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Lewes, Delaware
Jim's Towing Service
October 10, 1997     Cape Gazette
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October 10, 1997

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90 - CAPE GAZETTE, Friday, October 10 - October 16, 1997 Burton Island may as well be a million miles away OUTDOORS Dozens of cormorants rose as one from the island, flapping their wings as the kayaks came into sight. Burton Island lies within yards of the bustling state marina at In- dian River Inlet, but it might as well be miles away. Tucked in the midst of Delaware Seashore State Park, surrounded by humanity, lies the virtually unspoiled spit of land. Burton Island sits just to the rear of Indian River Inlet and it's easily reached by a short cause- way that leads to a nature walk around the island. But the island is best appreciated from marsh level, On Friday, three kayakers set out for a trek around the island. I joined Dennis Littleton and Mike D'Amico for the trip and settled in for an education. D'Amico is a local representative of the Sierra Club and one of the most articu- late conservationists in the region. Littleton knows this area like the back of his hand because his Michael Short "Deimarva Dennis" kayaking business exposes hundreds of people to this area of the inland bays. Dennis also acts as an unof- ficial guardian for Burton Island, checking for poachers and finding them with depressing regularity. We paddled past newly erected duck blinds, through shallow marshes. Our first stop was on a small beach within sight of Mid- dle Island, an active rookery with Mike Short photos Burton Island is an ideal place to go kayaking. Here, the Sierra Club's Mike D'Amico takes in the scenery. TIDES Indian River Rehoboth Roosevelt Oak Date I Inlet Beach Inlet Orchard L5:46 I perhaps 500 nests. Raccoon tracks lined the beach and tiny horseshoe crabs, some a scant two inches long, lay along the shoreline. Bits of broken bottle, thick and green with gently rounded bottoms, rolled in the surf. Littleton thinks the bottle fragments, which are commonly found here, could be remnants of the cargo of rum car- ried by the Faithful Steward, which sank near here some two centuries ag.o. "You never know what you might find," Littleton says. He's found ballast stones from ships here and he once found a piece of amber. There are myriad tracks, including a possible mink track, and the stones polished by the surf are a rock hound's delight. "It is an undiscovered place," according to Littleton. He and D'Amico tell the story about watching an osprey and eagle in an aerial duel as they flew across the bay waters, like a pair of World War I aces. The eagle is bigger, but he isn't as maneuverable as the osprey. That means the osprey can lean in- to a turn and gain a burst of break- away speed over the eagle. But the eagle quickly caught up, only lin- gering behind for scant seconds before he was breathing down the osprey's tail feathers. Neither man remembers who gained the fish that spawned the aerial duel. They were too en- tranced by the duel itself, which still raged as the birds flew out of sight. "This is the heart and lungs of Indian River and Rehoboth Bay," according to Littleton. "I think this is one of the hubs of the Atlantic flyway," adds D'Amico. It's easy to see D'Amico's point as pelicans, egrets and cormorants are never far from view. The rook- ery on Middle Island, although small, is so loud during nesting that it's hard to hold a conversa- tion. Littleton said this is the nursery area for the bays, fed by the strong tides at Indian River that pour mil- lions of gallons of clean ocean wa- ter past Burton Island. The tidal flushing creates good water quali- ty. It's no accident that biologists have tried replanting the bays with eel grass near here. They know the grass needs clear, clean waters to survive. In the summer, tropical fish wander north into the area. Little- ton sometimes collects fish to stock the aquarium at the state park office. He finds sea horses and pipe fish and once caught a tiny hammerhead shark, barely big enough to be recognizable. Monarch butterflies flit within view, waiting to cross Indian Riv- er on their migration south to Mexico. D'Amico says the butter- flies are preparing to "make their jump." We do not see any piping plovers, but Littleton said they have seen as many as 34 of the birds on spring trips. Plovers don't You never know what you night find on Burton Island. )ne of the more unique finds tre bits of bottle like this, vhich may be from rum bot- les from the shipwreck of he Faithful Steward in the 700s. test on the island, preferring the ,pen beach, but they feed here. ,ittleton took Sen. George lunting (D-Bethany Beach) on a ayaking trip and Bunting found timself almost within arm's ngth of 15 plovers. "He couldn't iieve what he was seeing,' Lit- ton said. at's typical of people discov- ring the pleasures of Burton Is- and, he said. "They have been Lere all their lives and don't real- ze what's here." Early season ducks Prime Hook Wildlife Refuge re- ,orts decent duck hunting during he opening segment of duck sea- on last week, but Great Marsh tunters reported very good hunt- ng near Lewes. Prime Hook hunters took 290 ,irds during three days last week the actual season was for four bays, but Prime Hook only opened or three). Most of the birds were yeenwing teal (122), wood ducks 57) and bluewing teal (40). Opening day, Oct. 1, produced 31 birds at Prime Hook. All to- ,,ether, 157 hunters took to the harsh at Prime Hook despite very ow water conditions (the water [epth made it very hard to reach efuge duck blinds). Look for hunting success to rise in the fol- lowing weeks when water levels increase. But the low water condi- tions actually helped hunters at the Great Marsh near Lewes, where good numbers of ducks were reported. The success came despite won- derful weather, which is normally the kiss of death for waterfowl hunting. Good duck hunting typi- cally comes when the wind is blowing, the temperature is dip- ping and it's raining sideways. Bombay Hook Day Oct. 11 Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge will celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week on Oct. 11. The purpose of this na- tional celebration is to make the public aware of the vast lands around the country that provide home to a great diversity of wildlife and plants. The first refuge to be established was Peli- can Island in 1903 when Theodore Roosevelt had the novel idea of setting aside a network of habitat areas tbr the conservation of the nation's fish and wildlife. His vi- sion still guides us today. "We hope the American people will consider National Wildlife Refuge Week an open invitation to come learn about and enjoy our rich wildlife resources on national wildlife refuges," said Jamie Rap- paport Clark, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Here is a schedule of events at Bombay Hook this Saturday. Friends of Bombay Hook will have a bake sale and will have se- lected items from its sales outlet on sale. Beginning at 8:30 a.m., there will be a boat trip to the open marsh. Wear boots and old clothes. Call to register, 653-6872.. At 9 a.m., there are birding walks and plant walks. At 11 a.m., there is a movie on the National Wildlife Refuge Sys- tem and a slide show on Partners in Flight de los Americas. ' , :- _ DU marts booth at Coast Day Members of the Eastern Sussex Branch of Ducks Unlimited nanned a table during Coast Day at the College of Marine ;tudies in Lewes on Sunday, Oct. 5. The group is making )lans now for its annual dinner/auction fundraiser planned ;his year for Friday, Dec. 5 at the BayCenter in Dewey Beach. ;hown here with the 60th Anniversary" Commemorative ]rowning Automatic are DU Scretary/Treasurer Jim Mur- )hy, Chairman Ken Hopkins, and Past Chairman Kim Brit- ;ingham.