Sunday, October 31, 2010

Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge

I first heard of Chincoteague when the North American Nature Photographer's Association held two regional events there.  I knew I wanted to visit and this trip was my first trip anywhere near coastal Virginia.  

I had heard that the auto route was only open after 3:00 P.M. so we planned for that.  It was cloudy when we arrived and lighting was not good for photography. 

When I saw the ponies, I wanted memory pictures at least so I set up my big lens.  This great egret was feeding and gave me a good opportunity to get a portrait.

 I'd been seeing yellow rumped warblers so when this one started hopping around the bushes where I was standing, I attempted to get his portrait as well.  He never gave me a clear shot.

 This double crested cormorant also swam by.



The ponies were grazing peacefully, seemingly oblivious to the people on the road. They were fenced into their pasture and separated by a canal of water as well.


 I heard something and looked up and saw a drama.  At the time I thought perhaps a predator had spooked these two. But when I looked at the pictures later, I realized that it was horse politics.


One pony was chasing the other trying to bite it.



And it was determined to get the other horse, both were racing.



Their hooves were pounding.



The horses closer to me raised their heads in curiousity and I suspect to see if there was reason for them to take flight as well.  However, they only paused a moment before returning to their grazing.


 There are two sets of wild horses here - one on Assateague Island and one on Chincogeague.  Legend says the horses arrived when a Spanish galleon carrying wild mustangs sank nearby.  Perhaps they are descendants of horses turned loose by early settlers.  Through the years, penning became an annual event with historical records dating from 1835. Pony Penning is still an annual tradition with the ponies being herded up to swim the Assatague Channel.  Beginning in 1925, a carnival was held and colts sold to raise funds for the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company.  This tradition continues each year in July when over 50,000 people watch the horses swim and colts are still sold to keep the herd at manageable numbers. 

Marguerite Henry wrote three books which made the Pony Penning known throughout the world. I read the first after I got home.  "Misty of Chincoteague"  is a sweet book about two children who do odd jobs to save money to buy the pony of their dreams, Phantom.  There are two others in the series that I'm going to order from Amazon as my local bookstore only had the first.

I would like to have had more time to spend at Chincoteague. There were many trails that beckoned, a lighthouse to explore, a beach to enjoy, but we were beginning to run out of time and I had more places that I wanted to explore this trip.

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