Birding the Harriet Tubman Byway
Saturday, March 25, 2023
1:00pm - 5:00pm Eastern Maryland
Sites in Dorchester County, MD
Audubon is excited about this new partnership with Harriet Tubman Tours and Delmarva Birding Weekends as we go birding along the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway in Dorchester County, MD. During our guided, self-driven tour, we’ll learn about the life and times of the famed freedom seeker and human rights activist known as “The Moses of Her People,” Harriet Tubman. The route courses through the farms and Chesapeake Bay marshes of Dorchester County, home to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and some of the best birding and Bald Eagle watching on America’s Eastern Seaboard.
Harriet Tubman was born around 1822 in Dorchester County, Maryland. She was brought into the world as Araminta “Minty” Ross, the middle of nine children born to Harriet “Rit” Green and Ben Ross, who were both enslaved. Her childhood was spent toiling on the plantation of Edward Brodess, who often hired his enslaved people out to neighboring farmers.
In 1849, Harriet Tubman escaped Maryland’s Eastern Shore to Philadelphia, but she returned at least 13 times to rescue around 70 people, including her parents, family members, and friends. In the face of incredible danger, she guided them safely to freedom as a conductor of the Underground Railroad — a secret network of people, places and routes that provided shelter and assistance to escaping slaves. By 1860, Harriet Tubman had earned the nickname “Moses” for liberating so many enslaved people at great risk to her own life.
During her formative years on the Brodess Farm and as a conductor of the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman would have been intimately familiar with the birds and wildlife of Dorchester County. She used the call of a Barred Owl to alert freedom seekers that it was safe to come out of hiding and continue northward.
The same birds that Harriet Tubman would have known more than 170 years ago still inhabit the fields, forests and marshes of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. Bald Eagles can be observed year-round, and active nests are visible during the winter and spring. During autumn and winter months, you can discover ducks, geese, swans and raptors. Spring and summer bring ospreys, egrets, shorebirds, and warblers. American White Pelicans can be observed here in the winter and spring. More than 260 species have been documented along Blackwater’s ~4-mile Wildlife Drive.
These are just a few of the stops we will make along the ~20 mile, four hour driving and walking tour (carpooling encouraged):
- Brodess Farm site, Harriet Tubman’s childhood home
- Bucktown Village Store, site of Harriet Tubman’s first act of defiance
- Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge Wildlife Drive
- Long Wharf, Portal to Slavery – Gateway to Freedom
- Dorchester County Court House, featuring the “Beacon of Hope” statue
- “Take My Hand” mural, painted by artist Michael Rosato
Please note the following:
- Stops on the tour are guided by our leaders and include walking short distances over varied terrain.
- Participants need their own vehicles to move between points on the tour.
- We have a permit that covers your vehicle daily entry fee for Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge’s Wildlife Drive.
- Please make sure you have enough fuel in your vehicle for the trip, as we will not stop at gas stations along the route.
- We recommend you use the restroom before you arrive. We will have access to portable toilets during the tour along the Blackwater Wildlife Drive.
Extend Your Stay:
If you would like to spend more time exploring the area on your own, we recommend a visit to the Harriet Tubman Museum and Educational Center in Cambridge and the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center near Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.
We also encourage you to explore Downtown Cambridge before and after your tour. You will find bakeries, restaurants, breweries, and shops all within easy walking distance of the Harriet Tubman Museum in Cambridge.
Some common sense approaches to make your cool weather birding trips more enjoyable:
- Wear appropriate clothing and shoes to stay warm in March weather near the Chesapeake Bay!
- Carry sunscreen, sunglasses, and/or a hat to protect yourself from the sun. You can still get sunburn in early spring.
- Bring rain gear as all events are rain or shine.
- Try to arrive a little before the scheduled trip departs.
- Most trips are not appropriate for young children. Please use your discretion when registering.
- Be courteous to your fellow birders. Speak quietly and turn off cell phones during trips.