Sunday, August 15, 2010

Patuxent Wildlife Research Refuge - Birds, Forests, Wetlands and a Tram

Looking for a weekend day trip with the kids that transports you but you don't have to transport yourself far?Then set the controls for Patuxent Wildlife Research Refuge - just check this sucker on the map - it gobbles a huge amount of acreage.  Whether or not the weather is right get over to this bird paradise soon.  Careful though, the gates close at 4:30 - not cool for the afternoon tourist.

As you may have read in previous entries of mine, I've been chasing the elusive Scarlet Tanager for two years running - might this be my lucky day?

I had both kids in tow and my intention was to walk the grounds (some of the refuge is open, much closed to human intrusion), drop by the best wildlife visitors center (ever) - it makes the one in Rock Creek Park look like a gentleman's study.  They have a great wolf display that my daughter loves and this weekend I was treated to the portion that shows a pack greedily devouring a deer, complete with super ick visuals!

The great news we found out upon arrival was that we were just in time for the 3 p.m. tram ride that takes visitors to portions of the park normally off limits to visitation.  You can be treated to wide array of birds, either on the lake or in the tree canopy.  When I spoke with a naturalist as we waited on the tram I asked about the possibility of spotting my elusive Scarlet Tanager. She gave a wry smile and said, "why we have a trail call Tanager Loop" and she cheerily went on to detail all the places I might see them (my heart was a little green toad of envy!). The Tanager has a bright  orange/reddish plumage, black wings and, outside the Oriole, in my esteem, the most handsome local bird.

The tram ride was honestly a bit disappointing during our time slot in terms of wildlife spotted - sorry, deer at 100 yards don't cut it anymore, but it's been great in the past - lots of beavers, amphibians, birds and various flora.

Post tram ride, we hit the meadowland trails adjacent the visitors center as this has always been the spot for Indigo Buntings, Finches, and other birds that dwell in the canopy but  like the meadow menu.  I was dumbstruck when my quarry passed over head - I was incapable of wielding my camera.  I stood with mouth agape as this good looking bird sailed by....I have to see one stationary to compete and verify this odyssey but I feel blessed just having a fly by....

Established in 1936 by executive order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Patuxent Research Refuge is the Nation's only National Wildlife Refuge established to support wildlife research.
With land surrounding the Patuxent and Little Patuxent Rivers between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, MD, the Refuge has grown from the original 2,670 acres to its present size of 12,841 acres.  Throughout decades of change, Patuxent's mission of conserving and protecting the nation's wildlife and habitat through research and wildlife management techniques has remained virtually unchanged.

Patuxent Research Refuge is one of over 540 refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The National Wildlife Refuge System is the world’s largest network of lands and waters dedicated to protecting wildlife and their habitat.

Getting Here - In the heart of the Baltimore - Washington corridor, the National Wildlife Visitor Center is located off of Powder Mill Road, 2 miles east of the Baltimore /Washington Parkway, just south of Laurel, Maryland. map

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I recommend the Tram Tours

Wildlife Conservation Tram Tours
Mid-March through Mid-November

Weekend Schedule: 11:30AM, 1:00PM, 2:00PM & 3:00PMWeekday Schedule: (Summer Only - Late June thru Mid-August)
11:30AM, 1:00PM, 2:30PM

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