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Bombay Hook - Finis Pool
Photography by Jim Flowers Jim Flowers | E-Mail | Posted 09-01-2011
Beaver swimming in the Finis Pool
The Finis Pool is the final of the four major impoundments along the auto tour of the Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge. However, note there are other small ponds and wet areas worth exploring throughout the refuge. Finis is the smallest of the refuge impoundments and is likely the most diverse in habitats and inhabitants. The refuge brochure states the "Finis Pool presents a very different face of Bombay Hook" and I totally agree. At only 205 acres, Finis is a smaller freshwater pond with a luxuriant growth of aquatic plants surrounded by tall deciduous woods. If you could add a little Spanish moss, the pool and its surroundings would make any southerner feel at home. The only thing missing would be the alligators and poisonous snakes of the southern states.
A Snapping Turtle pauses along the Finis pool access road
Inhabitants include such mammals as the beaver (pictured above), muskrat, and the River Otter, with the latter being one I observed only once and for a split second or two. At least I believe I had a glimpse of an otter. Turtles abound with the primary species being the Snapping Turtle and the Eastern Painted Turtle.
Birding and Bird photography can be a rewarding experience with a little patience. Both the Barred Owl and the Great Horned Owl call the surrounding woods and swamp home. Black-crowned Night Herons, Great Egrets, Great Blue Heron and an occasional Cattle Egret are the prevalent wading birds. The pool is also a favorite for seeking the secretive Green Heron.
Duck species I have observed in the past include the Mallard, American Wigeon, American Black Duck, Ruddy Duck, Hooded Merganser, American Coot and if you're lucky and very quiet, you may have a chance at a Wood Duck or two. Your best opportunity for a "Woody" is to arrive at the pool shortly before dawn on a weekday morning, park and wait. However, the light is not the best for photography. The light will be well below the tress on the east side of the pool until several hours after sunrise.
A Green Heron hunts the Finis shoreline
Wood warblers are common along the woodland edges surrounding the pool. One of my favorites, the Prothonotary Warbler, can be found here. This is the only location on the refuge I have observed and photographed this species. I'm still seeking the Louisiana Waterthrush I have heard so many times while visiting this pool.
Flycatchers present include the Empidonax Acadian, the Willow flycatcher, the Eastern Wood Pewee and the Great Crested flycatcher higher in the canopy.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are often present feeding on the Spotted Jewel-weed during the summer months along the tour road shoulder in this area.
Songbirds include the Summer Tanager, Wood Thrush, Carolina Wren, House Wren, and many others. If you're lucky, you may have an opportunity to observe a Yellow-billed Cuckoo in the woodlands near the Finis Pool.
One of the draws to the Finis pool is its flora and late summer brings the blooms of thousands of White Swamp Rosemallow and Swamp Rose plants that inhabit the pool and its shorelines. In the spring look for the Blue Flag Iris (Iris versicolor) that blooms along the tour road in addition to a vast variety of other native plants that are present within the swamp habitat. Macro photographic opportunities are numerous. It's easy to spend an entire day at this location and I have done so many times.
The Finis Pool access road (auto tour route) will end at the southern part of the pool and at a gate, so one must make a "U" turn and exit the area as you arrived. You may wish to turn left turn at the "T" intersection with Dutch Neck road and explore the area towards the Allee House or turn right and retrace the tour route back to the visitor's center and refuge exit.
Blue flag Iris (Iris versicolor)
A Finis Pool Black-crowned Night Heron
The section of Dutch Neck road leading to the gated access of the Allee house is worthy of exploration. The wooded areas, upland habitat and wetlands provide excellent birding and photographic opportunities. The pond to your left shortly after you turn off of the Finis Access road will hold a variety of species through out the year.
You can read more and learn about the Allee house by visiting the Friends of the Bombay Hook Refuge webpage.
Returning to the visitor's center, refuge exit and our final stop on the auto tour route, make sure to take your time and look for things that you may have missed along the way. Species may appear that were not present during your initial stops along the way. Sometimes I will revisit the Bear Swamp loop on my return or may choose to repeat the entire auto tour route. Both the Bear Swamp loop and the Raymond Pool portions of the tour route are "one way" travel so you will have to repeat these from their initial starting points.
After passing the intersection from the Raymond pool portion of the route on your return, and before reaching the visitor's center, you will find a parking area for the Shearness Pool walking trail and observation tower. The trail and 30 foot tower provide an excellent view of the Shearness Pool and surroundings. A special note is to make sure you check the Wood duck boxes near the trail entrance which may hold an Eastern Screech Owl family during the spring
From a photography standpoint, the best time of day to capture images around the first three larger pools is from sunrise until about eleven AM on bright sunny days and a few hours later on those days with cloudy subdued light. The best light arrives at the Finis Pool a couple of hours after sunrise due to the heavily wooded environment. A nice thin overcast can extend your shooting hours overall.
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