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.
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.
…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.