About 20,000 visitors come to the mid-Eastern Shore for the three-day cultural festival. Photo: Waterfowl Festival

Waterfowl Festival to Bring Thousands of People (and Birds) to Eastern Shore

We’re officially into November and waterfowl all along the Eastern seaboard know this is the time to travel. The Waterfowl Festival in Easton, Md. next weekend will celebrate not only the Eastern Shore’s unique artists, food, diving and swimming dogs but also hundreds of thousands of geese, ducks and other species taking an Atlantic Flyway rest stop along the Chesapeake Bay.

Festival attendance could reach 20,000 and more, including some international visitors (not including the migrating waterfowl).

Among the highlights of the weekend is the  World Calling Championship. Goose and duck hunters attract waterfowl with a wooden or acrylic “call” through which they blow air. This competition puts their skills to the test and draws dozens contestants from all over the United States, which includes a few father/son duos, as well as from New Zealand and Canada, according to Waterfowl Board Vice President and contest judge Teddy Hoover.

A fan favorite is the Delmarva Dock Dogs demonstration, where visitors can watch trained dogs jump from docks, dive into the water and swim. And, yes, after seeing this popular event, some attendees have brought their own dogs to participate. It’s held at the Elks Lodge.

From swimming to retrieving, hunting dogs show off even more skills at Bay Street Ponds. Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers and Red Fox Labradors are some of the participants showing us the real meaning of “fetch.”

Some people hunt with raptors instead of dogs. You can watch falcons, hawks and owls show off their hunting skills with Skyhunters in Flight’s Brian Bradley. Earning a falconry license at age 14, Brian trains and hunts with the raptors while making the public aware of their value and ability to adapt in a changing environment.

Richard Clifton’s “November Morning Pintails”

Of course, wildlife art is a huge part of the Waterfowl Festival, and even the finest art collectors will find something at its art exhibits. Photographers, painters, carvers and sculptors of waterfowl come from all over the country. This year’s Featured Artist is Richard Clifton who used numerous photographs of nearby ducks in the water became “November Morning Pintails.” His advice to the beginner: start with the visitors to your birdhouse.

There’s plenty of food offered around Easton—Maryland crab cakes, oysters, chicken, pizza, desserts, and pours from local wineries. The Beer Wetland and Garden, sponsored by Chesapeake Bay Magazine, will be across from the Tidewater Inn. It has heaters, cocktail tables and a downtown feel.

Kids won’t be bored at the festival. They can learn how to paint a duck decoy, watch local authors tell Chesapeake stories, learn how to cast for a fish, and meet the Chesapeake Mermaid.

Veterans get a special nod with discounted tickets on Veterans Day (Friday, Nov. 11) and a VFW exhibit in their honor with a free beer from Big Truck Brewery.

As you explore Easton and the Shore, you can keep your eye out for the migrating birds the festival celebrates. According to 42-year Department of Natural Resources veteran Larry Hindman, blue and green-wing teal and pintail ducks have already come through the Chesapeake in early September. Canada geese came from Quebec in mid-September, with black ducks and mallards now arriving in early November. Tundra swans will appear from Alaska and stay through late February.

Hindman says milder winters have a lot of birds remaining around the Finger Lakes region in New York and the St. Lawrence Seaway. The Chesapeake area probably won’t peak in numbers of ducks and geese until December. 

-Pat Piper