Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge hosts 16th Annual Eagle Festival on Saturday

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is hosting its 16th Annual Eagle Festival on Saturday, March 12th, 2016 from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.  The public is invited to participate in the many great activities planned for the day.  All programs and activities will take place at the Blackwater Visitor Center as well as in large heated tents adjacent to the building.  Unless otherwise noted, entrance to the Festival, the Wildlife Drive, and all activities are free thanks to the support of the Friends of Blackwater and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Eagle Festival celebrates birds of prey with educational programs that allow the visitor an up-close view of this unique class of birds.  Scheduled presentations will include: a birds of prey program with staff from the Salisbury Zoo; a raptor identification program with naturalist and raptor educator Liz Smith; a “Raptor’s Rule” program with Mike Callahan of Nanjemoy Creek Environmental Education Center; and two chances to see a live bald eagle program with Maryland DNR ‘Scales and Tales’ naturalists.

Blackwater’s experienced volunteers and staff will be leading several guided tours throughout the day.  “Early birds” to the Eagle Festival can meet at the refuge’s Environmental Education Building on Wildlife Drive for a guided birding tour with Terry Allen at 8:00 am.  During the event, visitors can choose to look for eagles on one of our eagle prowl van tours, or take a motor coach bus ride around the Wildlife Drive to view wildlife (including eagles) and learn about refuge habitats.  Free registration for all eagle prowl van tours and bus tours will begin at 9:30 am the day of the festival (there is no pre-registration).  Tour spaces fill up quickly, so visitors are encouraged to plan accordingly.  A map of eagle “hot spots” will also be available for folks who wish to explore the area on their own.

There will be no shortage of fun for children at the Eagle Festival.  A youth archery range will be open from 9:00 am until 4:00 pm, where kids can learn how to safely shoot a bow with our knowledgeable instructors.  Kids’ “make-and-take” activities will also run throughout the day while supplies last.  Activities include: build-your-own wren or bluebird nesting box, owl pellet exploration, make your own wildlife button, face painting, and thumbprint wildlife bookmarks.

Exhibitors include the Nanjemoy Creek Environmental Education Center, Salisbury Zoo, and Raptor’s Eye, each with live birds of prey that you can see up close.  Daniel Firehawk Abbott will once again be on hand throughout the day to demonstrate the techniques and lifestyles of Native Americans.  Festival visitors will also have an opportunity to meet some of the aquatic residents of the Chesapeake Bay in the Phillips Wharf “Fishmobile”, as well as check out the unique tools and equipment used by Blackwater’s wildland firefighters.  Other exhibitors include Maryland Department of the Environment, Pickering Creek Audubon Center, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Friends of Blackwater.  The USDA Nutria Project will also be on hand, and will conduct Nutria Detector Dog demonstrations at 10:30 am and 1:00 pm.

As always, the Friends of Blackwater’s “Eagle’s Nest” Bookstore will be open for business, stocking one of the best collections of nature-related books and gifts on Delmarva, as well as Blackwater-specific items.  Food and drinks will also be available for purchase throughout the day, benefitting the Chicone Ruritan Club and Boy Scouts of America.  Don’t miss out on this free event for the whole family!  For more information, please call 410-228-2677 or visit www.fws.gov/refuge/Blackwater.

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