Winter is a Wonderful Time to Bird in Ocean City, MD
Worcester County Maryland is home to a wide variety of migratory birds who love the coastline and fresh water ponds, rivers and creeks. There are over 100,000 protected acres in Worcester County providing habitat and recreational areas for birders and others. If you haven’t ever visited Worcester County, you should check out the Worcester County parks, the Assateague State Park and the Pocomoke River State Park owned by the State of Maryland, and the Assateague Island National Seashore to provide you with endless hours of outdoor fun and birding opportunities.
Ocean City Inlet
I ventured to the Ocean City Inlet as is my habit when I need a break or the weather looks interesting. Thanks to the off season, the Town of Ocean City does not charge parking fees at the inlet. You can zip in, take a look at the waves crashing on Assateague Island, check out the birds and be gone in a matter of minutes. I’m not the only one who has this habit. I see many locals and visitors stop by to walk their dogs, fish or gaze at the ocean. Especially during the winter, you see large numbers of birders with spotting scopes.
I passed the now deserted Oceanic Motel that stands sentinel to the opening of the Inlet. I’ve found that the parking lot of the Oceanic Motel is a great place to watch the birds that like to fish in the Inlet. Winter is the perfect time for birders to see our winter migratory species such as loons, scoters — two types, buffleheads, and most exciting for me, the Harlequin duck and the common Eider — lots of them. I’ve never seen either bird before so yesterday was a great day. I swung by there today to see if the density and diversity of the diving ducks and Eiders was as spectacular as yesterday. Unfortunately the large flotilla of birds diving and fighting and swimming around had dispersed to some degree. The same species were there, just not all clustered against the Ocean City inlet jetty.
If you like birding and you like unusual winter migratory sightings, then you should try the Ocean City Inlet. Bring your spotting scope and settle in for awhile to watch the birds. You can get great deals on hotel rooms at this time of year, so go to OceanCity.com’s Where to Stay page to find a great deal on Ocean City hotels, motels, and vacation rentals. Check out DelmarvaBirding to get information on their their annual birding weekends. They are always fun and usually sell out so make sure you sign up early for this great event.
Christmas Bird Count
This year, I came upon a small group of birders with spotting scopes set up and thoroughly enjoying themselves. My friend, Chris started chatting with one of the more gregarious members of the group who started telling us that they were getting ready for the Christmas Bird Count – a 24 hour period where all the birds would be counted by volunteers.
We learned that each year since 1901, the Audubon Society has been hosting a Christmas bird count. It was originally designed to encourage people to look at birds and not kill them. According to the Audubon Society page, “Beginning on Christmas Day 1900, ornithologist Frank M. Chapman, an early officer in the then-nascent Audubon Society, proposed a new holiday tradition—a “Christmas Bird Census” that would count birds during the holidays rather than hunt them.” That year, 27 birders and 25 counts were held that day. The 122nd count (2021)utilized 76,880 counters in 2621 different counts. The final results of the 2022 count are not yet in. Every count is done within a 15 mile diameter circle in the best birding spots. Teams go out within the 24 hour window on December 28th. Counters go out in Canada, the US, Mexico, and Central America to get the data and have fun with other birders.
To see the results of the 2021 count, click here.
Some Bird Photos