Few White Faces at Blackwater

I went to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge yesterday with hopes of seeing big flocks of Snow Geese. I’ve been thinking about visiting that place since October, when I failed to see Snow Geese during my visit to Chincoteague. It’s a three-hour drive from my house, though. Sometimes it’s hard for me to justify — to myself — investing an entire day just to go see a bunch of birds.

So, when I learned of a dog transport passing through this area, I figured I could multi-task again. I could help transport the dog AND drive to Blackwater.

ellie's map
Ellie’s Transport – Rustburg, VA to Whiting, NJ (not the actual route)

Originally, I was supposed to take Ellie from Warrenton to the other side of DC. But I figured if I carried her to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, the folks on the NJ end might appreciate traversing ruralish highways instead of Interstate 95.

I was right. 🙂

Ellie with her foster Dad, Bob Fairbanks

So, after handing Ellie off to her foster parents in Queenstown, MD, I drove about another hour to Blackwater.

Pretty Day at Blackwater
Pretty Day at Blackwater

It was around 3:00 when I got there, and there wasn’t a whole lot of daylight remaining.

Unfortunately, there were few Snow Geese to be found. I did get lots of other cool pics, though, and quite a few crappy ones.

Before I share my captures, I will say this… I am no bird photographer. I take pictures of birds, but I don’t have the right equipment, i.e., a big-ass, expensive zoom lens and industrial-strength tripod, to capture technically good bird photos. I just take snapshots.

I also have to say that it was very windy and cold there yesterday. Temps hovered around 40 degrees F (about 4.5 C), but the wind made it feel much colder. The wind also wreaked havoc on my focus. Using a zoom lens requires a tripod and/or a very steady hand. Although I had taken the tripod along, I didn’t bother setting it up because of said wind.

The first set of pics was taken with my point-and-shoot camera.

Looking out over the water.

Blackwater — a tidal wetland — is a pretty place.

I really enjoy visiting tidal wetlands.


Cool — and mysterious! — pattern in the ice.

I really like my captures of this pattern in the ice. I’d hoped the folks at the visitors’ center could explain how it was created, but they were equally intrigued.

A bit of grass in the foreground, while blurry, makes this shot, I think.


Nice colors, eh? The sun was setting.


One of my favorite sunset captures.

My point-and-shoot — a Canon G16 — is a higher-end camera, and it has pretty good zoom capabilities, but digital zoom is only good if the light is bright and the camera is very still. Remember, it was windy. And daylight was fading fast during my visit.

The pics shared below were all taken with my DSLR camera, equipped with a zoom lens.

Just a pretty picture.


This image of a Great Blue Heron is blurry, but I think that adds to the shot.


Same bird, slightly more in focus.

I like how you can also see the bird’s feet in the second picture.

I saw quite a few herons yesterday.

I like the blurry marsh grass in the foreground.


That’s an eagle atop of the snag.

This guy (or gal?) was kind enough to land right in front of my car.

Looking for attention?
Looking for attention?


I’m a sucker for interesting reflections.


There’s that interesting pattern in the ice again.


Great Blue Heron


Same bird, different orientation.

I stopped at the visitors’ center for a potty break, to warm up, and to ask about the Snow Geese. I was starting to think they’d all flown north already (Blackwater is one of several over-wintering spots for them on the East Coast).

That’s where I captured this eagle shot, which I posted to FB with the caption, “Got really close to an eagle! That’s a phone pic, no filter.”

Close-up of an Eagle!
Close-up of an Eagle!

Of course, the prankster in me left a few important details out of that caption. It was a real, but dead, stuffed, and mounted, eagle in an exhibit.

The volunteers at the visitors’ center told me the Snow Geese were spending their day in nearby fields, off-refuge, eating. While there was still sufficient light, I set out to see the elusive Snow Geese.

Snow Geese


Snow Geese (some were quite far from the road; see the white dots in the background?)


Snow Geese

After observing them for a bit, I drove back to the refuge, hoping maybe they’d return before dark.

Canada Geese

Note, I did NOT say Canadian Geese. They’re CANADA Geese, people, not Canadian Geese. That’s one of my pet peeves when people talk about birds.

Along Wildlife Drive at the Blackwater Refuge.


Great Blue Heron

If you look at a larger version of this image (just click on the picture) you’ll see that its neck feathers were blowing in the wind.

I captured quite a few nice sunset shots, which I’ll share in a separate post.

The Snow Geese did return to the refuge, but not until after sunset. I DID capture a few shots with the point-and-shoot, but they were blurry.

One blurry, dark photo of Snow Geese in flight.


The pics I captured during my previous visit are better. The first image shown below is a good pic from my visit in 2011, when I still had a separate moto blog.

Snow Geese in Flight


One of my favorite bike pics.

It’s really pretty amazing to see — and hear! — hundreds of geese in flight. I guess if you like that sorta thing.

If you’re curious, here a link for more info on about Snow Geese. And here are some nice pics captured by someone else — found via Google — that clearly show Canada Geese beside a Snow Goose.

I must say, it was nice being out in the world for a change. I hope you enjoyed your virtual visit. 🙂

5 Replies to “Few White Faces at Blackwater”

  1. That really is a curious pattern in the ice, ToadMama. At a glance it looks symmetrical, but closer inspection proves otherwise. I wonder if there’s a “warm” spring in that spot, eroding the ice from beneath.

    Maybe a CanadIAN 😀 goose pulled a kamikaze there at freeze-up.
    Alert the X-Files!

    1. Ry, the warm spring is a good theory, but there were other similar patterns nearby. My theory is that a long-legged wader, like a heron, plopped into the water when it was just barely frozen, then waded back and forth a bit.

      More likely than a warm spot, but still not very solid science. 🙂

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