Bombay Hook expects biannual surge for fall migration

Renovations were ongoing at the historic Allee House at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge on Tuesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Renovations were ongoing at the historic Allee House at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge on Tuesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Migration season has begun.

Fans of avocets, Canadian geese, snow geese and pintail, mallard and black ducks should head to Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge.

The refuge sees a large influx of these birds during October as they’re en route to warmer climes.

October is also the best month to bur marigolds bloom in freshwater pools at the refuge.

“We get roughly 100,000 visitors a year,” said Bombay Hook’s outdoor recreation planner, Tina Watson. “The

BOMBAY HOOK EVENTS Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge 2591 Whitehall Neck Rd. in Smyrna Monarch Butterfly discussion Oct. 8, from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Jim White, from the Delaware Nature Society, discusses ways to help maintain  Monarch and other pollinator populations in private and natural areas amid man-made  population declines. The program will be in the auditorium with a short walk in the  meadow after the talk. Free admission day Oct. 9, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. In honor of National Wildlife Refuge Week the refuge is open free of charge all day. Volunteer road clean-up Oct. 15, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.  Opportunity to volunteer to help clean up the roads leading to Bombay Hook. Meet at the Visitor  Center. Wear shoes that can get wet and bring work gloves. Refreshments will be  served after the clean-up.

BOMBAY HOOK EVENTS
Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
2591 Whitehall Neck Rd. in Smyrna
Monarch Butterfly discussion
Oct. 8, from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Jim White, from the Delaware Nature Society, discusses ways to help maintain
Monarch and other pollinator populations in private and natural areas amid man-made
population declines. The program will be in the auditorium with a short walk in the
meadow after the talk.
Free admission day
Oct. 9, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
In honor of National Wildlife Refuge Week the refuge is open free of charge all day.
Volunteer road clean-up
Oct. 15, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Opportunity to volunteer to help clean up the roads leading to Bombay Hook. Meet at the Visitor
Center. Wear shoes that can get wet and bring work gloves. Refreshments will be
served after the clean-up.

biggest two migration periods are spring and fall so we see a surge in visitation around now, especially for the ducks and snow geese.”

Ms. Watson added that temperatures further north in Canada and New York also influence when and how many birds show up.

Since the refuge is a link in a chain of refuges extending from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico called the Atlantic Flyway, it plays host to many migrating birds and acts as an important breeding ground at certain times throughout the year.

The refuge, established in 1937, hugs the Delaware Bay and covers 16,251 acres and is comprised mostly of tidal salt marsh with a mix of cordgrass meadows, mud flats, tidal pools, rivers, creeks, and tidal streams. The refuge also includes forests, freshwater impoundments, brushy and timbered swamps, and fields of herbaceous plants. The refuge protects one of the largest remaining expanses of tidal salt marsh in the mid-Atlantic region.

Visitors can use a 12-mile wildlife drive, five walking trails (2 handicapped accessible) and three observation towers to observe the refuge. The wildlife drive is open a half hour before sunrise to a half hour after sunset daily and the visitor center is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and weekends from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. year round.

Two cormorants perch on a tree branch at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge on Tuesday.

Two cormorants perch on a tree branch at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge on Tuesday.

The refuge is nearing completion of its first phase of repairs on the historic Allee House that is situated in the reserve. According to the history collected by refuge officials, the Allee House was built about 1753 by Abraham Allee, the son of John Allee, a Huguenot refugee from Artois, France. John Allee arrived in Hackensack, New Jersey, in the 1680’s and in 1706 he obtained a 600 acre tract in Delaware called “Woodstock Bower”. By 1712 John Allee had bought two tracts adjacent to his original purchase; in his will, probated March 16, 1718, he left a large estate to his children. His son Abraham received the eastern half of the “home plantation” at Bombay Hook.

“The project is being done by the National Park Service,” said Ms. Watson. “The first of three phases is to stabilize the building.”

Ms. Watson said that the eventual hope is to obtain funding for the next two phases of the project and reopen the house as a historical site.

Many visitors to the refuge also make use of the opportunities for wildlife photography, hunting, and a variety of nature and educational programs. Applications to hunt on the refuge must be received by Oct. 8. The back section of the refuge is closed all day Oct. 10, 12 and 14 for hunting. Additional dates for November, December and January, hunting regulations and application guidelines are all listed on the refuge’s website: fws.gov/refuge/Bombay_Hook/.

Outside of hunting, refuge officials stress that it’s important not to disturb, injure, or damage plants and animals on the refuge. Prohibited disturbances include flushing birds and other wildlife or using mechanical or electronic devices to lure birds closer for observation or photography. Officials sum up the sentiment by saying: “Take only memories and photographs and leave only footprints.”

Reach staff writer Ian Gronau at igronau@newszap.com

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