Timing Is Everything
Just back from another adventure at Chincoteague, Virginia. Chincoteague is a nice, relatively quiet island on the Atlantic side of the Eastern Shore of Virginia. We’ve been several times and enjoyed the sites, though they tended to seem rather modest at the time. We wanted to give it another try, and as they say, timing really is everything. Our room looked out on beautiful sunsets. (Click on the images for a better, view. There will be lots of them this post and in a number of them, the subjects were quite far away. So click!)
But we never felt very alone. In fact, the gulls were of the “in your face” variety.
We quickly made our way to the main show, Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. Chincoteague Island is really best known for the book Misty of Chincoteague, by Marguerite Henry, which was subsequently made into a movie as well. The book tells the supposed story of a horse family that lived out in the marsh land in what is now the Wildlife Refuge. In fact, the family was actually a domesticated lot, and the horses that live on the Refuge are probably better taken care of than any group of wild horses, anywhere, in the world. This of course is all thanks to Misty and Ms. Henry. The horses are rounded up each fall and some are sold at auction, bringing an absolute fortune. There’s a touch of Hollywood in all that, but maybe that’s OK, if the horses are well cared for, and if it sensitizes people to the value of the Refuge. In a previous blog I told of having never gotten a good shot of the horses on the march, because they tend to be, well eating. Got lucky this time. Again, timing…
These two families, at least that’s what I surmised, were heading from one protective clump of trees and tall grass to another. The little ones just loved to run and play, which was quite a nice sight. Unfortunately, they were too far away for my lens to catch anything meaningful when playtime came. But wait, there’s more. Two days later, we hit the jackpot. Chincoteague also lies on the Atlantic flyway, and is a stop over, resting place, and all around inviting locale, for perhaps millions of birds each year. Again, timing is critical. If you aren’t there when the large numbers are, you’re out of luck. Not so this time.
This image captures only a fraction of the gathering that day. There are several different species of Egrets, as well as Ibis, Terns and several different kinds of Gulls. They were fishing. No one was feeding them. And for them, the timing was right as well. Some would fish while others took a break. Even the trees were filled with birds.
This was shaping up to be a pretty good day. The photographic challenge though was to come up with interesting shots that conveyed something of the beauty of the groupings. That was more challenging than you might imagine. Catching an Egret in isolation is one end of the spectrum. Massive group shots are at the other end. Both interesting, but the later in particular wer limited by the angle of view that was available. They were gathered along a stream that ran parallel to the road. Venture too far off the road, and you’ll scare even these rather dispassionate birds away. I began then to focus on smaller groups and how their movements in relation to one another gave one the impression of a dance.
Nature provides us with powerful graphics if we stop to notice them. Again, timing. You have to wait for some of these to unfold before you. That wasn’t a problem in this case as the scene was absolutely hypnotic.
Occasionally the dance had a more provocative undertone. There were a lot of folks fishing out there. Perhaps too many for one spot, at times.
Largely though, in spite of the numbers, and the variety of species, and the finite amount of fish (worms and other assorted goodies) in the water, things were surprisingly peaceful. It is interesting to contemplate the nature of these individual creatures, adaptable, tough and beautiful world travelers who ultimately have to make it on their own.
(The image above has was taken from a rather severe crop, but I thought his pose was so interesting, and vulnerable, I decided to include it in spite of the grain.) While at the same time, they work so well with each other.
Perhaps we could learn a few things from them. It was a good day in the field, timing wise in particular.
Tech note: The images from the Refuge were largely made with a Nikon D4, 70 – 200 mm VR2 lens, and a 1.7 teleconverter. I was pleased with that combination overall.