Friday, September 10, 2010

Chincoteague NWR, VA


I've now been something like 5 or 6 times to Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia.

It is a pretty cool refuge - with pools and areas protected from the coast, as well as the beach right up on the Atlantic Ocean. In the summer it is a hotspot for beach goers and folks looking for wildlife too.

Compared to Blackwater NWR the mix of animals if very different in the summer. Blackwater has lots of eagles and osprey, and some herons. Chincoteague has the ponies (!) and a couple eagles and a few osprey, but most of what I saw were herons and egrets of many varieties. Things like Little Blue Herons, Redish Egrets, Snowy Egrets and Cattle Egrets are in good numbers, and of those many I've never seen at Blackwater. Something about being right along the coast makes Chincoteague have more and different birds I think.

Chincoteague NWR, VA

While I've seen a handful of Black Skimmers there, I heard that over on the "NASA beach" there's like a billion. Which I would guess translates in to actually thousands, but I don't know. From what the person said it is only accessible by NASA employees. :/

Black Skimmer @ Chincoteague, NWR VA

In August I got some shots of the Cattle Egrets working from the backs of the Ponies! It was pretty darn cool to see. I need to review the images again and post one to flickr, they're ok but so far I wasn't super jazzed about any one image based on composition, details, behavior, etc. But here's a preview where an Egret is jumping off the back of the pony and heading to the ground to catch something. The egrets hunt for the critters that the ponies reveal as they walk around.

I'm still learning the refuge and the ins and outs, and what works best and when - both time of day and time of year.

One of the challenges is that it is pretty crowded, so it is tough to have a quiet and controlled encounter. The Wildlife Drive is open to foot and bike traffic all day, and then also car traffic after 3pm. The wildlife drive has proven cool, but I don't think I've gotten ANY of my favorite shots from there, except for a few skimmer shots. Most of what I like has been taken along the road to the beach or adjacent to the beach itself.

I'm sure the wildlife drive is better in Fall with more migratory birds there, and less people traffic. Many people I've spoken to talk about visiting in Fall and NOT summer. I like to explore and come up with those rules myself - so I visited a few times this summer, and did ok, but now hope to do even better in Fall...

-Jon / Jon


Pat Ulrich said...

Great shots, Jon! That looks like a pretty awesome place to explore. really beautiful skimmer shot you posted -- the lighting is just fantastic, and check out the size of that crab the heron is trying to eat. did it manage to consume it?

Nikographer said...

Thanks Pat - it did eat it.

I posted this on flickr - "Oh yeah, the bird removed the claws and legs, then downed the body in one gulp. Then it hunted around for the bits and pieces it had ripped off and ate those too. And, it stood there for a few minutes - digesting ;)"

ToadMama said...

If I were you, I'd try contacting NASA. I bet you could get special permission to go on site for some bird shots. Especially if you told them it would be great PR for their Web site. That's Wallops Island down there, right?

Nikographer said...

Hey, you know that's almost like "hey, do you know who I am".... but if I did it right and was going to share the images - who knows.

Maybe I will contact them, thanks for the suggestion, I hadn't even considered contacting them.