Nights and days came and passed
And summer and winter
and the rain.
And it was good to be a little Island.
A part of the world
and a world of its own
All surrounded by the bright blue sea.
~ Margaret Wise Brown, The Little Island
It has taken us longer than it should have when you consider that we don’t live too far from it, but M and I finally made it out to Deal Island over the weekend. On Saturday, as planned, we went to the Deal Island Wildlife Management Area (WMA) to hike and see the waterfowl. There is a 2800-acre impoundment that was created in the tidal marsh, and thousands of geese, swans, and ducks migrate through, nest, and/or feed throughout the area. We have been to the Deal Island WMA one or two times before. That was as close as we got to visiting Deal Island itself up until Saturday. The Deal Island WMA is not on the island, but a short jaunt down the road from it on the Eastern Shore peninsula.
M and I arrived a few hours before sunset, found a good place to park, and started walking. We saw a lot of ducks, geese, and swans, as well as the occasional great blue heron. Alas, they were all quite skittish and either took off as soon as they saw us or kept themselves so far away that it was difficult to see them without binoculars (which we did bring along). Getting photos was nearly impossible since I don’t have the lens for long distances and, in one of those twists of fate, the lens I did have turned out to be the wrong one for when we later left the marsh and traveled over the bridge to Deal Island itself. More on that later.
The walk itself was lovely since the weather was warm. It was mostly cloudy with occasional sunny spells, and when the sun did make an appearance, it made the surface of the water sparkle. I like marshes, and find this one to be beautiful in any season. My only complaint is the littering that is so prevalent here on the Eastern Shore. There are signs all over the WMA stating that the area will be closed if people continue to litter, but I can’t see that the signs or the threat have made much difference. M and I usually pick up trash when we hike, but forgot to bring a bag with us this time around. I will not forget again, I hope. I would not like to see the area closed, especially over something that could easily be prevented. (You can see a photo of one of the signs and my Open Letter to the folks who live on and visit the Eastern Shore here.)
The tundra swans are beautiful and I wish I could show you some better images of them. You can search for images or have a look at some here. The tundra swans who winter here feed on clams, and very often (about half the time, according to Cornell’s All About Birds site) gulls swoop in and steal the clams that the swans have taken the trouble to dig up from the mud.
When we finished (unintentionally) scaring off the wildlife at the WMA, we hopped back in the car and headed east to Deal Island. There is a lovely introduction to Deal Island to be found here. One of the interesting facets, to me, is the way the name of the island has changed over the years. It was once known as Devil’s Island, and the nearby village (which you pass through to get to Deal Island) of Dame’s Quarter was once the The Damned Quarters (or Quarters of the Damned, depending on what you read). Dame’s Quarter is where the Deal Island WMA is actually located, and it is said that in the 1700’s, pirates once called this area home.
It was in the 1600’s that Deal Island got the name of Devil’s Island which it retained for about a century. According to the Visit Somerset County website, the story behind the name Devil’s Island is that a ship had run aground on the island after a hurricane, and when the folks on the ship saw the marsh and wilderness, someone declared “this is Purgatory, the land of the Devil.” How it changed from Devil’s to Deal is not really known. Perhaps the letter v was dropped and it became Deil and was eventually changed to Deal.
The island is only 5.4 square miles (3 miles long and 1 mile wide although one website claims it is 6 miles long and 3 miles wide at the neck), and 2.1 square miles (39.66%) of it is water. It is surrounded on three sides by Tangier Sound. Most of the folks on the island earned their livelihood either on the water or as part of the boat and seafood industry. It was another hurricane, in 1933, that put an end to a thriving industry. Deal Island is now a small and quiet community that still has ties to the watermen’s life. They host Skipjack Races every Labor Day weekend. A skipjack was a working sailboat in the oyster industry, and you can read more about it here.
As with a lot of the Eastern Shore, the communities on Deal Island have quite a mix of homes, churches, and buildings, including those that are well-maintained and those that are abandoned or left to decline. I mentioned something earlier about my camera lens. Expecting to photograph wildlife, birds in particular, I had the zoom lens on. When we got to Deal Island, it would have been nice to have a wide angle lens to photograph the houses and buildings. Since I didn’t, I worked with what I had (which required standing way back, when I could, in most instances). I hope to go back someday with the right lens so I can capture a lot of what I missed.
I’ve read that the population on Deal Island is declining, from nearly 600 to just under 400. They are losing ground, too, at a rate of approximately 6.5 acres per year, and rising sea levels may speed up that process.
There are not many businesses (at least obvious businesses) on Deal Island. Near the end of Deal Island Road, the main road through the island, you will find Arby’s General Store and Dockside Bar & Grill. They seemed to be doing a brisk business when we passed by on Saturday.
If you’re interested in living near the water, there were quite a few houses for sale. Do a Google search for Deal Island and Zillow will come up. Apparently it is a Zillow Top 10 Destination in two categories. You can probably get a good deal on a house on Deal Island. M and I looked at places out that way when we were searching for our new home here on the Eastern Shore. Then we stumbled on the Wabi-Sabi Ranch, and that was that.
Thanks for joining me on a meander out to Deal Island. Hopefully we can get out that way again, and have a better look around. There are some fascinating places here on the Eastern Shore, rich with history and community, and I hope to get out and explore more this year.
I think I’ll go to the Point for sunset this evening. If you’d like to join me, sunset is at 5:48 PM. I’ll be there early, as usual. You will probably need a good jacket, hat, and gloves. It’s not freezing here today, in fact it’s in the 50’s, but it’s usually windy at the Point and once the sun dips down below the horizon, it gets chilly fast.
Be good, be kind, be loving. Just Be. 🙂
Today’s joys: Afternoon sunshine after a gray and cloudy morning; crocuses in bloom; the first daffodil beginning to open; a cheery little Eastern Bluebird and his mate sitting on the garden fence; the noisy chatter of the birds in the woods and marsh.