May 16th, 2019
Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge is a 16,000 acre refuge located along the eastern coast of Kent County, Delaware on Delaware Bay. Its primary focus is migratory and wintering waterfowl which visit the refuge as part of the Atlantic Flyway. My wife Kathy and I love this refuge as it is a great place to view waterfowl, shore birds, wading birds and various raptors year round. As a bird photographer, what makes this place great is the gravel roads that run all throughout this refuge and how they give you direct access to all water areas and pools. In most cases, you can shoot directly from your car. Kathy and I love to take our minivan as it allows me to sit in the back and move side to side of the vehicle to view and capture activity while she is up front, binoculars in hand, spotting activity as we move through the refuge. Like most wildlife refuges, you will want to keep the bug spray handy and wear longer sleeved clothing as the bug activity can get really bad during the warmer months. The bitting flies are the worst, though days of moderate to high winds tend to keep the bugs away. General rule, May through September months will always have some bug activity with June through August being the worst. I still remember the first time I took Kathy to Bombay Hook and her first encounter with an especially bad bug day.
This particular trip was a last minute day trip, something we had never done before. We tend to plan trips over a few days as getting away is always so hard. We were trying to make up for a planned trip just the week before that was canceled due to bad weather. We arrived just after sunrise and immediately headed towards our favorite pool in the refuge, Shearness Pool. It is a great location for wading and shore birds as the pool runs on the left side towards the inner parts of the refuge and the salt marsh runs on the right side towards Delaware Bay. Shearness pool was a little light on activity when we first arrived, but the eagles were highly active and in great numbers within the salt marsh. It was low tide and the eagles were playing in the mud and searching for something to eat for breakfast in the morning sun. On a side note, checking the tide schedule for Delaware Bay is always a good idea as low tide brings in many shore and wading birds and greater chances of seeing these birds up close. In the many times we have been to BHNWF, we had never seen so many eagles at one time. There were immature and adult eagles, some of which we were sure were siblings and parents as during the late Spring and early Summer months the young eagles are not long from the nest. All in all, about 20 eagles or so were on display. They were flying and chasing each other, fighting over scraps of fish that had been caught earlier. The activity was constant and so much fun to watch. The waterfowl and wadding birds were not as active as we have seen them in the past, but it was a fun day nonetheless. We made several trips throughout the refuge before we decided to call it a day and head home.
It was another successful trip to BHNWR and we had a great time. Looking forward to our next trip north to Delaware to one of our favorite places to visit for wildlife activity.