Bald Eagle in Flight with a Fish
Bird Photography,  Travel,  Wildlife

Blackwater NWR – A Great Spot for Bird and Wildlife Photographers

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is a terrific destination for bird and wildlife photographers.  The bird species vary by season but there is always something to photograph at Blackwater NWR.  Blackwater is also a great location to photograph sunrises and sunsets so make sure to bring along your landscape lens.

Blackwater NWR is located on Maryland’s Eastern Shore about 11 miles south of Cambridge, Maryland.  Cambridge is the closest town with facilities and is a good place to stay.

Sunrise at Blackwater NWR
Sunrise at Blackwater NWR

Blackwater NWR Entrance Fee

There is a $3 per vehicle daily entrance fee.  Cash and checks are only accepted.  You can also use a valid National Parks Pass for entrance.  Regardless of the payment type, you will need to fill out a deposit envelope with your payment and take the receipt.

Ospreys on a Nesting Platform
Ospreys on a Nesting Platform

Wildlife Drive

The highlight of Blackwater NWR is wildlife Drive but there are also areas by the visitor center and along Maple Dam Road.  The entrance fee is only required for Wildlife Drive.

Wildlife Drive is a 4 mile long one way road thru the refuge.  It is open 7 days a week from a 1/2 hour before sunrise to 1/2 hour after sunset daily.

Wildlife Drive is divided into different areas by numeric markers (1 – 11).  If you follow Blackwater Facebook groups, they will often indicate wildlife sightings by the marker number.

Parts of Blackwater are also accessible on Maple Dam Road with Owl and Eagle nests present there as well.

Hooded Merganser
Hooded Merganser
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Birds at Blackwater NWR

The birds at Blackwater NWR vary by season but there are always birds to photograph at Blackwater.  Blackwater has a good population of resident bald eagles with several nesting pairs and there always seem to be plenty of Great Blue Herons. 

Blackwater also has a large population of migratory waterfowl in the winter and early spring including thousands of Snow Geese that arrive in January and leave by the end of March.  In the fall and winter, biologists do a weekly waterfowl survey that is posted on their website.

Snow Geese at Sunrise
Snow Geese at Sunrise

There are several nesting platforms for Ospreys at Blackwater NWR.  The Osprey arrive in March and hatch and raise their young at Blackwater.

Blackwater is also a good place to photograph Owls.  A pair of Great Horned Owls nest at Blackwater and several Eastern Screech Owls are also commonly seen.

Greater Yellowlegs Reflection
Greater Yellowlegs Reflection

With the low tidal waters of Blackwater, it is also a good place to photograph shore birds and on a calm morning you can get terrific reflection photographs of the birds.

With the large population of Bald Eagles, Great Blue Herons, Osprey and waterfowl, Blackwater is a terrific location for birds in flight photography.

Wildlife at Blackwater NWR

Blackwater has a couple of species of wildlife that are not common in many other areas:

  • The Delmarva Peninsula Ground Squirrel can only be found in this area and has recently been taken off the endangered species list.
  • Asian Sika Elk were also introduced to the area in 1916

Blackwater is a terrific location for bird and wildlife photography throughout the year.  I make several trips there throughout the year to photograph the different species of birds and wildlife.

Written by Martin Belan

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