Hog Island WMA

Directly across the James River from Jamestown, VA lies Hog Island. So named because English settlers back in the 1700’s used to keep their hogs out there. Today, it’s actually a peninsula and not an island at all. A series of earthen levees now connects Hog Island to the old Gravel Neck peninsula. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries manages the various ponds and wetlands there for the benefit of migratory waterfowl. To access the Hog Island Wildlife Management Area by car you must pass through Dominion Power’s Surry Nuclear Power Station. Be prepared for a thorough search by armed guard.

After seeing all of the Bald Eagles at Jamestown, I figured it would be worth going over to Hog Island and seeing if any were there. Shortly after entering the WMA two adult eagles flew directly over my car and I saw another adult and an immature eagle battling for position out on a breakwater. It immediately looked promising for eagles but, things turned out differently.

As is so often the case with wildlife, you begin looking for one thing and you end up with something else.

Undoubtedly, the “featured bird of the day” was the Osprey. The fishing was good in the first large pond on the right and they knew it. I picked a nice semi-camouflaged spot to setup my gear and watched it all unfold. The birds would circle over the  pond looking for prey and then dive down for dinner.

Shooting with my 300 f/2.8 handheld and the 500 f/4 on the tripod I got some amazing in-flight images.

Once I got everything dialed in I was able to really get the detail that my 36MP Nikon D800 could deliver.

For example, look at the image here and the crop of the same image below it. You can actually read the leg bands on the bird.


I found myself struggling to figure out which bird to track as 3 or 4 were circling simultaneously overhead.

Once an Osprey got a fish, it would fly off to the trees and more birds would fly in to resume the hunt.

Some were carrying fish almost as big as themselves. They would always orient the fish facing forwards for the best aerodynamics.

I noticed that almost immediately after taking to the air from diving into the water, each bird would shake like a dog in mid-air to dry off. Time and time again I observed this same behavior.

Although I tried to conceal my position so as not to disturb or stress the birds, there’s no hiding from the incredible eyes of the Osprey. They would quickly spot me but, I guess I didn’t look too threatening because they continued to go about their business.

Not to be outdone by the Osprey, a Great Blue Heron made a flashy entrance over the wetlands…

…and skimmed over the pond for a landing.

Even though I didn’t come away with any good Bald Eagle images, it was still a great day at Hog Island WMA.

One thought on “Hog Island WMA

  1. Wow, that is an incredible close up! I dream of a camera system like that – one day … I’ve been wanting to go to Hog Island for a while now, but not for the Raptors – I surf fish, and Drum fishing is supposed to be good there, but after seeing your shots, I may just go down with a pair of good binos and a spotting scope – Raptors have always fascinated me!

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