The Creatures Great and small of Assateague Island

Rest and Renewal

Vacation is all about rest and relaxation from your daily grind. While I may rest from my daily grind- I am certainly not “at rest” while I am on vacation. I am generally up before dawn and enjoying the sunrise, or taking long walks along the beach or hiking through the woods in order to reunite with nature. While everyone has their own thoughts on what rejuvenates them and buoys their spirit, for me it will always be nature.

After a long 18 months of Covid restrictions, I was blessed with the opportunity to take a trip with family down to Ocean City, Maryland. Not only was it nice to catch up with family that we haven’t seen in at least 18 months, but it also afforded me the opportunity to go to one of my favorite places, Assateague island. This island is just 15 minutes from Ocean City. Assateague is bounding with nature from the great wild horses to the small seashore creatures that live there.

The belief is that the horses first came to the island when a Spanish galleon ship sank off the shore of Assateague. Assateague is an Island that is about 37 miles long and runs through both Maryland and Virginia. While the island is open to the public, the road does not go the length of the island leaving many miles of island inaccessible to most people. In order to manage the horses, the two states have divided them into two herds which they each manage separately. A fence along the border keeps them separate. Virginia is well known for the pony swims in the spring which drive their herd a short distance from Assateague to Chincoteague where the pony’s are auctioned off to maintain control of the numbers in the herd. Maryland residents that I talked with are very proud that they don’t auction off their pony’s and they are kept wild. However, I later learned that they are able to maintain the numbers of the herd by using contraceptive darts on the females.

Whatever you think of either practice, witnessing the wild horses in person is an amazing experience. They do not seem to mind people, but you are not to approach them and should maintain 40 ft of distance. Also do not feed the horses. Feeding can have the herd become aggressive and lead to destructive behaviors which could put the humans and/or horses in jeopardy.

The Great Horses

The “great” creatures of course are the horses. The horses are the main reason I enjoy Assateague. To see them in a natural environment roaming free is a joy. I generally go before dawn and I have one picture from a few years ago that is still my favorite to date. It is of three horses on the beach. One horse is standing guard over the others to be alert for intruders while the others slept.

horses of assateague at dawn
dawn awakening

This year the weather wasn’t as cooperative, but I managed to see a mare with her foal on the sand dune. They are looking out to the side as some more horses were awakening around the campground. I had about three seconds to get this shot before the mare and foal joined them and then galloped past me toward the beach. Unfortunately, I have no shots of that as I was busy getting out of the way of those stampeding feet. I love how the horses have no care about strolling down the beach with a lot of humans or graze in the campground spaces.

The small creatures

Assateague is occupied by a number or other creatures. I was amazed how many horseshoe crabs washed up onto the beach. I love how the receding wave leaves a trail around this crab.

horseshoe crab
horseshoe crab

While I haven’t seen pelicans in this area before, my cousins noted that they are becoming more common. We saw pelicans daily often diving for their catch of the day.


Sandpipers are very common and you can find them singly or in groups.

Then there is the elusive ghost crab. They will peak their tiny black eyes out of the hole to see if the coast is clear. if you make a move- they will be diving back to their hole in a split second.

I also saw many dolphin, but they were too far to get decent pictures. There are also seagulls galore. I am sure I am missing many, but the ones that availed themselves to me gave me joy and soothed my soul. I wish I could take a vacation every week! i hope you had a great summer vacation as well.

It’s an International circle!

Join the fun! This group of International Professional Pet Photographers bring you information on our weekly topics. While we focus on one broad subject, we may each have a different spin on it or provide you with additional information from our world of pet photography. Follow the next link to view how the next amazing photographer tackles this weeks challenge.  Follow each link at the end of each blog until you return to me. Then you have successfully completed our blog circle. Enjoy!

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Elaine Tweedy of I Got the Shot Photography shows why summer is her favorite time of year in the Endless Mountains of PA.

Come and find your Best Friend!

Second Chance has a unique program near Syracuse N.Y. where inmates train the rescued dogs. This program gives both the dogs and the inmates a second chance in life.  Appointments currently required related to Covid-19 protocols.

BALTO is looking for his forever family.

Please contact Friends of Second Chance.

Friends of Second Chance Canine Adoption Shelter
6660 E. Seneca Turnpike
Jamesville, NY 13078

Capture your journey with your pet. Nancy Kieffer is a pet and nature photographer serving  Central New York, the Adirondacks and Beyond.  Capture how you share your life with your pet! It may be a vacation adventure or curled up on the couch. Travel assignments welcomed

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Lessons from a Senior Dog

Nancy Kieffer

Working as a pet photographer as well as volunteering in a rescue, I have been blessed with getting to know a number of senior dogs. While I lost my Midnight at a young age, I was very fortunate to have Shamus with me for many years. Shamus was my clown, but boy did he know how to live! His wisdom grew as the years pressed on. I learned that each day spent with my senior dog was a lesson on the importance of living in the present, cherishing our bond and embracing our everlasting friendship.