Red-Headed Woodpecker at Blackwater

Another bird we saw at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge was a Red-headed Woodpecker. There is a lot of standing dead wood in the refuge because of the water level changes in recent years. Trees less tolerant to wet roots or brackish (becoming saltier) water are dying. One area along the wildlife loom was almost all dead and the woodpeckers were having a heyday based on the numbers of holes we saw…and then we saw the red-headed woodpecker. It wasn’t at work…just looking around in the forest and didn’t notice when we got out of the car (quietly….didn’t turn the engine off or close the doors).

It posed very nicely on the snag – one that the tree top had already fallen from.

So many woodpeckers have some red on their head…but this is the one that gets the name. It is in this area for both breeding and wintering. This part of Blackwater is prime habitat for it…at least for now.

Blackwater Osprey Drama

We saw more Osprey at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge than we did bald eagles (see previous post for the bald eagle pictures).

There was an occupied nesting platform near the beginning of the wildlife loop (to the left – labeled Little Blackwater River on the map). There was a bird on the nest on both days we drove the loop. Since we knew the nest was there and we were using the car as our blind, my husband and I had already positioned ourselves on the left side of the car with camera supports on the doors on the second day; his was a metal frame that the camera mounted on and mine was a neck pillow turned downward over the door frame…enough for my smaller camera (it was an experiment and worked…good to know for when I travel…yet another reason to take a neck pillow along).There were osprey vocalizations almost immediately and then the male swopped in and there was mating action on the nest.  It was a good thing we were already prepares for photography! The whole sequence below took place in about a minute.

The male flew off to a snag further along the wild life loop afterwards.

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Further along the loop there was an osprey on a post closer to the wildlife loop – an opportunity to get some bird portrait shots.

We took the turn off onto the part of the loop that goes by Pools 5a-c…and there was another osprey nesting pair! These two seemed to be doing a bit of nest rearranging and watching the skies for danger. It was a very windy day – ruffled feathers.

This part of the drive exits near the Tubman Visitor Center.

Overall – osprey were the dramatic stars for the Blackwater Wildlife Loop!

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

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We visited a second National Wildlife Refuge last weekend: Blackwater. We usually visit Blackwater on the same trips at Chincoteague because it is ‘on the way.’ Of the two – Blackwater is my favorite. It is the first place I saw a bald eagle in the wild. It was back in 1990 when by daughter was a baby - a pleasant spring day and we were sitting out side on a blanket letting her finish off a bottle….and a bald eagle soared overhead. It was idyllic when it happened and in my memory. We saw eagles during this visit too. On the first day it was raining and the eagle was looking very wet. Note in the last picture of this series, the membrane eyelid on the right eye is closed (must have gotten a rain drop in the eye!).

The next morning when we drove around the wildlife loop again, it was sunny and there was an eagle on the same platform – maybe the same one – looking much happier. It took off before we could get pictures and continued to soar in the area until it vanished into the trees. There was another eagle on a snag near a blind – almost out of range for my camera.

The visitor center has a little garden at the back with small trees (like dogwoods) and a butterfly sculpture. There are bird feeders that attracted a few small birds. The red-winged blackbirds were very vocal. I saw a hummingbird sampling the clumps of columbine in the gardon on the sunny morning.

My husband saw a lump in the road and stopped quickly for us to get out and take a look: a baby snapping turtle. It didn’t move while we watched it, but it was in a patch of sun and would warm up enough to finish crossing the road soon after we left. It was already close to the edge of the road.

I’ll post later about the other birds we saw at Blackwater. I see something new just about every time we go to Blackwater…and this trip was no exception.

Gleanings of the Week Ending July 28, 2018

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

Go Orchids: North American Orchid Conservation Center – A great site for learning about orchids…mentioned in my second post about the class I attended at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center.

In praise of drawing - The Painters Keys – This is post originally written in 2006 but still very applicable today. I looked more at Internet Archive for some of the ‘how to draw’ books that were mentioned in the article; it’s amazing that in a 40-year period in the 1800s so many were published. A more recent post – from a science education perspective – was published in 2015: Rediscovering the forgotten benefits of drawing. I am contemplating taking a ‘next step’ from Zentangles to realistic drawings.

Time-Lapse Videos Capture Echinopsis Cacti in Bloom – Eye candy videos…beautiful.

Free Technology for Teachers: 7 TED-Ed Food Science Lessons – We could all learn a little more about the food we consume….educate ourselves to eat wisely.

Research Dollars Go Farther at Less-Prestigious Institutions: Study | The Scientist Magazine® - Interesting finding. I wonder if it will change how some organizations that award research dollars make decisions in the future.

Material formed from crab shells and trees could replace flexible plastic packaging -- ScienceDaily – This type of technology gives me hope. Recycling can’t do everything. We have to reduce the non-compostable materials in our packaging…have a net decrease in what has to be (expensively) recycled and/or go to the landfill.

Recovery: America’s Giant Squirrel Back from the Brink – Cool Green Science – I’ve seen signs about the Delmarva Fox Squirrel when we have gone to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge but have never seen one. It’s good to hear a environmental improvement story!

As usual – I can’t resist the ’25 birds’ posts from National Geographic. Here are two that have come out recently: Top 25 Bird Interactions and Top 25: Wild Birds with Spectacular Catches

BBC - Future - The complicated truth about a cat’s purr – We all like to think that when our cat purrs that it is a sound of happiness…but is it?

Compound Interest - Volcanic eruptions: the chemistry of lava and volcanic gases and Compound Interest - The chemistry of spinach: the iron myth and ‘spinach teeth’ – Two posts from Andy Brunning. In the first one – click on the graphic and the larger version of the infographic will appear....a timely post with the volcanic event in Hawaii this summer.