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Seasons of Wildlife

Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge is a breathtaking natural resource and remains one of Delaware’s hidden treasures for wildlife. Often unnoticed, the refuge is home to thousands of waterfowl and shorebirds, songbirds, plants, insects, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and a diverse array of habitats. The refuge is open year round for hiking, photography, and nature observations. Opportunities and experiences are endless. This calendar, highlighting many of the changes the natural community goes through at Prime Hook, will help guide your visit during any season.

  • January

    Snow geese in flight - Steve Emmons/USFWS.

    - Red tailed and marsh hawks are commonly observed.
    - Bald eagles begin working on their nests.
    - Large numbers of snow geese return to the marsh in the early evening.
    - Pintail ducks can be seen in the marshes when the ice begins to break.

  • February

    Winter sunrise - USFWS.

    - Bald eagle eggs are laid and incubation begins.
    - Large flocks of ducks and geese remain in the marshes.
    - Yellow perch are spawning at the end of the month.
    - Wood frog chorus is in full voice.

  • March

    Ospreys in nest - USFWS.

    - The spring waterfowl migration peaks. Ducks, snow geese and Canada geese are abundant.
    - Snow geese depart at the end of the month.
    - Ospreys arrive to begin nesting.
    - Woodchucks and turtles emerge from hibernation.
    - Woodcock courtship flights occur.
    - Alders and red maples begin to flower.
    - Deer ticks emerge.
    - River herring and white perch enter tidal streams to freshwater.

  • April

    Bald eagle in flight - Chuck Fullmer.

    - Bald eagle eggs hatch.
    - Ospreys lay their eggs.
    - Early spring songbird migration begins.
    - Tree swallow, hummingbirds, and purple martins return.
    - Spring peeper chorus and leopard frog chorus is in full voice.
    - Spring wildflowers in bloom.
    - Largemouth bass and black crappie begin spawning in ponds and rivers.

  • May

    Snapping turtle - USFWS.

    - Peak concentrations of shorebirds and songbirds.
    - Horseshoe crabs move onto the bay shore and begin laying eggs.
    - Bluegills and pumpkinseed sunfish begin spawning in their freshwater habitats.
    - Bullfrogs and green frogs join in the swamp chorus.
    - Warbler migration peaks.
    - Snapping turtles lay eggs.
    - Tulip trees, lady slippers, and spring wildflowers are in full bloom.
    - Duck broods appear.
    - Osprey eggs hatch.
    - First whitetail deer fawns are seen.

  • June

    Red knot - Gregory Breese/USFWS.

    - Baby eagles leave the nest.
    - Water lilies bloom.
    - Black necked stilts begin nesting in the marshes.
    - Ospreys fledge from nests.
    - Deer flies become abundant.
    - Shorebird migration continues to mid-month.
    - Horseshoe crab spawning ends at mid-month.

  • July

    Great blue heron - Robert Burton/USFWS.

    - Many duck broods are present marshes.
    - The first shorebirds arrive late in the month on their southward migration flight.
    - Large concentrations of wading birds, including herons, egrets and ibis are present.
    - Whitetail deer bucks with antlers in velvet.
    - Deer flies are present.

  • August

    Green-winged teal - Dave Menke/USFWS.

    - Increased numbers of shorebirds.
    - Green-winged and blue-winged teal begin to arrive.
    - Cardinal flowers, rose mallow and meadow beauties are in bloom.
    - Deer flies are at their peak.
    - Ground bees emerge to gather marsh mallow pollen for honey.

  • September

    Common yellowthroat - George Gentry/USFWS.

    - Late migrating shorebirds and songbirds are present.
    - Duck numbers increase.
    - First migratory Canada geese and snow geese arrive.
    - Tickseed sunflower, goldenrod and Joe-Pye-weed in flower.

  • October

    Mallard taking off - Erwin and Peggy Bauer/USFWS.

    - Large numbers of Canada and snow geese arrive.
    - Duck numbers increase as pintail, mallard and black ducks begin their fall migration.
    - Bur marigolds bloom in freshwater pools.
    - Weakfish, summer flounder, and striped bass in the Delaware Bay migrate south.

  • November

    Wood duck drake - Chuck Fullmer.

    - Peak of fall waterfowl migration.
    - Common species include Canada geese, snow geese, (blue and white phases), gadwall, mallard, black duck, pintail, American widgeon, wood duck, northern shoveler, blue-winged and green-winged teal, scaup, bufflehead, ruddy duck, red-breasted and hooded merganser.

  • December

    Bald eagle in tree - Chuck Fullmer.

    - Eagles often seen perched on leafless branches.
    - High populations of wintering birds, especially waterfowl, throughout the month unless a hard freeze pushes them further south

  • Conclusion

    Because of the abundance of wetland habitat on the refuge, mosquitoes, and biting fly populations are very high from June through September. During these months, the refuge staff suggests you wear long sleeves and slacks, and bring insect repellant and a headnet when you visit.

    Download Nature's Calendar of Events (pdf)

Page Photo Credits — Snow geese in flight - Steve Emmons/USFWS., Winter sunrise - USFWS., Ospreys in nest - USFWS., Bald eagle in flight - Chuck Fullmer., Snapping turtle - USFWS., Red knot - Gregory Breese/USFWS., Great blue heron - Robert Burton/USFWS., Green-winged teal - Dave Menke/USFWS., Common yellowthroat - George Gentry/USFWS., Mallard taking off - Erwin and Peggy Bauer/USFWS., Wood duck drake - Chuck Fullmer., Bald eagle in tree - Chuck Fullmer.
Last Updated: Nov 25, 2013
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