Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge hosts monthly bird walks from November through March, where enthusiastic birders are led on guided walks while collecting data on the number of species present. On the most recent walk on February 1st, led by secretary of the Talbot Bird Club, Wayne Bell, 21 bird watchers braved foggy conditions for a two-mile tour of the refuge. Typically, in good conditions, 40 to 50 species are counted, but due to the poor visibility, only 10 species were recorded. Lower numbers of waterfowl species were seen than expected due to the fog, although other birds were still identifiable. The weather may not have been perfect, but these friendly and patient birders were rewarded for their persistence. Among the species they counted were the Carolina Chickadee, Northern Cardinal, Carolina Wren, Hermit Thrush, Fox Sparrow, Eastern Towhee, American Crow, and the Northern Flicker. Lucky individuals were also able to hear the call of a Screech Owl, who responded to a call from one of the bird watchers. These birders even caught a close-up glimpse of three Bald Eagles! However, the most intriguing bird they encountered was the Brown-headed Nuthatch. Eastern Neck sits at the very northern range for this species and the nuthatch is an unusual visitor this far up on the Eastern Shore. The nuthatch has a rather peculiar call reminiscent of a squeaky toy rubber duck, making this sighting a memorable highlight of the walk.
The information collected from the bird walks is entered into ebird.org, a database which is maintained by Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology. Researchers across the world use this data, collected by citizen scientists, for a multitude of purposes including analysis and tracking. However, one does not need to be a scientist to use ebird – interested individuals can browse by species, region, and even by national wildlife refuge! Eastern Neck’s bird walks are an opportunity for both novice and experienced birders alike to engage with the local environment while contributing to global science. The final bird walk for the season will led by Terry Willis, on March 7th.