“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year…” to see Bald Eagles and Wild Ponies

Wildlife-Friendly DMV connects wildlife enthusiasts in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia to local wildlife and the National Wildlife Federation. I will share with you the wildlife and nature where I “roam,” and bring to life the stories of people around our region who speak up for wildlife.

Without warning, it’s the holiday time and I begin humming the 1963 classic, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Written by Eddie Pola and George Wyle, and performed by Andy Williams, this Christmas song perfectly sums up the holiday cheer that I experience each year: friends and family, and lots of food, caroling and parties.

Roosevelt Island Park in Washington, DC. Photo courtesy of WorldIslandInfo
For me, it really is the “hap-happiest”season of all.

And this year, my wish list for Santa Claus has drastically changed. I don’t want electronics, clothes or gift cards; instead, I want to see a bald eagle and wild ponies. And the best part about this wish list? It can come true!

5 places to see Bald Eagles and Wild Ponies this holiday season:

Roosevelt Island, Washington, DC
I know that our nation’s capital is not known for its wildlife –unless politicians count—but you would be surprised how many creatures call Theodore Roosevelt Island home. Named after our most conservation-minded president, this Potomac River island is open to visitors who can stroll through the marsh and woodlands and see deer, ducks and a variety of birds including bald eagles and great blue herons.

Located within the borders of D.C. but only accessible by land in Virginia, Roosevelt Island also offers hiking and biking trails for outdoor fun.

Wild ponies at Assateague Island National Seashore. Photo courtesy of Dean Wissing.
Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland
If your daughter, nephew or well, even you, have always wanted a horse or pony, the wild ponies of Assateague Island National Seashore is just the place to experience them this holiday season. These ponies roam free all over the island and are likely descended from horses shipwrecked hundreds of years ago.

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Maryland
If your Santa wish list is like mine and a bald eagle sighting is #1, then the Blackwater National Wildlife Refugeis the best spot in the region. It’s the go-to place in Maryland to see an abundance of bald eagles not only in winter, but throughout the whole year.

The refuge hosts a healthy breeding population of bald eagles and high concentrations of wintering eagles drawn by migratory waterfowl each winter.

An American Bald Eagle perched on a tree in Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. Photo courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service.
The James River, Virginia
Big cities and wildlife may not appear to go hand-in-hand, but surprisingly, the best place in Virginia to experience wildlife is along the banks of the James River in the City of Richmond.  

With 550 wilderness acres in 14 parcels known as the James River Park System, the James River offers visitors lots of animal varieties—see nesting bald eagles, a great blue heron rookery, cormorants, ospreys, hawks and maybe even a peregrine falcon.  Explorers of the James River could also encounter deer, beavers, river otters, foxes and coyotes.   

Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia
If you like birds, birds and more birds, then the Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge in Lorton, Virginia is the place for you. The Refuge was created to protect bald eagle nesting, feeding and roosting habitats along the Potomac River. There’s also more than 1,200 nests for great blue herons, along with an endless variety of ducks—quack quack!

Enjoy the holiday season and don’t forget to take advantage of the wonderful wildlife in your backyard!

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