Dragon Run Park: A Photographer’s Playground

By Derek Stoner, Conservation Project Coordinator
Training their cameras on a Bald Eagle overhead, these photographers captured great images at Dragon Run Park. Image by Derek Stoner, March 11, 2012.

The two key challenges for wildlife photographers are Proximity and Lighting.   In other words, can we get close enough to the subject and can we capture it in lighting that enhances the beauty of this subject.  And when you head out for a full-day photography field trip, you do your best to have the group in the best places and the best times to see wildlife.

A juvenile Bald Eagle soars overhead, delighting the photographers below at Dragon Run Park. Image by Derek Stoner, March 11, 2012.
 
On March 11, 2012, participants in our Photography Series program went on a special “Waterfowl and Raptors” field trip.  During the course of the day we saw more than 20 species of waterfowl and 7 species of raptors.  But for the first hour of the trip, we could not believe the show that the wildlife put on for us at Dragon Run Park in Delaware City.  We had very-close looks at some great birds, and the light was right!
 
A drake Wood Duck chases two hens through the marsh at Dragon Run Park. Image by Hank Davis, March 11, 2012.

 

Dragon Run is by far one of the best places to see Wood Ducks in the region.  These birds are often very secretive an difficult to observe, but at Dragon Run they are often seen out in the open waters of the marsh in easy view.  Our visit coincided with the peak of mating activity, with lots of drake Wood Ducks chasing the hens in hopes of winning their favor.
 
If you visit Dragon Run at this time of year (late Spring), you are likely to see the hen Wood Ducks being followed by their ducklings.   All of the large tan nest boxes on poles in the water are for the ducks, and they produce lots of ducklings!

  
A pair of Gadwall wing by at Dragon Run Park. Image by Eric Roberson, March 11, 2012.
Many other ducks may be found at this location in Spring, as this is a favorite area for waterfowl to rest and fuel up before their long migration.  Gadwalls (photo above), Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, and Ring-necked Duck are a few of the more common species seen at this site.
  
An elegant Great Egret in full breeding colors flies by our photography setup at Dragon Run Park. Image by Eric Loken, March 11, 2012.
Dragon Run is also one of the best places to observe large wading birds in flight, like the Great Egret pictured above.  Being located just a half-mile from Pea Patch Island (which hosts the largest wading bird rookery north of Florida), there is a constant stream of herons and egrets flying back and forth as they travel in search of food.   In the month of March, Great Egrets are just returning from a winter spent in the Deep South. 
 
If you travel to Dragon Run Park to view the wading birds, the best times are close to dawn and dusk.  I prefer going in the evening, for the last hour of daylight.  You may see Little Blue Herons, Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Glossy Ibis, Cattle Egrets, or any other species of wading bird that occurs in Delaware. 
 
Link to Google map of Dragon Run Park.  Enjoy your visit!
 
Thank you to trip co-leader Hank Davis, and trip participants Eric Roberson and Eric Loken for use of their photos for this story.

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