After a quick breakfast in Rehoboth Beach, I opted for the long, tiring drive to Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. Whew. Five minutes later, I was there (Delaware is the size of two postage stamps; Rhode Island is apparently one stamp). What a slick piece of property. Tidal areas, grasslands, mature woodlots and beaches. Very cool! I managed about 70 species in just a few hours of work and without walking a single trail (I was really getting tired of flies and skeeters). Highlights for me included Willet, Seaside Sparrow, Black-necked Stilt, Black Skimmer, Least Tern, and Blue Grosbeak. A super highlight was another look at a Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow.
At one point, I found myself having a conversation with a fisherman. He asked what I was looking at. I told him I was looking for birds. (You can see where this is going, can't you?)
“Oh yeah,” he said, “this place is great for birds! See this stuff right here? Orioles love it! They are all over the place!”
“There's one now!” he said confidently, pointing to a Red-winged Blackbird...
I also had a chance to be a hero – yes, I'm gonna brag here. Delaware Bay, as some of you know, is a great place for shorebirds. In short, some of them stop to feed there on the eggs of horseshoe crabs during their spring migration. So, in May and June, the beaches are covered with these prehistoric beasts for spawning. This morning, I found dozens of them all upside down. Apparently the tide flips them over and they can't right themselves. They are not dead; just stuck and helpless. So, I found a phonebooth (a hard thing to come by nowadays), removed my glasses, and stripped off all my clothes. I then spent about 15 minutes tipping them back over. In some cases, I carried them to the water. These things are in big trouble and that means big trouble for the Red Knot, a shorebird dependent on them for survival. So, I did my part. (Apparently, some of the crabs just don’t get it. They bumble and fumble. Take the one on the left, for example. )
After a few hours of birding, I was looking at the calendar and starting to feel a bit rambunctious. I had planned on spending a full day in Delaware, but I was starting to reconsider the agenda. Ultimately, I opted to leave the state after only a half day and plotted a course for Fredericksburg, Virginia. A nasty thunderstorm was a sign of things to come.
I couldn't help but to swing in to an antique mall in Millsboro. I managed to land two news coffee tins and a real sweet purchase of the Universal #109. Original drawer. Minimal dings on the japanned metal. 30 bucks! Deal! Total deal I tell you! I already have a #109 at home (with a different label) but it is missing some parts and is very dinged up. This is a solid replacement buy. I can probably hock the old one on Ebay for a more than the $10 I paid for it.
Before long, I found myself at Yorktown. Not the Yorktown, the aircraft carrier, Yorktown Battlefield. (For the record, earlier United States naval aircraft carriers were named after some Revolutionary War battles, including Saratoga, Lexington, and Yorktown.) You likely know the story from your history classes. The British were holed up in Yorktown. The combined forces of the United States and France, under George Washington, laid siege and defeated them. That pretty much ended the Revolutionary War and allowed the newly formed United States of America it's independence from Great Britain. (at least until the War of 1812). Anyhow, they had tour of the battlefield,etc. You know the “drill.” A highlight was the interpretive center where they had a display centered around Washington's tent. They had the tent. The walls were re-do's, but the tent roof was an actual tent that he slept under (he, of course, slept under a few tents in his career). They also had the field desk used by General Cornwallis. Anyway you look at it – very cool!
More evening storms dashed my hopes of camping again. Days Inn was it for the night. Normally, I am interested in getting the local fare and seeing “how they do things”. So what did I do? I just opted for the Ruby Tuesday next to the hotel. Let the record show, I passed up the opportunity to visit a beer bar, the Capital Ale House, in downtown Fredericksburg. It looks like it could have been pretty good, but I just was not fired up for going there. I was tired and I did not feel like dealing with logistics.
All was not lost. I managed a new beer (#578). The Turbodog Brown Ale by the Abita Brewing Company. Not bad. It poured like a Coke with a rich caramel aroma. The finish was quite smooth with more of those coffee/chocolate tones. I'd get it again.