbirds in the thickets and fields, including warblers and sparrows.
Directions to the River View Trail: From the intersection of Route 9 and Clinton Street in Delaware City, go south 0.4 mile, and bear right (SE) into Fort DuPont State Park on North Reedy Point Road. In 0.1 mile, take the first left (E) onto Wilmington Avenue, which ends at the River View Trail parking lot in another 0.6 mile.
Fort Delaware State Park
1 mile (by boat) east of Delaware City
Managed by: Delaware State Parks
Web site: www.destateparks.com/park/fort-delaware/
Situated on Pea Patch Island, a 10-minute passenger ferry ride from Delaware City, Fort Delaware is a majestic Civil War-era masonry fort. The island's undeveloped northern end boasts the largest mixed rookery of herons and egrets on the East Coast of the US. Prospective visitors should note that there is no public access to the immediate nesting area, but an observation platform approximately 300 yards from the south edge of the colony allows good views of the comings and goings of the adult birds. Once you have landed on the island, it is about a 0.3 mile walk to the fort, and another 0.5 mile northwest from there to the observation point. A spotting scope is helpful, if you have one.
Directions to the Fort Delaware State Park ferry dock:
From the intersection of Route 9 and Clinton Street in Delaware City, go east on Clinton Street 0.5 mile to its end at the river. The ferry dock and park office are on the right (S). The east end of Clinton Street is also a good vantage point for viewing the birds around the herony; though the distance is substantial, one gets a sense of the true size of the colony.
Note: Access to the island is by ferry only. Private boats are not permitted to dock on the island. Ferry service to the island is only available on specified days, from late April until early September. Check the park website for the current schedule and prices.
Thousand Acre Marsh
1.5 miles south of Delaware City
Managed by: private (birding from public roadsides)
Thousand Acre Marsh is an expanse of freshwater wetlands just south of the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal mouth. It is excellent for ducks, rails, bitterns, herons, and egrets. Start by scanning the Saint George's Creek Area, just south of Reedy Point Bridge. The mudflats to the west here can be excellent for shorebirds as well as terns and Glossy Ibis. Saint George's Creek itself, which winds through the tidal marsh east of Route 9, has King and Clapper Rails and presumed hybrids of the two. The section of Dutch Neck Road just west of Reedy Point Bridge provides expansive views of the main wetlands area to the south. The bridge itself often has roosting or nesting Peregrine Falcons. Farther west on Dutch Neck Road, the Greer's Pond area is a great place to watch and listen for species like Wood Duck, Least Bittern, Virginia Rail, and Sora.
Directions for Thousand Acre Marsh:
From the intersection of Route 9 and Clinton Street in Delaware City, go south 2.2 miles, crossing Reedy Point Bridge, and turn right (W) onto South Reedy Point Road at the Saint George's Creek Area. Pull off on the road shoulder and scan the flats to the west and the creek to the east. From here, continue north on South Reedy Point Road 0.8 mile to Dutch Neck Road, and turn left (W). Scan the marsh to the south of Dutch Neck Road over the next 0.9 mile, then bear left slightly, arriving at Greer's Pond on the right (N) in another 0.2 mile. Please note that unlike most sites on the Delaware Birding Trail, much of the land around Thousand Acre Marsh is private, not public.
Next Sites: Delaware Bay Coast Region - Click to continue.
The Delaware Birding Trail is a joint project of the following:
- Delaware Audubon Society
- Delmarva Ornithological Society, dosbirds.org
- Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control,
Division of Fish & Wildlife, dnrec.delaware.gov
This project was funded, in part, through the Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife with funding from the Wildlife Conservation and Restoration Program, Division of Federal Assistance, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
Text by Jeffrey A. Gordon
Delaware Birding Trail by Jeffrey A. Gordon is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.