Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge

Last weekend, I drove to Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge.  When I arrived late in the afternoon, I saw a large gaggle of Snow Geese in a field, and as I was pulling to a stop, I saw a fox running along the edge of the gaggle of geese. I quickly stopped the car and went for my camera gear in the back, but the fox had the geese on the move, and they began to fly away. Unfortunately, the fox ran into to a wooded area and out of sight. I did manage to take a few photographs of some of the Snow Geese (above) that did not immediately take flight and some photographs (below) as they flew away.

After the Snow Geese were gone, I worked my way around the refuge looking for other wildlife, but by that time the sun was beginning to set, and the light was not good for photographing the ducks and other birds that I saw. So instead, I focused my attention on photographing the sunset.

Unfortunately, the sky was clear, and although the setting sun turned it into beautiful shades of yellow and orange, it was not going to be a spectacular sunset. Nevertheless, I was determined to try to capture a good image and waited for the sun to drop into the tree line across a pond resulting in the below image. Clearly, some sunsets are much more beautiful than others, but regardless, it’s always great just to be outdoors in a natural environment and see any sunset. If you click on the below image and fill your screen, the setting sun behind the trees is more visible.

I returned to Bombay Hook the next morning before sunrise hoping to find the Snow Geese, but did not. So instead of photographing the geese, I concentrated on photographing the sunrise. Like the evening before, there were no clouds, and as the sun rose, the sky was again filled with gorgeous yellows and oranges. So, it was time to be creative. I remembered a small wooded area back up the road and quickly went there to capture the rising sun framed by the leafless winter trees. Below is one of those images.

The above image alone justified the 3 hour drive to Bombay Hook and getting up before the crack of dawn.

Later that morning and before leaving the refuge, I was able to photograph some of the other wildlife at Bombay Hook. Below are two Canada Geese as they took to the air.

Below is a Red-winged Blackbird, which are migratory birds that winter in places like Bombay Hook. They inhabit open grassy areas, but generally prefer both freshwater and saltwater marshes, like those at Bombay Hook. This male Red-winged Blackbird was calling loudly when I photographed him. The call of the Red-winged Blackbird is a throaty check and a high slurred whistle, terrr-eeee. The male’s song is a scratchy oak-a-lee, accompanied by a display of his red and yellow shoulder patches.

Although I did not see any Snow Geese on the ponds or in fields at Bombay Hook that morning, occasionally a group of would fly overhead, like in the below image.

That morning, I also was able to photograph three different duck species: Northern Shovelers, Pintails and Buffleheads. Photographs of each follow. The first is a male (drake) Northern Shoveler and the second two images are of female (hen) shovelers.

The below image is of a drake Northern Pintail duck. They get their name from their elongated, thin tail feathers. Northern Pintails are among the first ducks to migrate south in the fall and north in the spring. Most pintails breed in Alaska.

The following photographs are of a Bufflehead duck. Of all of the ducks I photographed at Bombay Hook, the Bufflehead was the most challenging to photograph because it seemed to be very wary of me, and there was only one Bufflehead. Fortunately, after flying away several times, it would return to look for more food in that same area of the pond.

Buffleheads are the smallest diving duck in North America. They breed in ponds and small lakes in Canada, and winter in much of the United States. Buffleheads nest in tree cavities, which they can do because of their small size.

This is my first year of seriously photographing waterfowl, and I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing and photographing them. I am looking forward to spring when many more ducks will be migrating through the Atlantic Flyway, which includes the many refuges I have been recently visiting in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.

As you can tell by the above images, which are just a sample of the many I took last weekend, I had a very productive and enjoyable visit to Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, but I was VERY disappointed and saddened by what I saw as I was leaving the refuge. In several locations, along the narrow road leading through open farm fields to the refuge, were large groups of Snow Geese decoys. At first, I thought they were Snow Geese feeding in the fields, which is what the geese do (i.e., they spend the night in the marshlands and ponds where they are safe from predators, and when the sun comes up in the morning, they fly to nearby fields to feed).

With this blog article in mind, I stopped to photograph some of the decoy spreads. From the air, the decoys apparently look like gaggles of geese feeding in the field and thereby attract passing geese into the gunsights of hunters waiting in their blinds.

I am not hunter. I prefer to “hunt” with my camera. After spending the day admiring these magnificent birds, it was heartbreaking to see how elaborately some people work to kill them and how close they hunt to the refuges where the geese are temporarily safe.

About Stephen L Tabone

Executive Consultant and Nature Photographer
This entry was posted in Bird Photographs, National and State Parks, Nature, sunrise, Sunset, Wildlife and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge

  1. Donnie C says:

    I feel the same way you do. I would have been so upset seeing that. Beautiful pictures! I loved the colors and how, when you couldn’t find birds, you made the best of it. So many ducks! I hope the red-wing blackbird that was hanging out, inexplicably, in my yard comes back in the spring!

  2. Anne says:

    Love your sunrises and reading about your effort to capture it in a way to make it even more beautiful! The photo of the drake is gorgeous … great composition and color!!! My favorite is the Bufflehead running on water! What a great shot! But I am so upset reading how your trip ended and I can only imagine how disturbed you were by what you saw. Your photographs and descriptions of your days in the field are like stories to me and this one had an unhappy ending.

  3. clover58 says:

    Excellent photographs. You did well in dealing with what you found at the refuge. Conditions are not always what we expect to find!

    The red-wings are probably headed to my backyard — they should arrive in New York State shortly! After they arrive, they soon loose that yellow patch and we see the red remain.

    • Thank you for the positive feedback–you are absolutely correct about not knowing what to expect, but that is also what makes it challenging and rewarding. Also, I did not know that Red-winged Blackbirds lose their yellow patch, although the ones that I have seen before had totally red patches.

  4. Mac says:

    Who said the early bird catches the worm….this early bird captures beautiful images of nature and its’ incredible creations. More interestingly, one gets to really get an up close view rarely captured by the human eye.

  5. Such beautiful pictures, you are a master of the camera just to be able to show us those. I enjoy visiting your site, very special place. :)

    • Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and for your very positive and inspirational comments. Such comments help to fuel my passion for nature photography and to get me out of bed in the middle of the night, like tonight when I am planning to get up at 0230 to travel to the shore of the Delaware Bay to photograph the sunrise and hopefully a Snow Geese blastoff.

  6. SING LIN says:

    Hi Stephen:

    I enjoy very much your photos from Bombay Hook NWR. The quality of your photos are excellent. You must be using professional DSLR camera. I am using a compact super-zoom camera in my nature and wildlife photography.

    I am happy to see that we also have a common interest in enjoying taking spectacular photos of sunrise and sunset.

    Please see my sunset photos and bird photos from Edwin B. Forsythe (Brigantine) National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey at:

    http://www.shltrip.com/Forsythe_Brigantine_NWF.html

    Sing Lin

    • Sing–thank you for visiting my blog, your very positive feedback, and links to your phtotogrphy. I am at an airport getting ready to catch a flight. I will check out your photography at my first opportunity.

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