Migratory shorebirds flock to Delaware Bay beaches to feed on their way to northern breeding grounds

By Lynn R. Parks
Photograph by Deb Felmey
From the May 2022 issue

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It’s not just people, yearning for surf and sun, who make annual treks to coastal Sussex. Migratory shorebirds — those stouthearted little creatures that travel thousands of miles every spring to reach their breeding grounds — include the beaches along Delaware Bay as a regular stop on their northward itineraries. 

Up to 1 million shorebirds visit those beaches every spring, says Henrietta Bellman, a coastal avian biologist with the state’s Division of  Fish & Wildlife. They represent as many as 30 species, including red knots, ruddy turnstones, semipalmated sandpipers, sanderlings and dunlins. 

The birds typically arrive in late April and early May, Bellman says, with their populations peaking in mid-May. By the middle of June, they have left to continue their way north. Timing is everything in this journey: The shorebirds, exhausted and emaciated, arrive in Delaware at the same time that horseshoe crabs — like the birds, compelled by a centuries-old spring ritual — are crawling out of the bay to lay their eggs in the sand. The birds’ timely arrival along the Delaware Bay allows them to forage during peak [horseshoe crab] spawning,” Bellman says.

Broadkill Beach retains the quiet charms of an earlier era

By Michael Morgan
Photographs courtesy of the Milton Historical Society
From the April 2022 issue

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‘Barefoot Thursday’ was duly celebrated on Broadkiln Beach last Thursday,” the Smyrna Times reported in 1859. “Everyone present on that occasion was obliged to take off his boots and go barefoot. Great country that Sussex! — and great people live ‘thar.’”

Broadkill Beach (or, as it was often called in the 19th century, Broadkiln Beach), with its wide view of Delaware Bay, is washed by that waterway’s gentle waves splashing on replenished sand. Situated on a sliver of shoreline northwest of Lewes, hemmed in by Primehook Beach to the northwest and Beach Plum Island Nature Preserve to the southeast, Broadkill is isolated from crowds, commercial outlets and traffic. 

Dolle’s distinctive lettering is gone from the boardwalk, but not from Rehoboth

By Susan Towers
Photographs by Scott Nathan
From the April 2022 issue

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A few hundred onlookers watched in silence on a clear winter morning as the familiar orange Dolle’s sign was removed from its perch overlooking the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk. It had stood as an iconic landmark in the resort town for 60 years.

“I never thought I’d see the day the sign would come down,” says Tom Ibach, the third-generation owner of Dolle’s Candyland. He was a small child when his grandfather erected the sign.

A team of nine from the Milton-based Rogers Sign Co. worked for hours to remove it, cutting steel supports and making sure the 15-by-30-foot structure didn’t crash to the ground. With a crane and a network of ropes, cables and straps, they slowly lowered it onto a trailer waiting to take it to a nearby storage area. Although weighing more than 3,700 pounds, the sign and the attached steel frame seemed to float down to its resting place, like a feather.