Slaughter Beach and Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

This past weekend, I left home at 2:30 AM to drive to Slaughter Beach in Delaware to witness and photograph the thousands of Horseshoe Crabs that come out of the Delaware Bay to spawn and lay eggs on the beach after a full moon in May each year. That weekend it also was the “super moon,” so my expectations were very high. What also makes this an amazing event is when the Horseshoe Crabs are spawning, thousands of shorebirds (e.g., Red Knots) arrive from as far away as South America to feast on the crab eggs in order to replenish their weight and food supply for the rest of their joinery to Canada, where they nest.

Unfortunately, I was told that the Horseshoe Crabs arrived for the Saturday evening high tide, but I arrived for the Sunday morning high tide, and there were only a few dozen Horseshoe Crabs and not many shorebirds. I felt like the (below) frustrated and struggling Horseshoe Crab on his back, disappointed that we missed the event. This is one of the crabs that turned over in the surf; I flipped it back over so it could return to the bay. They are prehistoric looking creatures, and it is no wonder, since the earliest Horseshoe Crab fossils were found in strata from the late Ordovician period, about 450 million years ago. (Double click on the below image to see the detail of this strange crab, as well as the other images in this article to see them larger.)

Since nothing was happening at Slaughter Beach, I went to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland. Blackwater was not disappointing, because it was very active with adult and juvenile eagles, as well as an active eagle’s nest with two eaglets in it. I have only started to process my images from last weekend, but below are two of the eagle images. In the below images, an eagle had just returned to a favorite perch in a tall, old dead tree with a piece of its prey.

As mentioned above, I have many more images to review and process from last weekend, and will eventually upload them here or to my website. I am also behind in posting other images due to conflicting commitments and spending more time shooting photos than processing them. In an attempt to get partially caught up, below are two images of the Barred Owls that I discovered in late March and that I photographed about two weeks ago. The trees are fully leafed out now, which makes getting a clear shot of them very difficult.

I hope to get caught up on processing my images over the next couple weeks. However, that is unlikely, since I am planning several trips to national parks and refuges, but I will have my laptop with me and try to keep up and post additional articles and images to my blog. When I return from those trips, I hope to be able to photograph the Barred Owls’ owlets and the chicks of the Osprey that I photographed recently and posted to this blog.

About Stephen L Tabone

Retired Executive Consultant and Nature Photographer
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8 Responses to Slaughter Beach and Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

  1. krhee says:

    You proved to me that you are the great photographer indeed!
    Anyone can take good pictures when the scene is great.
    On that day with so gloomy feeling scattered around the beach with only handful of horseshoe crabs and knowing that the wonderful opportunity had just slipped through the night before… STILL you captured beautiful pictures!
    You always find pearls from any place!
    I think it come from your inner world.
    That is my sincere compliments!

    Have a great time in Florida! Send my regards to your wife, Angela and your photographer comrades.


    • Thank you for your wonderful and inspirational comments. For me, half of the enjoyment I get from my passion for nature photography is sharing it with people like you, and it was GREAT meeting you on Slaughter Beach. Hopefully, we can meet again at some other location and capture some of nature’s incredible beauty together. BTW, we arrived safely in FL yesterday, and after visiting with the family, I hope to go to several nearby refuges.

  2. clover58 says:

    Amazing photos, Stephen. You find some great places for shooting, which is not easy. It’ always good to have a plan “b” at hand when “a” doesn’t work out.

    I lived in Florida for a year or so and in March, our family went on a fishing/picnic day and we saw the horseshoe crabs in their season. One of them managed to grab my daughter’s fish line — she saw it, dropped the pole, and ran!

    • Thank you for the positive feedback. An important part of my nature photography is exploring new, as well as well known, National, State and local parks, refuges, preserves, etc., which is always rewarding, even if I am not able to capture any “keeper” images.

  3. Mac says:

    Whether it be land, sea, or air Stephen will be there taking breathtaking photographs which are extraordinary, enchanting, which everyone will thoroughly enjoy.

  4. I agree with the above comments … even on a disappointing foray you manage to find gems to photograph! I, too, find the Horseshoe Crab to be very scary and yet you were able to capture its “charm.” Love, love, love the photos of the eagles and owls!!!!

  5. Pingback: Horseshoe crabs: defying Darwin, stubbornly extant | themeanflower

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