Nature’s Beauty – the Tony Florio Woodland Beach Wildlife Area

By Anthony Jackson

The natural wonder of the Tony Florio Woodland Beach Wildlife Area near Smyrna is on full display from the winners of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s first annual Aquatic Resources Education Center (AREC) photo contest. From May through mid-August, the DNREC invited photographers and nature lovers to submit their best photographs. Birdwatchers, hunters and families are now sharing images of their adventures in one of Delaware’s remote natural treasures.

The contest was held to increase public awareness about AREC and the surrounding wildlife area, a destination along the Delaware Bayshore Byway that features two fishing ponds, trails, and a raised boardwalk with vistas across the tidal salt marsh to Delaware Bay.

Entries were accepted in three categories: birds, nature and people enjoying nature; and in three age groups: children under age 13, teens ages 13 to 18 and adults age 19 and older.

Seven-year-old Wyatt Humphreys captured something he had never seen.

“I took this photograph while on top of the observation tower. At first, I thought I saw a bluebird, but after taking several quick photos, I realized it wasn’t. I had to wait until I got home to look it up and see that it was a blue grosbeak. It is my favorite photo from my trip!”

Photo of a Blue Grosbeak perched on a stalk

Sherry Abbott took her winning photo at a little pond near the dock at Woodland Beach.

Photo of a ring-necked duck in the water

“I’m a birder and was surprised to see this ring-necked duck in that little pond.”

The Woodland Beach Wildlife Area has dozens more ponds, woodlands and huge marshes to explore. 

A good photograph often relies on more than just the subject. At the age of 11, Aurelia Thomas understands composition.

“I took a walk on the beach during low tide in mid-January with my mom and my sister at Woodland Beach. I liked seeing how the pebbles and the foam from the waves mixed together. I got low to the sand and took a picture to get the sand, waves and sky in one shot.”

Photo of Delaware Bay water lapping at a beach

Likewise, David S. Vallee relies on creativity.

Photo through a crystal globe

“I found a rugged stump right by the water and placed a glass sphere I borrowed on it. I really liked the resulting kind of microcosm of the beach.”

The vignette effect furthers that perspective. 

Like the Woodland Beach Wildlife Area, James Blackstock’s photo has many layers

“This photo was taken on a February evening around dusk, out near deer stand #1 of the Big Woods tract. There was a low-hanging fog out over the snowy cut corn fields, and there were lots of Canada geese flying over the old farmhouse.”

Many hunters have started to bring cameras out to the deer stands and the duck blinds, and they come home with more to share. 

Photo of a fallow field in the winter
Anthony Jackson is an environmental educator with the Aquatic Resource Education Center within the DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife.