Bombay Hook - Spring and Summer
Photography by Jim Flowers Jim Flowers | E-Mail | Posted 09-01-2011
Red Fox Kits explore their surroundings and each other on a springtime morning
"Out with the old and in with the new" as the early and warmer days of March will see the peak of the spring waterfowl migration with the numbers of Canada geese, snow geese and ducks reaching an all seasons high. Gradually and towards months end, the geese and non-nesting ducks will begin their journey to their breeding grounds farther north.
A Northern Pintail Drake takes flight over the Shearness Pool
The hibernating species like the woodchuck will emerge from their dens and turtles will begin to appear in the ponds and pools. The male Red Fox (non hibernating) may be seen hunting during the late evening and early morning hours for a meal for him and/or his mate who may be waiting in the den. The red fox will breed from late January through the month of March. The male will do the hunting for his family immediately after the birth of offspring while mom nurses the young. After which both parents will hunt to keep the family fed and eventually lead the kits on hunting trips and exploration of their territories.
Early morning or late evening visitors to the refuge may if lucky, experience the American Woodcock male (also known as the"Timberdoodle") performing his amazing courtship flights shortly after dusk and before dawn. However, before the aerial extravaganza begins, the male woodcock does an elaborate courting ritual under the cover of the diminishing light and following darkness on the ground. The performance will begin around 20 minutes after sunset or slightly before the morning civil twilight, when to a woodcock the light is romantic and just right. The woodcock begins to call, emitting a throaty sound known as a peent every three or four seconds. Each peent is preceded by a sound resembling a hiccup, although this strange "hiccup" sound may be inaudible to some humans. After a few peents in one direction, the bird pivots roughly 90 degrees and calls in a new direction, and so on until he has declared his affection to available females and warnings to other males in all directions.
The male woodcock will then begin his flight display with an explosive takeoff. He will fly in wide circles about fifty feet off the ground followed by an ascent to two or three hundred feet then making smaller circles. Listen for the sound of "wing twitter" during his flight. The movement of the outer three primary wing feathers creates a twittering sound. This sound may advertise the bird's territory or serve to attract mates. As he begins his descent, he offers a flight song. The flight song is a series of chirps given for several seconds before stopping. He will then descend quietly in a zigzag type pattern to eventually land near the spot where he took off.
An Eastern Kingbird finds a perch along side the auto tour route
The month of April will see the Alder and Red Maples begin to flower which will add a hint of color to the refuge. Raptors including marsh hawks conduct daily hunting flights over the refuge marsh and upland habitats. Bald Eagle eggs will hatch during the month and the early migration of song birds will begin.
The Purple Martins will make their return and can be viewed up close at the visitor's center. Warblers will start to appear in the woodland areas, especially around the Finis pool and near the Salt marsh boardwalk trail near the beginning of the tour route just before the Raymond Pool. Bombay Hook and surrounding areas will come alive with the symphony of spring peepers and the wood frog. Spring wildflowers will be in bloom and abound.
The month of May will signal the peak of the songbird and warbler migration with the bull frog and green frog joining in to the swampy chorus of sound. Be careful and observant as you travel the refuge roadways. The Snapping turtles will be crossing and laying eggs along the roadsides in addition to the fawns of whitetail deer frolicking nearby. Tulip trees and spring wildflowers will be in full bloom creating a lovely landscape with photographic opportunities. The first of the nesting duck broods will begin to appear in the refuge ponds and pools.
Common Yellowthroat Warbler
Eastern Wood Pewee
The early and mid-summer months are filled with photographic and wildlife viewing opportunities. June will bring diamondback terrapins laying eggs on the refuge dikes. Bald Eagle chicks will leave the nest and Red fox kits will play outside their dens. The Marsh Wren and the Common Yellowthroat warbler sing they're ever present duet of the "Bombay Serenade". Wood Duck broods can be seen in the Bear Swamp, Finis Pool and Shearness Pool. Black-necked stilts are present and will begin nesting in the refuge impoundments. Water lilies will bloom along with summer flora like the Turk's Cap lily. One can spend an entire day of photographing the butterflies and hummingbirds that are foraging the blooms for food.
Saltmarsh Sabatia (Sabatia angularis) or Square-stemmed Rose Pink
Turk's Cap Lily (Lilium superbum)
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly
Viceroy Butterfly on Queen Anne's Lace
During the summer we can begin to look for the elusive Green Heron that frequent the Finis Pool. The presence of yellow and black-crowned night herons slowly grows near the island at the north end of the Bear Swamp Pool along the auto tour route. You may hear the call of the Bobwhite Quail in the upland fields and brush along the auto tour route. Dawn flights of Wood ducks occur at the Finis Pool and over the refuge.
The month of July will wrap up the mid-summer activities with many duck broods to be found in the Bear Swamp Pool. Large numbers of wading birds will be present including herons, egrets and ibis. The first concentrations of shorebirds will arrive late in July on their journey south. More varieties of butterflies and insects fill the floral air. The Delaware State Bird, "the Mosquito" will be out in full force along with other biting and flying predators of human flesh. A good bottle of insect repellent is a must have for summer visits to Bombay Hook as well as most of the Delaware Bay Coastal areas.
A Wood duck mother and brood swimming in the Bear Swamp Pool
The Four Seasons of Bombay Hook offer a variety of natural wonders to keep one's interest throughout the year. Even on the coldest of winter days, there is always something to discover and explore on the refuge.
Coming soon ... our exploration of the "Delaware Bay Coast" will continue with the Port Mahon Road and the Little Creek Wildlife Area then we will move on to Slaughter Beach and finally to the Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. So remember to check back often ...
Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge (Google interactive map)
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Jim Flowers is a professional commercial and family photographer, freelance photojournalist, graphic artist, and aspiring nature photographer. Originally from Texas, Jim began his photographic career as a partner with Frederick Boswell Photographers in Houston specializing in architectural, aerial and industrial photography serving the corporate scene, advertising, and the petroleum industry. He also founded Acu-color Photographic Labs serving other professional photographers in the Houston area. He later branched into family and sports photography.
After 12 years in Houston, Jim relocated to Washington DC to spend 16 years with the National Geographic Society and magazine in prepress production. Now retired from the magazine, Jim has started Arts N Images, a small home-based photography business serving the Hanover-Gettysburg Pennsylvania area.
"Once just a hobby and now a passion, photographing nature has become an integral part of my photography experience. I devote much of my spare time to exploring the outdoors and the flora and fauna that exists in the various areas I visit."
- J Flowers, Arts N Images.