Kevin Fleming has been all over the world in his career as a photojournalist and a photographer for National Geographic.


Kevin Fleming has been all over the world in his career as a photojournalist and a photographer for National Geographic.

But after traveling to war zones, deserts, the Arctic and dozens of other exotic locales, he still finds considerable inspiration in the land and people of his native Delaware.

In his latest book “Wild Delaware,” Fleming highlights the tremendous diversity of the state’s wildlife, with hopes of inspiring Delawareans to preserve and defend the state’s natural beauty.

In each of the last three decades, the Wesley College graduate has published books focused on the First State, but this is the first to take on wildlife exclusively.

“I have kind of a chronology or a time capsule of life in Delaware,” Fleming said. “It’s a little different in that this book is all wildlife, but it fits.”

“Wild Delaware” is the culmination of a yearlong effort that began in August 2007, when Fleming learned of plans to build a housing development near his home in Lewes.

“That was happening back in the boom when developers where asking for a lot of new development and getting approved,” he said. “It looked like they were going to pave Delaware, which they still could … I wanted to make people aware that there are wildlife here that have to be preserved.”

The book contains more than 200 photographs of everything from birds to lizards at locations across the state.

Photographing wildlife presents an especially difficult challenge to the photographer, who must work at the mercy of Mother Nature.

“You have to learn patience, you can’t schedule anything,” Fleming said. “Your entire life revolves around when the sun comes up and what kind of wildlife you can find.”

Nearly all of the pictures in “Wild Delaware” were shot in the hours immediately after sunrise and just before sunset, when animals feed and are most active, Fleming said.

“It all depends on their habits and what’s around. You definitely have to work around nature’s schedule,” he said.

For Fleming, working with animals on their terms was enlightening.

“The hardest thing for me, and I kind of liked it in the end, is learning to slow down, learning the behavior and patterns of animals,” he said. “It was a little tougher than I thought, anticipating where to be before something happens.”

In an average week Fleming would probably get three usable shots. Many times he’d hunker down in the cold marsh dawn only to leave empty handed and be forced to return to the same area several mornings in a row to try and capture just the right image.

But Fleming’s patience paid off in photographs like the one he snapped to two rare piping plover shore birds gripping either end of a worm.

To get the shot Fleming crept carefully through the marsh, trying desperately not to disturb the notoriously skittish birds.

“They’re very hard to get close to,” Fleming said. “But I was able to very slowly inch my way close to them.”

Beyond the beautiful and improbable photographs, “Wild Delaware” provides a window into the sheer diversity of the state’s biosphere — something Fleming says should resonate with readers.

“I want people to learn about what’s here,” he said. “Education was the big reason for this book in the first place.”