Chincoteague NWR > November 2010
Michael W. Masters
This visit to Chincoteague NWR turned out to be the most productive November visit ever. The trip was made in conjunction with a few other nature photographers, and we happened to hit the refuge at a peak of waterfowl migration. In fact, the refuge was also overrun with photographers, birdwatchers and nature lovers of every strip.
And for good reason. Although snow geese were not yet at their peak there were a few thousand in residence at Swan Cove. But equally importantly, many other waterfowl species were also present, including ruddys, northern pintails, mallards, northern shovelers, and lesser scaups. They were joined by tundra swans, cormorants and even coots.
The biggest action was along Egret Alley, the channel that connects Swan Cove to the culvert that drains excess water out to Little Tom's Cove. Many birds were tired enough to endure the attentions of large groups of photographers along the bank as ruddys, lesser scaups and cormorants cruised by. A pair of raccoons hunting along the far side made a cameo appearance as well.
For once Snow Goose Pool within the Wildlife Loop was well stocked with photo opportunities, and I was able to capture ruddy, northern pintail, mallard, northern shoveler, tunda swan and coot images there. The resident bald eagle pair were also in evidence, visible near their long term nest in a stand of pines between the Wildlife Loop and the beach road. (Note: Their nest was lost during Hurricane Sandy and they have chosen another tree to rebuild.)
One thing I did discover from photographing the eagle perched on the dead tree was that my 800mm lens with 1.4X extender produced a better quality image than the same lens with 2X extender. Of course, loss of AF with the 2X may have been a factor, but rezzing up the 1.4X image produced a better result at equal image scales.
Finally, I was able to capture a very nice panorama of Little Tom's Cove on a gray overcast day, from the Assateague Beach Visitor Center on the left to the beach road on the right.