The Atlantic Ocean and hordes of people with nothing better to do on a Thursday afternoon.
After fighting my way out of DC traffic, my GPS sent me through Delaware, which was unnecessary, but I guess it thought there was going to be traffic to slow me down. The weird thing was there wasn't a sign that proclaimed "You are now entering Delaware! The ____ State!" (I'm sure they're known for something other than being the "first" state.)
I stopped by the visitor center to find out about any birding hotspots. Armed with a nonspecific answer and a map, I did my best to find a parking space, which was impossible in a couple of the lots at the time I arrived in the early afternoon.
I started with the Forest Trail, which went through - you guessed it - a forest on the way to an overlook of the a marsh. From the overlook, I saw green herons, sandpipers, and yellowlegs. I paid for it in blood courtesy of onslaught of salt marsh mosquitoes, whose bite, for some reason, transcends the traditional itchiness and goes straight into a full-on burning sensation that had me growling and clenching my teeth and fists by the time I got to the car. This is coming from a guy who used to sit out on the unscreened porch all evening in Montana and catch mosquitoes on the wing.
A green heron hunts for fish in the marsh. Here, fishy fishy fishy.
"Seriously, you will probably die on this trail." The threat of poison ivy is a joke to me now that I work in a park with its own SWAT team and high-tech surveillance equipment.
After I gave up on the mosquito habitat, I went over to the main beach to hang out for a while. I saw a huge, apparently dead, horseshoe crab that was probably two feet long from nose to tail. I didn't stay too long because I didn't want to get sunburned, but mostly because sitting on a beach by yourself is boring.
My bird book says the ring-billed gull shouldn't be here in the summer. I assume people and garbage have something to do with it.
The laughing gull is, I think, a handsome gull, if very common along the seaside. It gets its name from the sound it makes.
I talked to one of the rangers there about alternate birding spots, and he sent me on the Marsh Trail. "Yeah, that doesn't sound buggy," I thought. Luckily, the mosquitoes weren't a factor there; the too-loud kids and a grouchy woman I presume was their aunt trying their hand at "fishing" drove me insane enough. I did manage to spot two little blue herons there, which was a first for me.
An overlook on the Marsh Trail.
Tiny fish in a pool. I also saw some pipefish, relatives of seahorses, swimming around.
Similar to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, one of the big wildlife attractions is the feral horse population. The horses look very different from those at TR; they are smaller, rounder, and look almost like they are groomed. I would say they do not have the charisma that the horses of Theodore Roosevelt National Park have.
Obligatory horse photo.
After I'd had enough, I asked my GPS about restaurants, and it delivered me to a barbecue joint near Ocean City. Southern barbecue hinges on vinegar-rich sauces, very different from the savory sauces you might expect back in Kansas at my favorite restaurant. I got a pulled pork sandwich and some sweet tea and headed home.
Unfortunately, I visited the park on a busy day and so my experience was somewhat dampened that. To truly get to know and enjoy Assateague Island National Seashore, I am convinced a person has to go hiking into the interior of the park and backpack into some of the backcountry campgrounds. Then you could get away from the people. Next time.