Favorite Photo Locations – Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge
|While Chincoteague, Virginia, is probably most widely known for its wild horses, the area is well-known as a birding Mecca. Photographers will find spectacular opportunities for all kinds of avian species. During spring and fall migrations, the numbers of birds and the variety of species is incredible. Throughout the late spring and summer, a great variety of shore birds are present.
Along the main drive through Chincoteague NWR, visitors can enjoy watching Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Glossy Ibises, and a variety of other birds feeding on fish, crabs, and other animals abounding in the salt marshes. Morning is the best time of the day for activity, but one location along the east side of the road (about ½ mile past the visitor’s center) is excellent all day, especially with late day light.
As you position yourself to shoot, try to set up your tripod near water level. Photographing birds from above is less effective than shooting on their eye-level. My lens of choice is Sigma’s 150-500mm F5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM zoom. The zoom range allows you to focus on birds that are close at hand—and they can be within 20 feet!–and those subjects a bit further away. Indeed, many of the herons, egrets, and ibises are quite habituated, so you can get really close.
|Prickly Pear Cactus
Assateague National Seashore, MD. Sigma 4.5mm F2.8 EX DC HSM Circular Fisheye. f/11 @ 1/400 sec. ISO 100. Hand-held.
Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, VA. Sigma 150-500mm F5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM lens. f/8 @ 1/200 sec. Wimberley Head II Head. Bogen 3021 tripod.
Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, VA. Sigma 150-500mm F5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM lens. f/8 @ 1/250 sec. Wimberley Head II Head. Bogen 3021 tripod.
I shoot with my long lenses on a sturdy tripod and use the Wimberley Head Version II, a remarkably easy to use gimbal head. This tripod/gimbal head combination improves stability and makes panning for in-flight shots of turns and gulls a piece of cake.
From Washington, D. C., or Baltimore, MD, head southeast on US 50 to Rout 13 South. Pick up Route 175, traveling east to Chincoteague Island. Cross the island on Maddox Blvd., following the signs to the National Wildlife Refuge.
If time allows, travel about an hour North to Assateague State Park and Assateague National Seashore for more birds (and even more encounters with wild horses).
Vehicle permits are $8 per day, $15 for a week pass, or $30 for an annual pass. Discounts and interagency passes are available.