Where do we go from here?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Birding Delmarva, Farewell on a Perfect Day

We planned our trip to include a last day without regimented birding activities, and it turned out to be the best day of all. The weather cleared up, and although it was still fairly chilly; it was warm enough to take a long beach walk at Cape Henlopen State Park in Lewes. We walked for miles along the beach, even walked in the cold lapping waves, enjoying the mild sunlight on our faces and the wonderful return to sea air. Have I mentioned how I miss the beach out here in the desert? I could rave and carry on about how badly we feel the lack of the water, but I will spare you, for now anyway.

After lunch we returned to Cape Henlopen, this time to an area called Gordon's Pond, for more walking and more birding. We were the only human beings there in a long afternoon of tramping and looking, but we had plenty of other company. At one point a group of whitetailed deer leapt splashing and crashing across the pond; the reeds and bushes were full of sparrows, kinglets, yellow-rumped warblers (about the only warbler left in the area), the beaches yielded semippalmated plovers and sandpipers, sanderlings, blackbacked and herring gulls. As the afternoon wore on, the skies filled with wave after wave of snow geese flying in to settle for the evening on the ponds and marshes after a day of feeding in the fields the NWR maintains for them. Even after our years of living on Delmarva, watching this happen every fall, it's impossible to feel indifferent to the wonder of the sight and sound of so many geese filling the evening and morning heavens.

It was twilight when we finally left the Gordon's Pond trail and went back down to the beach for an ocean farewell. The light was magical, the waters calmed from the wild crashing waves of the previous days' storms, and as we neared a clump of large black rocks at the waterline, I saw something waiting there for us. A piece of folded paper was weighted down by several stones and broken whelk shells in a small depression in the rock. It had clearly been left where it would be found by a passing beachwalker, so I took it back up to the parking lot where there was more light. It was a copy of Mary Oliver's poem, Whelks. A message from the universe, a final gift from the sea in the last moment of our visit.

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