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Patuxent Research Refuge

Today I visited the Patuxent Research Refuge (http://www.fws.gov/northeast/patuxent/index.htm) is the only unit of the 540-unit National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) System that is dedicated to research. This nearly 13,000 acre site is located just south of Fort Meade, MD. The Refuge is divided into three tracts – North, Center, and South. The National Wildlife Visitor Center located in the South Tract is the largest such facility in the NWR system, with a large and impressive series of exhibits. Miles of hiking trails surround the Center, and more are found in the North Tract.

The Center Tract is home to numerous research facilities, including a unique activity to save the endangered Whooping Crane. These birds populations are so small and sensitive that people aren’t allowed near the Whooping Crane area except in special situations. The number of birds appears to be slowly increasing from extremely small levels.

Although there weren’t large numbers of birds present today, there were still a number of different species to watch. Flocks of the nearly ubiquitous, and noisy, Canada Goose were of course immediately obvious.

Canada Geese

Canada Geese

A male Ruddy Duck in winter plumage floats alone on Cash Lake.

Male Ruddy Duck

Male Ruddy Duck

Although not found in Maryland very much, the Double Crested Cormorant is quite familiar to those in the western states.

Double Crested Cormorant

Double Crested Cormorant

I still haven’t identified this little fellow perched just outside the viewing gallery in the Visitor Center.

Unidentified Gray and White

Unidentified Gray and White

Several different duck species mingle together on Cash Lake.

Ring Necked Ducks mix with other species

Ring Necked Ducks mix with other species

This surprisingly nice refuge located less than a half-hour drive from downtown DC is well worth a visit!

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Mark Bobb

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