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     ~ Norfolk Botanical Garden 2012

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, MD

October 9, 2012

click for map from Google picture of chesapeake bay bridge-tunnelThe Blackwater, Maryland, bald eagle cam is one of the first cams I discovered - after the Hornby cam, where it all began for me - so when I learned that we'd be passing through Maryland on our way to and from Virginia, I did a bit of research to learn where the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge actually is - and realized if we took the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel on our way back from Norfolk, we'd go (almost) right by it! (Sorry that you need to click to see the map - I tried to follow all the steps to put a legal Google map on my website, and failed miserably.) The picture of the rather large series of bridges crossing the mouth of Chesapeake Bay is full size (though there are more pictures on their site) - all the pictures that I took click much larger.

Anyway, I checked the Refuge's website, and also checked the Friends of Blackwater site - and soon discovered that there was a whole lot I wanted to see - and only a couple of hours in which to see it all, as we needed reach Brooklyn that night.

eagle perched on a phone poleHigh on my list was seeing an eagle or two - and as we drove in, I noticed something white - and I must admit I was using binoculars, though I saw the row of trees that looked like a promising place for an eagle to perch from the road (I've no clue why Charlie thought there was an emergency just because I shouted "stop the car!"). ☺

I don't know that this was one of the eagles that we watch on the cam - but it might be. It was within a mile or so of where I think the nest might be, and when he or she flew off a minute or two later, she headed inland, not out towards the islands - so I'm going with the idea that I might have seen Mom or Dad Blackwater. ♡

We stopped by the temporary Visitor Center (I do need to go back someday - I've read about the one being updated, and it's going to be great!), and bought a couple of books - and learned that there are a whole lot of eagles in the area! I forget the number from their January bird count, but it's definitely more than I see all year here in Maine.

And then we headed out for the Marsh Edge Trail - a 1/3 mile gentle hike (the link is to a brochure with a map and information about what one can see while hiking (or strolling) along the trail.

Trees at Blackwater National Wildlife RefugeCharlie among the treesThe first thing that I noticed were some lovely tall trees.

They're not as big or tall as some we've seen on the West Coast, but walking among them on a foggy afternoon was a bit mystical.

And while I wasn't fast enough to get a s'cap, we saw an adult bald eagle fly over. This trail is closed part of the year because it comes close to an eagle nest (not the one with the cam).

I never did see the nest, but with that many tall, tall trees, I've no doubt that someone calls the area home.

osprey nestWe saw a number of osprey platforms like the one on the left, but didn't notice any eagles perched on them - perhaps because the ones visible from this trail were fairly low, and were in areas with tall trees overlooking the same body of water.

island on a foggy dayWhen we came to the next lookout point, we saw a sign saying that eagles nested on the islands. I must admit that it was a bit hard to even see the islands with our naked eyes (though they will be more obvious if you click the picture to the right to full size) - but happily we had binoculars and a camera with a zoom lens - so we could get a closer look!

eagle nest on an islandWe discovered that not only was there a nest in the lone tree to the right of the visible group of trees (almost directly behind the osprey platform that's barely visible in the picture on the right) - but there was an eagle perched up above the nest!

And I just discovered a bonus - near the center top of the picture on the left there's a little horizontal gray line - and I think if you look at that picture at full size, you'll agree it's a bird in flight. No clue what sort of bird - but still a nice addition to the picture.

(Drat - I just discovered that while I was shoving my camera under my coat every time the rain started again, I bumped one of the controls - so the rest of my pictures are in Canon's idea of a lovely wide-angle picture - which sadly is lower resolution, reducing my options for cropping and leading to a few shots that should have been much sharper than they are. Fortunately I only have a few more long distance shots - and some of the images do look better in wide format. Ah, well - back to the story....)

another islandAfter our third eagle sighting (which was off to the right as we stood on the little platform), we turned to look at the island in front of us. I'd been hearing a few familiar calls, so I was wondering if there might be an eagle there. And if you click to full size, perhaps you'll be able to see what we found after a few minutes -

two eagles perched in treesNot one eagle - but two! The one in the upper right is fairly easy to find, even in the smaller picture on the right - the other one blends in a bit more - but is plainly visible - once you see him! ☺

And this is the best of my blurry pictures of them. Seeing a pair together - and hearing them call to each other while we were there, and hearing them in the distance as we moved on to the new observation platform was another highlight of our visit.

As I mentioned before, the Marsh Edge trail is only 1/3 mile (about 1/2 kilometer) - but there's so much to see that one could easily spend a couple of hours. But it was already getting a bit late - and this was only the first stop along the 4-mile Wildlife Drive.

observation platform at Blackwater National Wildlife RefugeOur next stop was the observation platform. There are better pictures on the Friends of Blackwater site, but this should provide an idea. There were some great views from the observation platform, but it was the wrong time of year to see that much wildlife, though we did see the dead tree where eagles often perch, and we saw several muskrat lodges (I almost typed nests!), and a few ducks who left too quickly for me to get a shot.

muscrat lodgedead tree where eagles sometimes perchWe did get another look at the eagle(s) on the distant island:
eagle nest on islandand again I just discovered another large bird in the picture, flying in the upper left corner.

There were a lot more places we wanted to see, but the mist had turned to a drizzle and was threatening to become serious rain, and there was one more "absolute must do" on my list - so we set off to find the osprey platform with the camera.

first view of osprey cam nestIt turned out to be one of those interesting quests - the flyers I printed said the nest was visible from Wildlife Drive, and the woman at the information desk said it was easy to find, and tried to show me where it was on the map - but it wasn't where we thought it was after looking at the map. And then we came around a corner - and there it was!

It's not exactly obvious in the picture to the right, but it's in front of the group of tall trees in the middle of the picture. I'm including this picture even though you really can't see the nest because it does provide an idea of the area where the osprey fish - and where the eagles like to perch to look for fish when the osprey are away on their winter migration.

osprey cam nestHere's a closer picture which clicks much bigger - and which has a couple of what I think are great blue heron in the foreground, patiently waiting for fish.

Because a number of us watch the Blackwater Osprey Cam and even more of us watch the Blackwater Eagle Cam (and suspect that the cam eagles use the osprey nest as a fishing perch while the osprey are away), I'm posting a series of pictures I took with my smaller (waterproof) cam while turning around in a circle, to provide a bit of a sense of the area (all click much bigger).

Blackwater National Wildlife RefugeBlackwater National Wildlife RefugeBlackwater National Wildlife RefugeBlackwater National Wildlife RefugeBlackwater National Wildlife RefugeBlackwater National Wildlife RefugeBlackwater National Wildlife Refugegreat blue heron

And a few more pictures of the herons - they are so amazing to see, and really look as if they came from another time. He or she reached down and grabbed a fish just after I took the last picture.

great blue herongreat blue herongreat blue herongreat blue heron

And here are a few pictures of the nest from other perspectives, as we continued down the Wildlife Drive.

osprey cam nestosprey cam nestosprey cam nestosprey cam nest

We had a wonderful visit - but it was far too short! I've already started thinking about how and when I can get back again. I'm going to end my report with a different perspective on the osprey nest - the one we see all the time on the Osprey Cam (with a special guest appearance by at least one eagle)!

Blackwater NWR Osprey CamBlackwater NWR Osprey Cam
Blackwater NWR Osprey Cam