Bombay Hook NWR in Good Light

Another stop last week on our East Coast journey was a visit to Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge. It’s located on the Delaware Bay northeast of Dover. The refuge covers 16,251 acres. A portion contains several ponds and ditches along a 12-mile network of gravel roads. It offers everything that migratory waterfowl could dream about.

This year is their 75th anniversary!


Our last visit to Bombay Hook was on November 25, 2008. By coincidence we visited on exactly the same date this year, November 25, 2012. Weird!

This image is from 2008 and shows the tens of thousands of Snow Geese that were there at the time. This year we saw a couple of relatively large flights right after sunrise but, that was it. They were just flying over and never landed. That surprised us a bit because we had seen a few thousand down at Lake Mattamuskeet and figured most of the Snow Geese must still be further north. We had expected to see large numbers at Bombay Hook. Oh well…

The weather was a vast improvement over Lake Mattamuskeet. We still had to deal with the wind but, we had MUCH better light for photography. The gray-gloomy conditions were replaced by nice partly clouded skies.

One glance at this Mallard and you can immediately see what good lighting conditions will do for you. All of those beautiful iridescent feathers simply pop in the sunshine. No amount of post processing can make up for a lack of beautiful natural light.


An even better example is this Green-winged Teal. I managed to make this image at the exact moment when the sun struck his signature green wing. That’s no Photoshop gimmickry…those green feathers really are that brilliant!



Here’s another one that I shot in the Bear Swamp Pool area. His wing position is mostly hiding the green feathers. He’s still a dapper fellow and one of my favorite ducks.

Teal are much smaller than Mallards and quite speedy fliers.


The Teal may be small but, this next little guy is tiny. He’s a Bufflehead and is a diving duck. They nest in old woodpecker holes. Usually Northern Flickers or Pileateds.

The Bufflehead is a challenge to photograph for two reasons. First there’s tons of contrast between the dark and light areas which makes the highlight detail in the white areas “blow out”. Basically, all of the detail gets lost. Using spot metering helps but, it’s rarely enough. The second problem is that unless you’re shooting in good light the dark area on his head will appear solid black. This little duck has wonderful greens and purples that can only be seen when the light falls just right. Also, note his pink foot just under the water.

Even this lowly Coot looks distinguished and almost professorial under the pleasing glow of early morning golden light. (well, maybe that’s taking things to the extreme)




I’ll close with this image of an immature Red-shouldered Hawk. He’s entranced by the Sweetgum balls. Unfortunately, this image was shot in less than perfect light but, hey! It’s a cool hawk!

For some reason, this has been raptor week. Everywhere we went we saw birds of prey. Hawks, Falcons and Eagles.


Bombay Hook NWR did not disappoint. We missed the Snow Geese this year but, that was OK. Once again nature gave us plenty of other beautiful sights to dazzle and leave lasting impressions. Both digital and mental.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *