Snow Geese Explosion at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge! A Newbie Friendly, Very Easy, and Flat 8 Mile Hike (with Bailouts) and Optional Post Hike Meal
Note: There will also a supply of binoculars on loan for this special trip if you do not have a pair of your own. Loaner binoculars are on a first come first serve basis once you are at the park and not able to be reserved in advance.
In one of the greatest animal migrations on the planet, every fall, a multitude of birds migrate through the Eastern Shore of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. Raptors, Canada geese, tundra swans (yes, swans), and ducks of every sort pass through the area gathering in increasing numbers as autumn gives way to winter. But one event dwarfs them all – the arrival of tens of thousands of snow geese by the end of November when their cacophonous gaggles darken the winter skies over the Delmarva Peninsula.
Arguably the best place to witness this migration is Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge. A low marsh landscape tucked in a remote corner of bay tidewater just north of Dover, every winter Bombay Hook plays host to as many as 200,000 snow geese.
As impressive as seeing tens of thousands of brilliant white snow geese at one time, nothing compares to watching them suddenly explode into flight in unison, an event known as “liftoff.” And understandably so, as it arguably compares in excitement to the launch of a rocket ship bound for space and I lived in Florida for 18 years and saw many! Without warning, an entire flock will explode into the air, with the sound like a shotgun blast of several thousand wings suddenly beating at once. As the flock wheels through the sky overhead, their awe-inspiring number can even block out the sun. The snow geese tend to congregate in several large flocks scattered throughout the refuge. While we know their favorite hangout, Raymond Pool, and Bear Swamp Pool, the flocks don’t always stay in one place.
The best times to view liftoff are at sunset, which is why we are enjoying the rest of the refuge first and ending it with the highlight of the trip, followed by an optional meal before returning home. We learned the hard way many years ago, that going out there when it is the most convenient for us as humans, such during the middle of the day, was a flop. This is because the geese randomly fly away to feed in nearby farmers’ fields, but later return to the refuge to spend the night. As a result, their numbers are the greatest from late afternoon to early morning. We plan to arrive at least two hours before sunset to hopefully experience what you see in the upper photos above, taken by Ian Plant, who also took all photos on this page…thanks, Ian. If the birds cooperate, then it will be a most special experience. This truly is a heart-pounding event—you may even feel the urge to take flight yourself, but will find that breaking the earth’s gravitation pull is rather difficult—so stay to watch as many liftoffs as you can.
This is a nature enjoyment hike and not about elevation change or how fast we are hiking. If you are looking for a different type of hike, please sign up for one of our other events today. This truly is a bird/wildlife hike, hence a fantastic social hike as well.
Activity Type: Hiking
Nearby City: Dover, DE
Length: Up to 8 total miles with several bails out options as we will be on several shorter trails throughout the refuge.
Elev. Gain: Pretty much none
Trail Type: Loop
Skill Level: Very Easy
Season: Mid-Late November for Snow Geese Migration
Local Contacts: Refuge Manager, Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Local Maps: Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge Loop Topo Map USGS Bombay Hook, Delaware;
We hike rain or shine. Click here to see an up to the minute forecast for where we will be hiking and enjoying the birds and other wildlife.
Carpool Suggestions and Information
Note that you are responsible for knowing how to get from carpool locations to the venue. Mid-Atlantic Hiking Group is not responsible for transportation to and from events or carpools. Suggested carpool times and locations are provided as a courtesy because many members are either new to the area or unfamiliar with a particular hike or venues location. Please use the Comments section below, or reach out via e-mail to make arrangements for carpooling needs and offerings.
Baltimore Area Carpool Suggestion - Savage Station
To carpool or caravan from the Baltimore area, people can arrange to meet at Savage Station. Click Here for directions and additional information regarding carpooling from the suggested Savage Station location.
If you can drive or want to carpool from any particular location, please post your offer to help those in need of a ride, and those looking for a ride, in the comment section below. Click Here for a list of suggested carpool locations, each complete with a physical address, GPS coordinates, driving directions and additional carpool information.For those who need a ride, reach out to the drivers. Make friends, and support the environment — by just offering a ride!
Directions to the Trailhead
Click Here for Directions to Where We Meet for this Hike
Meet & Greet and Sign-In — 12:45-12:55 p.m.
The Hike is at 1:00 p.m.
Carpool Time from Savage Station — 11:00 a.m
Please remember we are a volunteer supported organization that values fellowship and camaraderie while practicing good hike etiquette and Leave No Trace principles. Our hikes are led by generous, dedicated, and qualified MAHG members who volunteer as leaders for Mid-Atlantic Hiking Groups volunteer leadership team. Hikes also have a volunteer “sweeper” to help ensure that no hiker is left behind. MAHG volunteers and members are very supportive, encouraging, with a focus on safety while enjoying the excellent camaraderie and benefiting from the many health benefits of hiking and unplugging from the stress of day-to-day life. Sharing what we know and learning from each other is an important part of MAHGs core values, as is our dedication to the conservation of our natural resources and our commitment to the organization's mission. Mid-Atlantic Hiking Group is a volunteer supported tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable organization, and donations ARE tax deductible. Tax ID: [masked].
A Well-Mannered, Leashed Fido is Welcome on this Hike!
Let’s have good times out on the trails and see you there!
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