Find Your Chesapeake: Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

Attraction magazine has partnered with the National Park Service Chesapeake Bay Office and Chesapeake Conservancy to help readers find their next adventure. Each month, we’ll feature a new place from their helpful website, FindYourChesapeake.com. There, you can also sign up for an e-newsletter, Trips and Tips, that delivers fresh ideas to your inbox each week.

Photograph courtesy of Laura Frazier, Maryland DNR.

Ready to try something new? At FindYourChesapeake.com, also find expert advice on experiences like birdwatching, fishing, camping, and hiking. Their team also developed content to help people explore the Chesapeake virtually so folks can stay safe at home during the pandemic.

This month the spotlight is on Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Cambridge. Whether you drive through the refuge on the special wildlife viewing route or ride a bicycle, the winter season has a lot to offer. Visit www.findyourchesapeake.com/places/blackwater-national-wildlife-refuge.

Photograph courtesy of Maryland DNR.

According to the refuge website, by the time December arrives you can expect to see an increasing number of ducks and geese, tundra swans (with many over-wintering), white-tailed and sika deer (breeding season) and increasing numbers of bald eagles arriving from the north (nest building time). Mid-winter observations are best during thaws when eagles, both bald and golden, can be spotted along the Wildlife Drive. Resident bald eagles and great horned owls lay and incubate eggs in January.

Blackwater NWR biologists and trained volunteers conduct waterfowl surveys in the winter. You can check the latest surveys at www.fws.gov/refuge/Blackwater/wildlife_and_habitat/waterfowl_surveys.html to get an idea of what the birding will be like, and you can also check bird sightings that have recently been logged by refuge visitors on Cornell’s eBird Blackwater NWR page at http://ebird.org/region/USFWS_58?yr=all.

On warmer, less windy winter days it’s possible to bicycle the Wildlife Drive for a more slow-paced, up close and personal perspective. Before you go, be sure to check out A Wild Goose Chase Through Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, www.findyourchesapeake.com/trip-ideas/article/a-wild-goose-chase-through-blackwater-national-wildlife-refuge, which will not only give you some guidance on where to ride and what to see, but discuss how sea level rise will impact this fragile environment.

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