When: October 17-21, 2012
Where: Cape Charles, Virginia
How Many: 60 Participants
Registration: $1195 per person
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Calling all birders! Join us this fall for the first-ever ABA Birding Rally! Kiptopeke State Park is situated near the tip of the Delmarva Peninsula, and is home to the oldest songbird banding station in the U.S., and one of the country’s most productive hawk-watches. It will serve as our base of operations for 5 days during which we will pack in a ton of fun, and some great birding. Field trips will include visits to places such as Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge, and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. Of course Kiptopeke State Park itself provides not only our lodging, but also great birding, and opportunities to see expert bird-banders in action.
Cape Charles Rally Hosts
George Armistead is a lifelong birder and the events coordinator for the ABA. George spent the prior decade organizing and leading birding tours for Field Guides Inc. He has guided trips on all seven continents, and enjoys vast open country habitats and seabirds most of all. Based in Philadelphia, he is an associate at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, and spends much of his free time birding the coast between Cape May, NJ and Cape Hatteras, NC.
Amy Davis is the Sightings department editor for Birding and Winging It. Along with her husband, Jeff, she loves the occasional long-distance chase. A resident of Chester County, Pennsylvania, Amy collects data for bird surveys locally and throughout the mid-Atlantic region, most recently volunteering for breeding bird atlases in West Virginia and Delaware. In addition to finding, chasing, counting, and writing about birds, Amy enjoys teaching about them at the Devereux Foundation, where she works with students with special needs
Jeff Gordon is the president of the American Birding Association. There’s very little about birds, birding, and birders that he doesn’t find fascinating, though he’s especially interested in birding culture and the many ways we all communicate our passion for birds.
Bill Stewart is the director of our youth programs for the ABA, and also the ABA’s director of marketing. Bill has been birding the Delmarva for decades, and brings not only expertise but also his own brand of good cheer to ABA events.
Doug Gochfeld is a dedicated birder and professional guide who hails from Brooklyn, New York. He has worked as a migration counter for the Cape May Bird Observatory and has worked as a field technician on bird projects in places as varied as Arizona, Suriname, and Alaska. Doug spent two seasons working as a guide on St. Paul Island in Alaska’s Pribilof Islands.
Cape Charles Rally Field Trips
The Rally begins in the afternoon of Oct 17th. There will be two shuttles from the Norfolk airport (~1 hour from our lodging), with one at 1pm and another at 4pm. Please advise our office which shuttle you will be on so that we can plan to meet you. The Rally will end on Oct. 21st. Check-out from our lodges is at 10am that Sunday, and we will leave at that time for the Norfolk Airport, planning to arrive at the airport by 11:30am. Please book your flight so that you are available for a shuttle at 1pm or 4pm on Oct. 17th, and so that you depart for points home after 1:30pm on Oct. 21st .
Rally participants will visit the following BIRDING SITES:
The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel is a marvel of engineering, but also a good migrant/vagrant trap. Spanning 17 miles of open water, there are two 1/2 mile tunnels, and at each end of those tunnels are islands that surround the tunnel entrance/exit. These small islands often provide migrant songbirds the only bit of shelter available. Because there is very little vegetation, whatever is present is often easily seen, and late October is prime time for sparrow. Sometimes 10 or more species of sparrow are seen in a visit to the CBBT. Also, coastal marine species like Great Cormorant, Northern Gannet, loons, and seaducks like Black and Surf Scoter, and Purple Sandpiper are often present.
Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge is located on the barrier island of Assateague which straddles the Maryland/Virginia border, with over 90% in Virginia. It is home to the legendary Chincoteague ponies, the endangered Delmarva Fox Squirrel, and of course a tremendous array of birds. The loblolly pine forests harbor Carolina Chickadees, Eastern Towhees, and Brown-headed Nutchatches, while the freshwater pools play host to hundreds (often thousands) of shorebirds and waterfowl. By late October numbers of Snow Geese should be picking up, as well as Atlantic Brant, and American Black Ducks should be plentiful.
Fisherman Island National Wildlife Refuge is another barrier island, but closed to the public and so seldom accessible to birders. Located right at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, it sits between the bay, the Atlantic Ocean, and off the tip of the Delmarva Peninsula. Its geographic location makes it a very enticing place to go birding, as there are always some migrants around, and one never knows what might turn up here. There is considerable Bayberry and dune habitat, good for Savannah (“Ipswich” is possible) Sparrows and Yellow-rumped (“Myrtle”) Warblers, while the beaches hold an array of gulls, terns (Sandwich is possible), and Black Skimmer. The saltmarsh there can yield sightings of White Ibis, southern herons (Little Blue, Tricolored), marsh sparrows like Saltmarsh and Seaside, and even Clapper Rail.
Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge is another magnet for avian migrants. Located at the tip of the Delmarva Peninsula, with network of trails and observation points, it is a good place to search for migrating hawks, songbirds, perhaps American Woodcock, and some saltmarsh species like Clapper Rail and the southern herons.
Kiptopeke State Park is not only the site of our lodging, but is also home to the Kiptopeke Hawkwatch and the Kiptopeke Songbird Banding Station. Both are rich in tradition and history and have logged a tremendous amount of data, making a strong contribution to our current understanding of bird migration in North America today. We will take time to see how the bird banders collect their data, and learn how they extract the birds from mist-nets, and learn how they handle these delicate avian wonders. The state park is right on the Chesapeake Bay, and also has a number of trails through the mixed (deciduous-loblolly pine) forest. The area is rich with songbirds and hawks.
Cape Charles Rally: What is a Birding Rally?
A Birding Rally is an occasion for a few dozen of our membership to meet up for a few days of birding together. (For this Virginia rally the limit is 60 participants). The goals are to cover a host of rich birding sites, to see a good variety of birds, and to enjoy the company of our fellow ABA members.
Here in the Cape Charles area, many sites are best visited in smaller groups of ~20, and so we will sub-divide Rally participants into three groups of ~20 each. It is within these smaller groups that we will do the bulk of our birding, with the three groups cycling through all of the same sites, but at different times. Barring anything unforeseen (e.g. failure of a vehicle, inclement weather, etc.), each group shall visit all of the same sites, thus enjoying opportunities to see all the same bird species. Each evening we will re-join, meeting with the group as a whole, to share our experiences over some food and drink.
There are no formal lectures scheduled as the days should be pretty full of birding, but we do plan to have local biologists come visit with us each night to give us a brief, informal summary of their work in the area.
Register for this event!
We are pleased to offer lodging at 5 modern, comfortable lodges right at Kiptopeke State Park. Each has 6 bedrooms, with room for 12-16 people, and 3 shared bathrooms. Each lodge has a deck off the backdoor, a large indoor common area (kitchen/lounge), and of course good outdoor views for spotting migrating hawks and songbirds!
Mid-October in the Cape Charles region offers some of the best birding on the east coast. Come join your ABA leaders as they team up with local birders to explore this rich region, and take in the sights of the Chesapeake Bay, the salt marshes, and the barrier beaches. And all this while you socialize with old friends and new, over some succulent seafood!