On July 27, 2018 we kayaked from the Assateague Island National Seashore into the Maryland State Sinepuxent Wildlife Management Area and a small island known to the locals as Bird Island. This was not our original destination, but while preparing our gear at the Old Ferry Landing in the National Seashore, we spoke to two women just returning from early morning paddles. One woman shared pictures of baby brown pelicans at Bird Island. The other, while paddling into coves on the right side of Old Ferry Landing, reported spotting roseate spoonbills. Both sightings intrigued us. A boat trip to Smith Island two months ago included a visit to a large nesting colony of pelicans. It was exciting to think of seeing some more. In addition, roseate spoonbills are our favorite Florida bird. Seeing some in Maryland would be a bird watching coup.
With this in mind we began paddling past Great Egging Island towards Bird Island, which is approximately 2 miles into the Bay. In the 1930’s the Sinepuxent Bay navigation channel was dredged, creating 29 small islands . Thirteen of these islands still remained in 1964 when the Maryland legislature passed a law creating the Sinepuxent Bay Wildlife Management Area. The Island we know as Bird Island is formally called South Point Spoils on the Maryland DNR map. Frankly, we prefer Bird Island.
Sometimes the Sinepuxent Bay is riddled with white caps, however this hot humid Saturday morning featured a light breeze and gentle swells. . Arriving at the island, we quickly found five brown pelican babies nestled among a potpourri of shorebirds. The birds of Bird Island are very noisy, and the smell worse, but for nature lovers the sights are delightful and hypnotic.
We floated quietly offshore for several minutes observing the many comings and goings along the beach. Posted signs state the island is closed, and a good practice is to stay at least 40 feet off the shore. If the birds become agitated, you are too close. After floating and viewing, we slowly paddled around the southwest side of the island.
The other side of the island hosts a unique upside down tree. It’s also home to a large number of gulls.
After an extended period of bird watching we began paddling back to Great Egging Island. Landing on the shore for a break, we spent time picking up garbage, including the remains of a helium filled birthday balloon whose string was tightly wound around a tree. A great reminder of how a balloon string could also tighten around an animal.
Successfully completing our first goal of baby pelican sightings we turned to our search for roseate spoonbills. Paddling and floating around the North end of Great Egging Island a blue crab in the water was pulling itself up on the shore. Detecting our presence he quickly retreated back into the water.
Paddling past the end of Bayside Drive brings one to the boardwalk comprising the Life of the Marsh Trail. Since this is Assateague Island, a harem of wild ponies stood in the marsh guarded by a beautiful white and brown stallion.
Plunging into the many guts and coves on this section of Assateague Island we looked in vain for spoonbills. Plenty of egrets, gulls, and herons wading in the marsh and flying overhead, but not what we were searching for. We came up empty-handed. The quest to see if spoonbills are at Assateague waits for another trip.
All in all it was a great day of kayaking. In the map below we put in at waypoint 26 on Old Ferry Landing and paddled to Bird Island at waypoint 81. We returned via the North side of Great Egging Island and meandered through various coves and guts until completing our circuit.
Put In: Old Ferry Landing in Assateague Island National Seashore. Stop at the visitor center to learn more about the unique history of Ferry Landing and Assateague Island.
Port a Potties in parking lot. Nice beach for launching.
Restaurants: Assateague Island Crab House is on the road to Assateague. We had never stopped there before and decided to visit for a quick-lunch after our hot and humid morning paddle. The A/C felt great, the decorations are eclectic, service was quick and the salad with crab cake and soft shell crab sandwich were delicious. Not sure how we missed this place before (it is only open seasonally) but we will definitely be back.