On Saturday, February 23, 2019, HerChesapeake took a birding trip to the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and a field trip to the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center. It was a great experience exploring the unique environment critical for the survival of several species of wildlife, as well as learning about the area that was a backdrop for the perseverance of a woman who escaped slavery and helped others do the same.
The Blackwater Wildlife Refuge is a great site for birdwatching. Our guide, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Volunteer Coordinator Michele Whitbeck, gave us a tour of the refuge to learn more about the species of birds that frequent the marshes. The refuge has both fresh and brackish impoundments and marshes to provide habitat to a range of wildlife.
While at the refuge, we were able to see 13 species of birds, including merlins, gadwalls, hooded mergansers, mallards, northern pintails, and shovelers, as well as multiple bald eagles and their nests. The Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge has been an established sanctuary for birds on their migration route since 1933. As a “wildlife refuge,” Blackwater has been protected solely to help wildlife, rather than for recreation (however, visitors are welcome to the refuge).
We finished up our day with a tour of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center. Our exploration of the history of Harriet Tubman began with a Park Service guide’s overview of the bust of Harriet Tubman at the entrance of the center, and the building of the center itself. Our tour guide pointed out that the exhibits begin at the southern end of the center, leading visitors northwards to symbolize the direction Tubman led slaves to freedom. Harriet Tubman led 13 expeditions to rescue 70 people from slavery. She was also a suffragist who fought for women’s rights.
While our group explored the center itself, the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center is also a great starting point to explore the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, a self-guided tour of 36 sites that further explores the Underground Railroad.
Thanks to all those who came out for our HerChesapeake field trip!