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Hog Island WMA: Eagles and More

Come spring, the Hog Island WMA offers some of the best wildlife watching in the Old Dominion. That’s because this season is an excellent time to observe bald eagles and other avian species.

“Hog Island WMA is part of the James River eagle concentration area,” says Stephen Living, a DGIF Lands and Facilities manager. “As such, it is heavily used by resident and migratory bald eagles throughout the year. Dozens of bald eagles can be seen at Hog Island on any given day, foraging around the impoundments or along the James River shoreline. There are at least three active bald eagle nests on Hog Island this year, but there are as many as seven historical nest sites.”

Living adds that DGIF personnel conduct moist soil management for waterfowl, which involves draining water from the impoundments at Hog Island to help foster plants attractive to migrating and wintering ducks. When these impoundments are lowered in the spring, gizzard shad respond by journeying to them. Carp also spawn during this time frame and attempt to enter the impoundments as well. These events reach their peak anytime from March through May and the large numbers of fish stacked up in the surrounding creeks and canals provide a veritable feast for eagles, herons, and any number of other wildlife species.

One thing visitors should not expect to see at the Hog Island WMA is, well, hogs.

“There are no feral hogs present there,” Living says. “The name is derived from the Jamestown settlement days when the early colonists would keep their pigs on the island.”

The Hog Island WMA consists of 3,908 acres in three separate tracts on the lower Tidal James. Two tracts (Hog Island and Carlisle) are in Surry County; the third tract (Stewart) lies in Isle of Wight County. The public land is also an excellent place to view a wide variety of waterfowl and shorebirds as well as raptors such as ospreys. Tidal marshes, loblolly pine forest, agricultural land, and ponds enrich the very diversified habitat there. For more information: www.dgif.virginia.gov/wma/hog-island.

  • March 14th, 2019

The Story Behind the Cover

Over the next few months we will be sharing stories by the photographers themselves on how the outstanding images that grace this year’s 2017 calendar were captured. Purchase a calendar and follow along with each  behind-the-scenes look at how hard working photographers get those breath taking images! If you want to learn more about each photographer there will be contact information at the end of each posting. Enjoy!

Ricky Simpson, photographer of the 2017 calendar cover, holds up a press proof of his bald eagle cover at Progress Printing Plus.

Ricky Simpson, photographer of the 2017 calendar cover, holds up a press proof of his bald eagle cover at Progress Printing Plus.

RICKY SIMPSON – Cover of bald eagle photographed on the James River near Richmond on a Discover the James Bald Eagle Tour with Capt Mike Ostrander.  (The following is by Ricky)

After many photography tours with Discover the James, this particular morning proved to be unique. Once we were in the boat Captain Mike Ostrander shared a mystical dream with us that he had the previous night. In his dream he encountered two Bald Eagles that flew up to his boat, wings spread, and took on human form.  As they hovered in the air they spoke with him. When Capt. Mike asked their names the eagles called themselves Lalina and Pierre.

Carol Kushlak, Production Manager of Virginia Wildlife magazine, checks the color of the 2017 calendar cover by Ricky Simpson. Ricky Simpson, calendar cover photographer, is behind her taking pictures of the press. Progress Printing Plus staff Marshall Forbes, Senior Account Executive, and Tom Cruise, in red, the sheetfed pressman, wait for approval on color of cover.

Carol Kushlak, Production Manager of Virginia Wildlife magazine, checks the color of the 2017 calendar cover. Ricky Simpson, calendar cover photographer, is behind her taking pictures of the press. Progress Printing Plus staff Marshall Forbes, Senior Account Executive, and Tom Cruise, in red, the sheetfed pressman, wait for approval on color of cover.

All of us thought it was a pretty cool dream and I really didn’t think any more of it until…I got home and was reviewing the images I shot that morning. When I saw what would eventually become the 2017 Virginia Wildlife cover shot my mind immediately went to Mike’s dream. Naturally, I wanted Mike to see the photograph so I sent him the image and asked if the photo was anything like his dream. His response was “Wow…straight from my dream”.  Little did I know at the time that the image would eventually grace the cover of this year’s calendar. Without Captain Mike’s dream this shot would have been buried with the many hundreds of other “keeper” Bald Eagle images I have stored on hard drives. Some would say coincidence but I say divine intervention.

I am honored and very thankful that this image was selected. A big thank you to Lynda Richardson and all the staff at Virginia Wildlife for a great magazine and a calendar that exhibits the beautiful wildlife and scenery we are blessed with in Virginia.

Camera, lens and settings: Nikon D3S body – Nikon 400 2.8 lens with 1.4X tele-converter, Shutter speed 1/2500, f/6.3, ISO 400. I used a monopod for support. For those just beginning the adventure of photographing wildlife and nature, I would say be patient, shoot many images and strive for shots that exhibit behavior without disturbing the subject. Also, invest in good glass. High quality lenses hold their value much better than camera bodies and will give you resale value when you decide to upgrade your lenses.

-Ricky Simpson
www.ssdsigns.com
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Purchase your copy of the 2017 Virginia Wildlife Calendar »

Ricky Simpson laughs as Tom Cruise, sheetfed pressman for Progress Printing Plus, signs his bald eagle cover of the 2017 Virginia Wildlife calendar.

Ricky Simpson laughs as Tom Cruise, sheetfed pressman for Progress Printing Plus, signs his bald eagle cover of the 2017 Virginia Wildlife calendar.

  • August 24th, 2016