Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Patuxent Research Refuge and National Wildlife Visitor Center 2018

We visited the National Wildlife Visitor Center in the Patuxent Research Refuge last month. The weather was a shade too hot (unless we were actually in the shade) but we enjoyed going for a hike and seeing the exhibits at the center.

National Wildlife Visitor Center

Inside the desk worker told us about the adventure packs we could borrow. Each backpack includes a scavenger hunt, a bug trap (they told us to release any bugs we trapped), a magnifying glass, a bird directory, and lots of other fun items for the kids. Our prescholar enjoyed using the binoculars but called them "miraculors."

Miracle of not-so-modern technology--making far away things look closer

We debated about which trail to take, finally opting for the 1.4 mile Cash Lake Trail. Our youngest took on the scavenger hunt, immediately looking for spider webs and insects and other items along the way.

Checking the fence for spider webs

"Did you find any?"

The trail includes an oxymoronic "viewing blind" where we could observe wildlife without them observing us. We didn't see much on a late morning with the heat was getting hotter. All the sensible animals were relaxing in the shade somewhere while we looked around for them.

Inside the blind

View of the blind over Cash Lake--wait, I can't see the lake!

The trail leads across the Cash Lake. From the bridge we saw some tadpoles swimming around in the shallow waters.

A massive amount of tadpoles

Tadpole close up

We saw some nice lily pads with yellow flowers but the camera wasn't able to get the bright yellow in the bright sunshine.

Blossoming lily pads

One item on the scavenger hunt we found again and again was the "reptile or amphibian" because the woods were hopping with adult frogs. Some of them were very well camouflaged and we only saw them when we were about to step on them! Moving definitely blew their invisibility.

A frog

Further along the trail we were able to see the waters of Cash Lake.

The lake

A bird house on the lake

We circled around the end of the lake and came upon a fishing pier. Our kids were not interested in fishing which was just fine with us since we have no gear and no license to fish. Also, we parents don't have any skills either.

Fishing pier

The trail also has an outdoor educational center that needs a bit of TLC, or at least a good weeding.

Unused bleachers in the middle of the woods?

By this point we were very hot and headed back to the nature center. After some long drinks at the water fountain, we visited the exhibits. The favorite was the "Be a Whooper!" interactive exhibit. An Xbox Kinect camera would spot visitors and then create Whooping Cranes on the screen that imitated the movements of the visitors. We had a lot of fun there.

Whooping it up!

My daughter tried to take a nap and my youngest son decided to photo bomb her. She took her revenge by photo bombing his nap.

I want to rest too!

Blurry bombing

My daughter finally found a peaceful spot in a simulated bear den. It's actually a well-decorated cardboard stand. I'd like to get one for home if we could find someplace that sells them. I didn't think to check the bookstore, but if you staffers are reading, be sure to stock this popular item!

Hibernating is the real way to nap

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