Snow Geese at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge

Before I begin this post, I want to share my excitement and thoughts about this blog. Tomorrow is March 1, and it was in March last year that I started it to share my passion for photography, as well as my love for being outdoors on a refuge, preserve or other natural area observing nature’s beautiful landscapes, seascapes and wildlife. After 102 posted articles, over 14,200 views, 391 comments, and today averaging over 1,800 monthly views, I am very pleased and excited by the number of you that follow and read my blog and take the time to leave comments and/or email me about my articles and photographs. It has evolved into my primary way of sharing my “adventures” and photography, and the significant level of readers, which has been steadily increasing, is inspirational and very rewarding. Thank you to all of you!  Now to this article about the Snow Geese that I saw and photographed this past Sunday. It was a breathtaking experience and one that I will never forget, and this blog provides a way to share that incredible day.

The trip to Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware started at 2:00 AM on Sunday morning, when my friend, Ceaser, and I drove over three hours to get there. When we arrived, it was still dark, which is the way we planned it. We had never been to Prime Hook, but I had heard from a friend that there were hundreds of thousands of Snow Geese there. Prime Hook NWR is on the Delaware Bay and consists of over 10,000 acres of freshwater and saltwater marshes and wetlands, grasslands, ponds, wooded areas, and a 7 mile long creek. It is well known as one of the best habitats along the Atlantic Coast for spring and fall migratory birds. It also is known for large flocks of wintering Snow Geese.

Prime Hook has several roads that lead into the refuge and that end at the Delaware Bay. We chose the road where I had heard the geese may be found. As we were driving along the narrow road with wetlands and ponds on both sides, the headlights from Ceasar’s SUV illuminated what appeared to be some Snow Geese. We stopped and I opened my window, and we heard the load squawking of the geese. From the sounds they were making we could tell there were a lot of geese, but we could not see them because it was a very dark morning–there was no moon in sight. We quickly began to set up our photography equipment, tripods, cameras, lenses, and shutter releases. It was cold and windy, but with our focus on photographing the geese, we could barely feel the frigid  weather.

As the first light appeared on the horizon, the Snow Geese became more and more visible, and our excitement grew. There were definitely thousands of them on both sides of the road with the ones on the north side of the road within 50 to 100 feet (above 3 images). The huge flock on the other side of the road was much further away. We increased the ISO settings on our cameras, and as soon as there was enough light, we began photographing the Snow Geese.

As the sun rose, we could see there were many thousands more geese further away, across the pond where we were located (above image). It was impossible to tell how many, but we knew there were more than we had seen at other refuges.

Snow Geese are medium-sized geese that breed on the arctic tundra. They are high-flying and travel in large, noisy flocks. They got their name because when they descend from great heights in swirling circles, they look like falling snow. Most are completely white except for the black feathers on the tips of their wings. Darker species used to be called Blue Geese, but they are now recognized as a dark form of Snow Geese.

As the sun continued to rise, we continued to photograph the geese.

Above is the pond with a small number of the Snow Geese in view, but they were spread out in both directions. Below is a photo of a goose about to land in the pond.

As we were photographing the Snow Geese, the ones farthest away from us and across the pond began to “blast off,” which is the term used to describe when all of the flock takes off at one time. It was an incredible sight and sound–the sound of their wings flapping and sound of all of their squawking. It was an experience, as I said above, that I will never forget. Below are some images of the huge cloud of geese that kept getting larger and larger as they continued to lift off and fly away. It seemed to last for a very long time.

The above photo is my favorite, because the geese fully fill the frame, the light was perfect, the geese are sharp and clear, and the image is properly exposed with the right depth of field. I will be printing this image (large and on aluminum).

Below is a video that Ceasar took of the hundreds of thousands of Snow Geese as they blasted off and flew away. Click on the below image to start the video and be sure your sound is turned on. The quality of the video may not be perfect, but it allows you to see and hear more of what we experienced on that very special morning.

Again thank you for following my blog and keeping me inspired by your frequent visits, comments and emails. I will be posting another article later this week from the trip to Prime Hook to share the many other wildlife species we saw and photographed that day.

About Stephen L Tabone

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

15 Responses to Snow Geese at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge

  1. Evelyn says:

    At the risk of being redundant one more time, I must say again these DEFINITELY were your most wonderful photos I have seen this past year. And as always, I do expect more of the same in the future.

    Having traveled to many countries in the past and now being relegated to being a “stay at home,” you have provided me with a great deal of pleasure since I am now an “arm chair traveler”. I continue to look forward to my “travels” with you in the future. Thanks for including me on your fabulous trips.

    • I am very pleased that you are enjoying my adventures and photography Evelyn. I hope you will continue “traveling” with me through my photography. When I am out, like I was last weekend at Prime Hook NWR, I think of you and others and how best to capture the experience so as to best portray it on my blog. Hope to see you next weekend when I am visiting Mac and Marie.

  2. Donnie C says:

    Amazing! I especially love the last photograph of the flying geese. What prompted the geese to fly away?

    • That is my favorite photo too. The geese spend nights in the ponds and wetlands as protection from predators, like foxes. Then, each morning they leave for nearby fields to feed and later return back to the ponds.

  3. Betty says:

    Happy blog anniversary, Steve! I look forward to many more postings from you…who knows maybe by this time next year, you will be featuring the fauna and flora of my lovely Puerto Rico! Once again, these photos are magnificent!!

    • Betty–Thank you on the happy anniversary. I hope you are right that this time next year, I will be be posting photos from Puerto Rico. Visiting there is high on my list of places to visit.

  4. clover58 says:

    I’m a newer visitor to your blog and I can see I’ve been missing some great photography! Well done with these snow geese. I’ve never seen anything like this, probably never will in person, so it makes me happy to see your photos. Enjoyed you friend’s video, too!

  5. Mac says:

    A spectacular display of Mother Nature’s mystifying creations; We are indeed privileged to to observe what has been going on without our awareness and exposed these breathtaking photographs and detailed explanations. Thank you.

  6. Ken says:

    Unbelieveable – Absolutely Great!!!

  7. Ernie Sears says:

    Awesome! doesn’t seem to be adequate, but it was the first that came to mind when I saw these images. What a great post to start off your second year. Congratulations! It has been a great year of images and I look forward to many, many more.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Amazing what you were able to see, photograph, and experience!!! I especially love the last photograph. All the geese look like “lace” across the photo/frame. Wonderful pattern! Thank you for sharing and I enjoyed the video, too!

  9. SING LIN says:

    Hi Stephen:

    I enjoy very much your photos, movie and story about snow geese in Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). I am very happy to see that we have a common interest in wildlife watching and photography and sharing the fantastic experience with many people on Internet website. My photos, movie and associated commentary on snow geese at Bombay Hook NWR in Delaware are on my web page at:

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

    My photos, movie and associated commentary on snow geese at Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in southeast Pennsylvania are on my web page at:

    http://www.shltrip.com/Snow_Geese_50000_of_Them_All_Over_the_Sky.html

    My Travelogue website (WWW.SHLTRIP.COM) has also been attracting hundreds of accesses every day by friends and strangers all over the world and I have also been receiving many interesting messages from viewers.

    Sing Lin

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