Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is a really cool place. Normally, I research locations pretty well before going just so I know what to expect. Well, I was looking at the map since I was staying the night in that area of Maryland and just picked it. My original plan was to go to Calvert Cliffs but I have been there a couple of times already and wanted somewhere new.

blackwater wildlife refuge
The marshy-swampy refuge//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

My first introduction to the refuge was stopping along the road to photograph a heron. It was in a farm trench and I thought it would make a cool photo. I managed to take a couple of pictures and then was swarmed by these fly/bee-like bugs. They weren’t bees but had a yellow-ish wing and flew like flies. Everywhere. In my face. In my hair. On my car. The kind of swarm where you start flailing around and trying to get into the car and then wonder if anyone saw you acting like a completely fool. If you’ve ever visited the Great Dismal Swamp (or other similar spot) you’ll understand. Needless to say, my photos of the heron weren’t great.

When I drove up to the visitor center, I was worried that they’d swarm again as I got out of the car. I put on a hat, just in case, and braced myself. Thankfully, there was no swarm and I was free to saunter to the doors. They wonderful ladies inside informed me that the park is a driving park. There are some trails but mostly you drive through and there are pull-offs. I also hadn’t realized it was $3 to enter. I had no cash (BRING CASH!). I am able to send it in later or pay the next time I go. I felt bad. I never want to get in somewhere without paying.

On my way back to the car, I noticed a small pond with tons of dragonflies. I grabbed my camera and was able to capture some new-to-me dragonflies. I saw them landing in the tree branches which I thought was kind of funny. It was a hot and sunny day so I guess they, too, wanted some shade. There were a couple of butterflies floating around as well.

Dragonfly at the Refuge
Swallowtail

I then started on my drive. My first stop was at a boardwalk area over the marsh/pond. From there, you could see a long ways. The ospreys and red-winged black birds were very loud. I spotted an egret fishing as well as some other duck or goose. I couldn’t get a good look at it but it wasn’t a type I had seen previously. From there, I kept driving. I stopped at almost every pull-off. I spotted 5-6 different herons – all flying by and never landing for a decent photo. And, again, dragonflies were everywhere. I spotted a Pileated Woodpecker that didn’t care about me. I basically walked right up to it and took photos from down below. I love watching them bang their heads against the trees.

Egret Fishing
Woodpecker hard at work

I could hear thunder in the sky and knew a storm was approaching. I maybe should have hurried up a little but I just loved being there. It wasn’t busy at all. For most of the time I was there, I was alone. The only exception being the boardwalk area. I could get out of my car and just listen. The sounds of nature filled the air. It was refreshing. At one point, the drive took me past an osprey’s nest. The babies were in there but down pretty far in the nest so I couldn’t spot them. The mama (I presume) was there keeping watch. The ospreys were numerous. I lost count at how many I spotted. I saw a smaller, black bird, trying to scare one off. The two flew around and, of course, the osprey just landed back to where it started.

Can you spot the wing of the baby?
Ospreys fighting over this tree

The store was drawing closer. I waited to try and get photos of the lightning but couldn’t quite time it right. The bolts were too far between strikes for me to try and guess. I finally saw a heron ready for a photo but when I started to put my window down the car was swarmed by small bugs. I quickly raised it back up but not before 12-15 had entered my car. At first I thought they were mosquitoes and I was a bit worried they’d attack me. They weren’t. Since there were no other cars around, I parked and proceeded to kill just about every one of those little buggers.

Storm Clouds

I wish I could have had more time. If you visit, be sure to take a long lens as you may not be close to the birds in the water. I had my 18-200mm but my 500mm would have been better.

On my way out of the refuge I did stop at the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historic Site. Many people probably don’t realize that the Underground Railroad relied heavily on swamp and marsh areas. When you experience the bugs at these places it is hard to believe they were able to get through undetected. The Site has a museum with artifacts, videos, and more. I say it is a must-see for everyone.

About Jennifer G

Nature lover. Being outside keeps me sane and balanced.

Posted on July 3, 2019, in National Parks, National Wildlife Refuge and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Geesh. You get the most beautiful pictures. It makes me wish I were there.

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  2. Wonderful captures, I recognize every shot location! 😊 I live about 10 miles from Blackwater NWR; and it is an absolute gem of a place, full of beautiful vistas and tons of wildlife. I am so glad you were able to visit this refuge! You must return some day, no matter the season (well, maybe not July & August, too hot and the bugs!). The refuge is winter host to the highest population of Bald Eagles, north of Florida. If you don’t see Eagles often, come then and be amazed with all the photo ops!

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    • Hi Donna! I met you, actually (I think) at the Sugarloaf Craft Fair in Maryland. I remember because I remember the Bay area. 🙂 I would love to return and hike the trails for sure. I love spots like that. I’d bring my longer lens as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. rickyracer42

    Beautiful!! I Love Blackwater!! ❤️
    Lisa!!

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  4. Very cool! How lucky to get such a good look at a Pileated! We are envious!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was happy it didn’t move. It was super dark with an incoming storm so I’m not 100% pleased with the photo but it was fun to stand right beneath it as it pecked away.

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  1. Pingback: Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge | Hiking Adventures – Wolf's Birding and Bonsai Blog

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