Carolina Wild Photo (the blog)

The Birds Up North – Part 2 – E.B. Forsythe NWR, NJ

by on Feb.16, 2016, under Locations, Rants, Raves & Ramblings

Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge is a short drive north of Absecon, New Jersey, and not far from Atlantic City. In fact, Atlantic City is visible from the main wildlife drive of the refuge. I haven’t had much luck finding subjects at this refuge on previous visits, but this trip was different. Along with the usual trickle of various ducks and Canada Geese, there were around 2000 Snow Geese on this visit.

Snow Geese They were spread out sparsely across the tidal marsh on the north side of the wildlife drive, feeding in the black mud of the marsh. But they were mostly too far off for reasonable photos. Luckily, they were also taking turns flying across the wildlife drive in groups of two to ten to land inside the impoundment. There they would bath and preen, cleaning their muddy heads of the black marsh mud accumulated while feeding. Then they would fly back to feed again.

Snow Geese
This back and forth flying from muddy feeding, to bathing, back to muddy feeding was fortunately taking them directly overhead, often as close as just 50 feet away. It provided a wonderful opportunity for flight shots, which continued for over three hours. The wind direction and sun angle were perfect for this, placing the geese at the optimal angle for good lighting and flight direction. It was a completely unexpected photo op that made for a great day of shooting.

Snow Geese The only fly in the ointment was those muddy heads – not exactly the “snowy” look you might wish to have when photographing Snow Geese. But, hey, they’re white birds, and they get dirty. It’s what they do. In any event, it was a wonderful chance to get some valuable practice improving and perfecting technique for those tricky in-flight shots. The only thing better would be to luck into this same situation with some beautiful ducks, like Canbasbacks, Wigeons, Scaup, Redheads or Teal of any flavor.

Snow Geese There were no big “blasts-offs” with this group of geese. They were too busy feeding while the tide was out. While those spectacular clouds of several thousand Snow Geese taking to the air all at once are a treat to watch, I’ve never been overly keen on such photos. I have a few of those among my galleries, but I much rather get clear detail and a closer view with one, or two, or three geese in a tight group than try to show hundreds or thousands at one time.

Snow Geese
For me, the small groups are much more interesting and photogenic, like the photo at left. It so happened that the wind was just strong enough on this day that it allowed the geese to glide a good distance. That in turn slowed them down and provided opportunities for shots like the one at left, as they prepared for a landing in the impoundment.

Snow Geese There were a few “Blue Geese” mingling with the others, which are now known to be a “dark phase” of the Snow Goose, and not a separate species as was thought several decades ago. I didn’t take any shots of them this trip, but to show you what they look like I’ve included the photo at right. It shows a dark phase Snow Goose with three others. This was taken at Pea Island NWR some time back.

Coming up soon will be Part 3, featuring the beautiful ducks at Cambridge, MD.

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