Lesser Scaups

Little Known Birders Paradise

occoquan bay national wildlife refuge


As the new year 2021 kicks in, there are still many unknowns as to whether the pandemic will subside, linger on or assume a new form. In any case this has, had a negative effect on wildlife travel across the world. I would say not being able to go far has its advantages, you start looking close. 

Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia, USA is one such place that doesn't feature prominently in wildlife journals and magazines like the great Yellowstone National Park, Denali National Park, Shenandoah National Park etc..however the many visits I have made to this place before and during the pandemic, has never disappointed me.

I used to constantly see sign boards along the highway saying "Biding & Wildlife Trail" but never took it seriously until one day when I had little to do and decided to visit to this place. I was actually quite impressed by the habitat and its diversity. It had the Occoquan river flowing, marshy areas, dry grasslands, tall trees and  a small sandy beach. 

Each season offers a variety of birds and animals that you can spot. In the winter you can see huge water fowl migrations to this place. There will be 1000s of waterfowl in the Bay.  The first arrivals are Pintails, Scaups, Ruddy Ducks followed by Grebes, Mergansers, Shovelers, Ring Necked Ducks, Buffle Heads, and Canvas Backs. Some of the water fowl are residents and stay here year long like the Mallard Ducks.

Mallard Ducks
Ring Necked Duck
Ruddy Ducks
Canvas Backs

Water fowl are among my favorites and in a large flock you can see many types of ducks, geese, swans and more. The Canada goose which is abundantly found across the USA can also be seen here in large numbers. I always scan the water surface to see if I can spot a Pied Bill Grebe,  Red Necked Grebe or an occasional Loon. I have seen these birds on some occasions but don't have a decent picture to share. 

As the winter gives way to spring and then summer you can spot the Warblers, Bitterns,  Black Birds, Blue Jays, Orioles, Chickadees and many other birds. The priced spotting will be that of a beautiful Yellow bird called the Prothonotary Warbler.

Prothonotary Warbler

The Least Bittern is a rare sighting which I have written about in another photo story.

Osprey nests can be spotted here as well as Bald Eagles. Even though I don't think this is the best place to see lots of Bald Eagles, you can spot them fairly regularly here.

Osprey's Nest


Adult Bald Eagle

Blue Birds and a variety of Sparrows can also be spotted here.

Eastern Blue Bird


White Throated Sparrow
American Tree Sparrow

The list is endless and in every season you can see a lot of birds and animals. Sometimes in the quest for the mighty river far away you ignore the little oasis nearby. Do find the time wherever you are to not only visit the famous National Parks, but also the little treasures near your home. You will be surprised how much you can see and learn. Hope the year turns to be prosperous and happy for both people as well as wildlife. 

Water Fowl Migration in the Winter






Naveen Naidu

Data Engineer

I am a passionate wildlife photographer, interested in conservation and creating awareness about nature.