Posted in A bit of history, Air, Beach, Critters, Earth, Eastern Shore, Exploring, Gifts, Maryland, Mindfulness, Nature, Photography, Poetry, Portals & Pathways, Quotes, Sky, Spirit, Walking & Wandering, Water, Winter

A Monday meander: Deal Island

On Deal Island, looking out over Tangier Sound.
On Deal Island, looking out over Tangier Sound.

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

Before the bridge to the island.
Before the bridge to the 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.

Looking through the marsh grasses at the Wildlife Management Area.
Looking through the marsh grasses at the Wildlife Management Area.

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.

Looking out over the tidal marsh.
Looking out over the tidal marsh.

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.)

Tundra swans and geese. Or maybe ducks. I'm not sure, but they look big enough to be geese in flight.
Tundra swans and geese. Or maybe ducks. I’m not sure, but they look big enough to be geese in flight.

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.

In flight.
In flight.

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.

Looking over at the town of Chance from Deal Island.
Looking over at the town of Chance from Deal Island.  See the house with the red roof?  M and I looked at that house and considered it as a possibility when we were looking for our new home here on the Eastern Shore.

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.

John Wesley Methodist Church. (Restoration is in progress.)
John Wesley Methodist Church, the only remaining African American church on Deal Island. (Restoration is in progress.)

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.

Being reclaimed by nature.
Being reclaimed by nature.

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.

Closer.
Closer.

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.

I wonder what this place used to be?
I wonder what this place used to be?  I spent a lot of time searching for it online, but couldn’t even come up with another image of it.

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.

Behind the mystery building is a crumbling boat dock and some beautiful scenery if you're willing to walk a little way.
Behind the mystery building is a crumbling boat dock and some beautiful scenery if you’re willing to walk a little way.

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.

Looks like the roof needs work.
Looks like the roof needs work.

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.

Side view.
Side view.

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.

Swans at sunset.
Swans at sunset.

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.

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Author:

Robin is a photographer, artist, writer, wife, sometime poet, mom, grandma, daughter, sister, friend, and occasional traveler currently living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. She finished a 365 commitment to get outside every day in 2011, and has turned it into a lifelong commitment taking one or more walks each day. Robin will continue to share her walks through her words and images on Breezes at Dawn. Older posts can be found at Life in the Bogs, her previous blog. Robin and her husband are in the midst of renovating the house and property they refer to as the Wabi-Sabi Ranch, 35 acres that include marsh, a dock on a tidal creek, meadows, and woodlands. Every day brings new discoveries.

21 thoughts on “A Monday meander: Deal Island

  1. Thank you for this interesting post, Robin. The photos are lovely–I especially like the swans. I will have to come back and check out all of the links.
    You probably know that European colonists who lived in the Chesapeake region talked about undergoing a “seasoning” period when they first lived there. They got “ague and fevers,” most likely from malaria and other diseases. I guess that could be quite devilish, too! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a gorgeous place, even in winter! Love your swan photos, especially, Robin. It amazes me how many little communities there are like this, that time has ravaged but forgotten. We’ve heard a lot down here lately about the subsidence and erosion to Tangier Island. A lovely place to visit. Such beautiful and peaceful scenes of water, sky, and land. WG

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, WG. 🙂 Tangier Island is on my list for this year. And Smith Island. A lot of those small communities near the water may end up in the sea, the way things are going. I hope you survived the storms last night with little or no damage.

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    1. Thank you, Eliza. 🙂 I thought that, too, about Deal Island. Summers are pretty hot and buggy, although I hear Deal Island has tackled its mosquito problem with fish in the ditches that eat the mosquito larvae.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I have always wanted to visit the Eastern Shore. Once we got close, when my sister and brother-in-law lived on the Elk River near Turkey Point. Maybe some day we will go back and explore. This is a very interesting blog post.

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    1. Thank you, Skip. 🙂 I hope you do get out this way sometime. It’s a beautiful area. I was just at Turkey Point last weekend. It’s also a beautiful area. My husband and I were talking about how it would be a nice place to retire.

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Comments are delightful and always appreciated. I will respond when I can (life is keeping me busy!), and/or come around to visit you at your place soon. Thank you!

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