Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) and Blackwater NWR

This past Saturday, I got up at 0300, loaded my gear in the car, and drove to Chincoteague NWR by way of the Chesapeake Bay Tunnel Bridge, and timed it to be on the bridge at the right location before sunrise.  It was an easy, peaceful drive down I-95 and  I-64 and then SR13 to the bridge. “Easy,” because most people were still tucked in their beds, and there was hardly anyone else on the road.

After getting to the bridge, I stopped at the first tunnel entrance, parked, grabbed my D700 and 24-70mm lens that I had mounted on my tripod the night before, and went to the edge of the tunnel island. It was around 0630, and the sun would be coming up within about 10-15 minutes. The sky’s colors were changing rapidly in hue and saturation as the sun became more visible as it rose above the horizon.  The the bright orange and red colors were gorgeous. No two sunrises are ever the same.

Below, are a couple of the images taken from the bridge. There was a freighter not moving and in the frame, so I moved to get a better alignment. I was pleased that the freighter was there, because it made the images more interesting and provided dimensional contrast. (Click on the image to zoom in.)

Above, waiting for the sun to rise.

The sun beginning to rise above the horizon. It was clear and a warm 70 degrees. What a beautiful morning. The short evening and long drive were already well worth it, and the weekend on the Eastern Shore had only begun.  One more image (below) from the bridge.

After the sun had fully risen above the horizon, the colors had muted and the glare was intense. It was time to move north. Immediately after crossing the Chesapeake, I quickly turned off the main road, SR 13, and followed  SR 600, which wound around the shoreline from small town to small town with farms and farmland as far I could see. Another pleasant drive! However, this one was also scenic.

There were many small wilderness areas that I explored along the way. I could easily have spent the entire day at anyone of them. However, at the first wilderness area, that included a large wetland leading to the ocean, there I were huge swarms of large aggressive mosquitos. (Can there be more than one swarm? Swarm already means MANY.  However, if swarm can be plural, then there were swarms.) I began to notice that as soon as I stopped the car, it was immediately covered in mosquitos just waiting for me to open a door.

At that first stop, I covered all exposed skin with a strong repellent and began to walk along a trail leading to the ocean through a wetland. It was a very interesting trail with different trees and plants than I regularly see in northern Virginia. Unfortunately, the mosquitos followed me and called in reinforcements–more swarms. The repellent kept them from biting me for the most part,  but they were also biting me through my t-shirt and jeans. I had to retreat to the car.

The mosquitos were everywhere I stopped and all over the Refuge at Chincoteague. I reapplied the repellent at every stop for the entire weekend. If I didn’t, they bit me and spread the word. So, as you look at the following images, keep in mind that behind the camera, I was waving my hands, scratching and slapping away.

There was just enough fog to make the image even better.

And then, the sun began to rise.  The colors changed rapidly. It was another spectacular sunrise. However, I was being eaten alive behind the camera. The mosquitos were everywhere to include on the end of the lens, between my glasses and eyes, and places I will not mention.

After the above image, it was time to take a break from the mosquitos and get into the car. While changing locations, I noticed a Great White Egret and was able photograph it before the masses of mosquitos found me.

The egret was a bit leery of me at first, but then continued grooming, or was it just scratching?

Just to confuse things (out of sequence) but worth sharing, are the following two images taken at Saturday evening’s sunset at the Chincoteague NWR.

And from the other side of the wetland, the moonrise.

After shooting the Sunday morning sunrise at Chincoteague, and providing breakfast for a bunch of persistent mosquitos, I drove to Blackwater NWR in Cambridge, Maryland.

It’s time to conclude this article.  I will post an article tomorrow evening with images from Blackwater.  HOWEVER, if you made it all the way down to the bottom of this article and are reading this, then you get to see a special image that I was able to shoot when photographing the sunrise at Chincoteague.  In the below image are five Canada Geese that flew directly toward and over me, and I was prepared to capture them.

If you click the above, you can zoom in and see all five geese.

About Stephen L Tabone

Retired Executive Consultant and Nature Photographer
This entry was posted in Landscape Photographs and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) and Blackwater NWR

  1. Evelyn says:

    Your pictures from Italy were spectacular, but for some reason after looking at these magnificent shots that are a part of our country, these will be hard to beat. However, I have been saying this many times and almost every time you send me a new set to enjoy. I hope you at least have recovered from the mosquitos and they will not interfere with your plans for another early morning “Adventure with Camera” somewhere in our beautiful country. Thanks so much for including me.

  2. Donnie C says:

    There are 6 geese! Sometimes I forget how beautiful my homestate is. Great pictures! Really stunning.

  3. Thank you Donnie. It makes sense that there are six, not five, since they pair for life.

  4. Ernie Sears says:

    Nice work as usual! You might want to consider the Columbia bug shirt, hat, and pants. My last trip to Chincoteague convinced me to try them and they have proven to be very effective against mosquitoes, ticks, and green head flies.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Wow! What great photos and what dedication to obtain them! Between the early hours, the driving, and the bugs, I don’t think I could do what you do EVER! Nice to read that I’m not the only one getting bitten through my clothing, too. LOL! You have shown me just how beautiful our country is and all that I am missing. Thank you for sharing your wonderful photos.

    • Thank you Anonymous–It is extremely rare when a sunrise or sunset is disappointing; so it is not very difficult to be motivated enough to get out of bed in the middle of the night because it is always well worth it. Therefore, I am doing it again tonight. I am in the middle of loading up the car to drive northwest of Baltimore (almost I-95 all the way–could be good, could bad) leaving here at 0415 to shoot large fields of sunflowers. It’s going to be cold, and hopefully, not windy, like it is now. Just saw a sharp shinned hawk chasing some goldfinches. Wow… I love sharing what I have experienced through my photography. Thank you for letting me know that you enjoy my images.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Gorgeous photos! You are soooooo dedicated to your art by evidence of your early rising, your driving, and your donations to the mosquitos!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Gorgeous photos! You are sooooo dedicated to your art! I could never rise so early, drive so far, or give so much of my body to the mosquitos … you are to be commended! Thank you for sharing our beautiful country as you are going places I never will see.

  8. Ann Cameron says:

    Thanks again Steve for a beautiful look at God’s handiwork around us! And we did not have to brave “Nature” to enjoy them!! I understand as I have had the opportunity to spend time at my mother in law’s home on the ICW near Wrightsville Beach, NC several times this summer. The pinks and oranges peeking through the curtains have enticed me out the door to sit and watch the sun rise also. And there are no-see-ums!! We may not see them but they sure do see us! Keep me in the loop!

    • Thank Ann for your positive feedback and comments. Seems like there is often some price to pay for pleasure or great photographic moments: very early mornings, blood/mosquito bites, no-see-ums, long drives on boring interstate highways, etc., but always worth the price. I am going to Jarrettsville, MD, tomorrow for sunrise and sunflowers.

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