Visit to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

This past Saturday was one of the hottest day of the year for the Chesapeake Bay area, as well as other areas around the United States, with record temperature settings throughout.  Hubby and I decided to spend the afternoon in our car’s A/C and cruise down through Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and continue to the bottom of the Hooper Islands.  It was 101 degrees when we left about 12:30pm, arriving at Blackwater NWR about 2:00pm with the temperature dropping to 98 degrees.  (Still felt the same.)  I took my camera, of course!  But to be honest, I did not expect to see any wildlife at that time of the day.  It was so hot and the sun was harsh.

Well, I was wrong. The 8-mile wildlife drive was full of panting wildlife alongside the water, trying to stay hydrated.

I’ll start with BNWR’s famous osprey family who are broadcast on their webcam for the world to enjoy.  Momma was on watch while her two chicks were laying low, but as our car approached and I slowly got out, the chicks rose up and all three were checking us out.  We were treated to some practice flapping by one of the chicks while the other enjoyed a late afternoon snack feeding from momma.

(Click on a photo for a more detailed image.)

Famous Osprey Family on BNWR’s Webcam

Osprey chick practicing flapping those huge awkward wings

Momma Osprey feeding one of her chicks

The osprey webcam and pole are pretty high and more at a distance than another osprey nest along the drive which is more eye level for us.  This family had hatched four chicks total but during the last few weeks two were lost.  The two remaining chicks were less active as they rested as best they could as momma shielded them from the sun under her wings.

Osprey family along wildlife drive

Yes, there are two chicks shielded under momma’s wings.

Osprey dad 100 feet away keeping an eye on his family’s surroundings

Great Blue Heron and Great Egrets were both abundant.  I saw more this visit than ever before at Blackwater NWR.

8 Great Blue Herons and 1 Great Egret

9 Great Blue Heron, 5 Great Egrets & 1 American Bald Eagle flying away in the upper right.

Some close-ups…..

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Egret

Great Egret

Great Blue Heron

Great Egret

Great Egret with juvenile

Great Egret – Coming in for a landing

Great Egret – Preparing to land

Great Egret – Touchdown!

Great Blue Heron – trying to keep cool

Great Egret

Great Egret – Preparing to take off

Great Egret

Great Blue Heron

I mentioned an eagle sighting above, we saw nother adult eagle resting on a peninsula of land.  He was also panting, with wings dropped.

American Bald Eagle

American Bald Eagle – closeup

Towards the end of the wildlife drive, BNWR visitors have been treated this season to a new eagle nest that produced two eaglets who have recently fledged.  We came upon one of them down at the water, drinking and watching all the herons and egrets…..who were nervously watching him.

American Bald Eagle – Juvenile

I was standing along the road behind a bush, when suddenly an egret hidden behind it down alongside the water flew up, causing a second one to also take flight, both heading directly to the juvenile eagle.  Scared me too!

Juvenile American Bald Eagle and Great Egrets

As the juvenile eagle watched them, a third egret was slowly trying to sneak by behind him, it was actually quite comical!

Great Egret trying to sneak by the juvenile Bald Eagle

Great Egret thinking as he picked up speed, “I’ve almost made it!”

Well, he didn’t make it.  The eaglet turned quickly & saw him and both he and the egret took flight, causing another one to fly.  Quickly, the eaglet was behind both of them, disturbing a fifth egret, who all were frantically trying to get out of his way.

Juvenile Bald Eagle in flight behind two Great Egrets

Juvenile Bald Eagle in flight behind two Great Egrets

Now a fifth Great Egret is outta there!

It really appeared the juvenile bald eagle was toying with the egrets, flying directly behind them but not in a high-pursuit chase.  With all five now going in all directions, the juvenile eagle just as quickly turned around and went directly up to his tree home to perch alongside one of the parents already there.  Bet he told mom or dad, did you see that?  Did you see them fly scared?  That was fun!”  😉

Turtles were seen everywhere on rocks and logs, basking in the sun and heat….

Turtle

and a family of raccoons were sighted drinking at the water’s edge.  They quickly ran and I didn’t get a very good shot of the two babies who scurried after mom.

Two baby raccoons

Another terrible shot, but he’s a newbie for my bird list, the Red-Headed Woodpecker.

Red-Headed Woodpecker

After departing the wildlife drive, we traveled down Maple Dam Road where there’s another osprey nest directly alongside the road.  I only saw one chick on this nest.

Osprey parent and chick

Momma osprey was not happy with us and took flight, circling and eyeing us.

Female Osprey

We quickly left her be and she returned to the nest as we drove away.

Finally, three landscape shots from the drive of the hazy hot day that it was.  Although I was certainly worried for the wildlife, they seemed to know what to do to take care of themselves through it all.  And they and us have since had a reprieve in the temperatures, and we’re all enjoying mid to upper 80’s for the high since Monday.

I hope you enjoyed another one of my visits at Blackwater NWR and as always, thank you for stopping by!  Have a great week!

24 thoughts on “Visit to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

  1. What a wonderful way to start my day! I once saw a great blue that had swallowed a fish way to big to swallow. It kept gulping and gulping. I had to pull over to let a truck by and missed the swallowing. I was trying to figure out how you’d give mouth to mouth to a heron.

  2. Thanks for the tour, Donna. Great sequence photos – especially of the landing ballet of the Great White. This was most enjoyable!

    • You’re welcome Beth! I had just been talking about not seeing any egrets around our home as previous summers, and then to go down to BNWR and see as many as we did at once was a real treat. They are gorgeous with their wings spread. 🙂

  3. Great series! I’ve seen the birds here suffer a bit from the heat too, but they have been through it before. I’ve seen the bald eagles go and sit in the river near the bank to cool off.

    • Thanks Steve, for such a hot day, I was totally surprised with the quantity of birds that afternoon at BNWR and couldn’t wait to get home to download them to ‘see’ what I actually got.

  4. These are great…. I wanted to click them over to my FB page but it didn’t work…somehow.. I’ll come back later and try again. Your photos are great!

  5. Have you watched his “Winged Migration” documentary film. Jacques Perrin’s! They all reminded me this unforgettable film. You are amazing photographer dear Donna, and this is great post and shots… I am lost… Thank you, love, nia

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