Tuesday, November 30, 2021

A November Visit to Blackwater NWR

I've been to the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) before, but never in November, when a lot of the waterfowl are there.

The Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, located 12 miles south of Cambridge, includes more than 28,000 acres of rich tidal marsh, mixed hardwood and loblolly pine forests, managed freshwater wetlands and farmland. 

What drew me there this time was to see the tundra swans.   

Of course there were heron, although not as many as you might see during the warmer months.

And of course bald eagles (although I will never get over the thrill of seeing an eagle). I saw at least three different ones, including one in a nest (it's early for nesting season, so maybe she/he was there for warmth, as it was a very chilly day).

Why do I say, "of course bald eagles?" Because Dorchester County has the highest concentration of nesting bald eagles on the Atlantic Coast of the United States.  

The best time to see waterfowl is November through February. The refuge serves as an important resting and feeding area for migrating and wintering waterfowl and is one of the chief wintering areas.

Wintering species includes tundra swans, snow geese, and more than 20 duck species, including the ubiquitous mallards, blue- and green-winged teals, wigeon, wood ducks, shovelers, mergansers, and pintails. Mallards and wood ducks can be found in the refuge all year long.

In late November, just before Thanksgiving in fact, I saw a lot of tundra swans -- it seemed several thousand of them. 

Of course egrets and Canada geese -- there are always Canada geese. I didn't see/recognize any snow geese, so I'm guessing they hadn't arrived yet.

And there were mallards, and northern shovelers, which I mistook for mallards...

... and northern pintails, which I mistook for ruddy ducks because I thought I'd spotted blue on their bills and because someone had pointed them out to me at Eastern Neck NWR.

A really amazing visit!

The various habitats of Blackwater promote a diversity of wildlife that change in numbers and species with each season.

  • March sees most of the migratory waterfowl depart for their northern summer homes, while masses of red-winged black birds will pass through (some remain). Osprey return from their wintering grounds and begin to build their nests. Eagle eggs begin to hatch.
  • Osprey, wild turkey and northern bobwhite all begin to nest. Waterfowl incubate eggs and the majority of migrant marsh birds return by mid-April and blue-winged and green-winged teal pass through; peak shorebird migration occurs in late April - early May.
  • Eagles start to fledge in May and the first broods of waterfowl appear.

  • Ospreys begin to hatch in June; songbirds begin to nest; young waterfowl begin to fly in June. Large concentrations of flies and mosquitoes appear throughout the refuge, food for swallows, kingbirds and flycatchers.
  • Ospreys fledge in July.
  • Wading bird numbers increase in August as the blue-winged teal (the last to leave, the first to arrive) from the north in their southward migration for the winter.

  • Ospreys leave in September to migrate to South and Central America, but the waterfowl numbers steadily increase. Egrets and herons also increase until the first cold weather pushes them south. Songbird migration peaks in September and early October.
  • Autumn color peaks in October. Blackbirds, the last of the songbirds to migrate, peak in October.
  • Tundra swan arrive in late November.
  • Bald eagle numbers increase with the arrival of northern migrants; golden eagles are also often seen.

Year round, you may see owls, towhees, woodpeckers, nuthatches, woodcock and wild turkey in the refuge's woodlands (there are several nice hikes that allow you to explore this part of the refuge). In warmer months in the wooded areas, there is likely to be warblers, vireos, orioles, flycatchers as well. And if you see a large-ish common grey squirrel, then you've actually see the formerly endangered fox squirrel.

Know before you go: 
  • The Wildlife Drive is a good option for those who are mobility impaired, as it offers the opportunity to see birds from or near your vehicle. Many of the wildlife viewing areas are wheelchair accessible.
  • If you plan on hiking any of the trails, waterproof boots are recommended.
  • Check the website below for planned closures for hunting.
Getting there: 2145 Key Wallace Dr, Cambridge, MD

Hours: Wildlife Drive is open during daylight hours; the visitor center is open Tuesday - Sunday, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. except for Federal holidays (including Thanksgiving and Christmas)

Website: https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Blackwater/visit/directions.html

Check out previous visits to Blackwater NWR or other national wildlife refuges on the Eastern Shore: 

Blackwater NWR is right next to the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center!

Cambridge is nearby -- check out what there is to see and do there:

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Saturday, November 27, 2021

Discovering a Unique American Perspective at the Rockwell Museum

The buffalo bursting out of the museum is named
Artemus (for "art is a must"), and is the museum's mascot

The Rockwell Museum is a Smithsonian Affiliate museum of American art located in the Finger Lakes region in downtown Corning, NY. The Rockwell Museum explores the people, land and ideas that shape America through the eyes of American artists such as N.C. Wyeth, Charles M Russel, Andy Warhol and Bertha Lum.

If the woman in the wagon was scared to death at the sight of the prairie, I surely had cause
to be afraid; but I was not. I was uplifted, 1921, N.C. Wyeth, oil on canvas.

The museum founder, Robert F. Rockwell, Jr., moved to Corning in 1933 to run his grandfather's department store; he purchased his first Western painting in 1959. 

The Buffalo Hunt, 1947, William Robinson Leigh, oil on canvas.

Over the next 25 years he collected paintings, bronze sculptures, etchings and drawings, and Native American ethnographic materials. These form the core of the Rockwell Museum's collection.

Dinah, 2017, Lauren Tilden, oil on panel.

Rockwell always intended to share his collection with the public -- for years he displayed the growing collection in the Rockwell Department Store on Market Street (Corning's main thoroughfare). 

Demons, Xochopilli 'The Flower Prince,' page 91 from Indigenous Woman
Magazine, 2018, Martine Gutierrez, c-print mounted on sintra, handpainted artist frame. 

But in 1973, a few Corning Glass Works' executives pledged the company's support to provide a proper museum home for Rockwell's collection, and settled on the old City Hall building as a museum to showcase the collection.

In November 1975, the museum opened. The diverse collection includes a mix of nineteenth-century American paintings, historic bronzes, Native American objects,  20th century modernists, illustration art and contemporary photography.

A Mix Up, 1910, Charles M Russell, oil on canvas.

The collection includes a number of Charles M Russell paintings. Known as "the cowboy artist," his more than two thousand paintings focused on the American "Old West" and in Alberta, Canada, and included paintings and sculptures of cowboys, Native Americans and landscapes.

Sun River War Party, 1903, Charles M Russell, oil on canvas.

The West, 1913, Charles M Russell, oil on canvas.

As you park in the parking lot behind the museum, you'll notice some murals. In 2010, the "Alley Art Project" was launched with the mural painting, "The Tree of Life." The Rockwell Education Department partners with the Corning-Painted Post School District High School Learning Center to create student-designed and painted murals that use The Rockwell's art collection as inspiration.

The High School Learning Center provides an alternative setting for students who may otherwise be at risk of dropping out of school.

The collection is housed in airy, spacious galleries spanning the three floors of the old City Hall, allowing you to absorb the art collectively but also hone in and appreciate individual works selectively.

Maine Landscape, late 20th century, Barbara Cleary, oil on canvas.

I've always been a fan of smaller art museums, which not only provides access to important works in a geographically diverse regions, such as upstate New York, but allows visitors to appreciate a museum's collection without being overwhelmed. 

Marilyn, 2014, Roger Shimomura, lithograph on paper.

Getting there: 111 Cedar St, Corning, NY

Hours: open every day 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the fall, winter and spring. Memorial Day through Labor Day, hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. The Museum is closed January 1, Thanksgiving Day, December 24 and 25.

Website: https://rockwellmuseum.org/

Annie Oakley, 1986, Andy Warhol, silkscreen on paper.

Looking for other fun things to do in the area? Check out the articles below!

  • Watkins Glen Waterfalls Hike -- COMING SOON!
  • Corning Glass Museum -- COMING SOON!
Pines in the Sea, 1913, Bertha Boynton Lum, color woodcut on paper. 

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The Gift Dance Drummers, 1916, Joseph Henry Sharp, oil on canvas. This painting depicts
Frank Martinez (Bawling Deer), Jerry Mirabal (Elk Foot), Francisco Gomez (white Weasel), and John Gomez (Bird).

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Dog Bloopers from the Waterfowl Festival

In the spirit of Thanksgiving...

After spending an entire weekend exploring the Waterfowl Festival, I went home to write up the article and figure out which photos to include with the article. 

As I comb through photos, trying to decide which to pick, I look for quality of the photo itself, as well as whether it tells the story I'm looking for -- folks having fun, children (but with their faces obscured), and so forth. Sometimes telling the story is more important than the quality of photo, sometimes I just want a good photo, and sometimes I'm incredibly lucky and I have both: a good quality photo that tells  the story.

I got a mix of both for last Tuesday's article about the Waterfowl Festival, but I got something more as I snapped photo after photo with my phone camera of the Dog Diving Competition and the Retriever Demos, both popular events year after year at the festival. 

I got bloopers of the dogs -- hysterical and fun photos as the dogs were about to hit the water or were shaking the water out of their coats or were thwarting their owners and absolutely, categorically refusing to jump in. 

No dogs were hurt. They all rebounded and were eager to go in again!

So in gratitude to all who read MidAtlanticDayTrips, I present the blooper photos. Enjoy! (And next November, go check out the Waterfowl Festival and take some bloopers of your own!)

May you have a lovely Thanksgiving and a wonderful holiday season!

Website: https://waterfowlfestival.org/

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Tuesday, November 23, 2021

The Waterfowl Festival Continues 50-Year Tradition of Celebrating Maryland's Eastern Shore Heritage

The quintessential festival of Maryland's Eastern Shore, the Waterfowl Festival just celebrated its 50th year November 12 - 14 in Easton, a town that still retains its old-timey charm and is known for its vibrant culinary and arts communities, as well as its historic downtown.

The town's charm translates to the festival itself -- the Waterfowl Festival celebrates the Chesapeake Bay culture, world-class art featuring the waterfowl and wildlife of the Eastern Shore, the region's sporting and hunting heritage, unique historic collections of waterfowl decoys and artifacts, exhibits on conservation activities and of course, regional cuisine.


The festival first started in 1971, organized by a group of sporting enthusiasts who wished to highlight the unique culture of Maryland's Eastern Shore. These women and men loved everything the Eastern Shore had, and still has, to offer. They timed this first festival to coincide with the opening of goose hunting season.

Now the festival includes art displays, a variety of vendors, the North American Diving Dog Splash, raptor demos, the World Waterfowl Calling Championship, dog retrieving demos, historic displays of decoys, crafts and more for kids, Eastern Shore cuisine (and local craft beers and wines) music and more!

You don't have to love hunting to enjoy this marvelous Maryland festival -- although if you do enjoy hunting, there's a lot there for you!

The Dogs

You can enjoy demonstrations, hosted by the Talbot Retriever Club, of skilled dog handlers and their pups fetching bumpers (fake dead ducks) from long and short distances.

The crowd filled the bleachers as well as lined up along the pond's edge. We first enjoyed a demo of fly fishing (I now know understand the difference between pole fishing and fly fishing) and then the dogs came out!

Diving Dogs

The Diving Dog Splash runs during the entirety of the Waterfowl Festival. 

Diving dogs is a canine sport in which dogs are enticed to run the length of a dock and leap as far out into the water as possible to compete for height or distance. 

Their owners/handlers motivate them by throwing a prized toy, into the pool, to help them keep their momentum and get the best launch angle possible.

And it is fun!! I could have stayed there ALL DAY watching -- but I had the rest of the festival to go see and enjoy!

So I went back the next day. And got to see Finley soar 19 feet off the dock. I don't know if Finley won, but he definitely had the best form as he jumped into the water! 


The festival attracts the nation's best wildlife painters, sculptors, carvers and photographers, exhibited in a variety of pavilions and galleries in downtown Easton.

While I particularly enjoyed the photography displayed in the Episcopal Church's parish hall, some of the sculpture displayed in the pavilions was inspiring.

Waterfowl Calling Championships

Competitors can speak duck and goose like no one else can! They are immersed in the language of the incredible waterfowl of the region -- and can tell a mating call from a summoning call. They master the variety of complex bird calls, and then compete against each other the for coveted title of World Champion. Callers from all around the world come to Easton once a year to showcase their skills. This was pretty interesting -- and even if you're not into hunting, the skill of these callers is impressive. 

We watched the final rounds of the Junior Duck Caller Championship and the Junior Goose Calling Championship. I could have sworn an entire flock of geese had flown into the building!

Historic Artifacts and Displays

The Harry M Walsh Waterfowl Artifacts display is a mini-museum which explores and traces the history of waterfowling.

You can learn about different decoys, some of the more famous decoy artists, and more about this American folk art. 

Not Just for Adults

The festival is for kids of all ages, including kids who are still kids. There are activities such as the Kid's Fishing Derby (the pond is restocked with 250 trout just before the beginning of the festival), 

duck drawing and decoy painting.

Where to Shop

The festival offered several venues where you could find everything from oyster Christmas tree ornaments to miniature duck decoys.

There was everything from sporting gear to camouflage boats to dog gear at the Sportsman's Pavilion. 

There's also the Chesapeake Market place, where there were hand-crafted jewelry, baskets, Christmas Ornaments and sculpture. This was definitely the right place to get some early Christmas shopping completed!

Easton offers boutique and antique stores galore, but throughout the historic downtown, there's a variety of shopping options. Fashionable apparel, fine jewelry, sportswear, collectibles and antiques, eclectic galleries, and so much more to be discovered.

Where to Stay

There are a variety of places to stay in and around Easton (and St Michaels is just down the road), but for convenience, the Tidewater Inn can't be beat -- it's in the heart of Easton, and thus, is in the center of the festival activities. 

An historic inn, the Tidewater offers the trifecta of convenience, comfort and elegance, and to get to the festival, all you have to do is stroll out the front door.

Where to Eat 

Easton offers a variety of excellent restaurants such as Banning's Tavern, Doc's Downtown Grill and Hunter's Tavern. Pro tip: for breakfast, be sure to check out Breakfast in Easton! 

Fresh baked blueberry muffins at Breakfast in Easton.

But the festival also offers a variety of food vendors offering you Eastern Shore favorites, such as local craft brews and wines and eastern shore specialties such as crab cake sandwiches, oysters just about any way you want them, clam chowder and more.

Each concessionaire is teamed with a local nonprofit organization, another way the Waterfowl Festival supports the local community.

Know before you go: You can find parking at a variety of places near the festival (unless you stay at the Tidewater Inn, in which case they'll valet park your vehicle), but my recommendation is to park at, or near, Easton High School (723 Mechlenburg Ave, Easton). 

The festival runs two bus routes to ferry folks between the various venue locations: the ponds, Easton High School, Easton Middle School, and downtown Easton, with the downtown area serving as the focal point of the two bus routes.

Other places to park include:

  • Kohl’s Easton, Parking Lot: 207 Marlboro Ave, Easton
  • Amish Market Parking Lot: 101 Marlboro Ave, Easton
  • Easton Elk’s Lodge (minimal spots, some handicapped): 502 Dutchman’s Lane, Easton 
  • Easton Middle School (Handicapped only): 201 Peachblossom Ave., Easton

Did you miss this year's festival?  The festival takes place every year on the second weekend of November. Save the date for next year: November 11 - 13 2022.

Website: https://waterfowlfestival.org/

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