Bay Ecosystem: A Walk In The Woods With A Different Kind Of Forester by Tom Horton

It was a chill November morning, the rising sun sloshing light on the tree tops. Larry Walton and I were about half a mile into the woods that line the Nanticoke River near Vienna, MD, when he wrapped his arms around a great old Atlantic white cedar.

That tree species once shaded thousands of acres of Delmarva Peninsula swamps with its dense, evergreen canopies, until rampant logging and wetlands destruction made cedars relatively rare. Today, you seldom see specimens like this.

Larry Walton

I was about to kid my friend Larry, a career commercial forester, that he’d become a tree hugger as he approaches retirement at age 65. But he was just measuring the massive, columnar trunk to see how much wood the cedar’s added since he was here some years ago. “(I) used to be able to reach around it; not now,” Larry said.

But I also know he was happy to see that cedar thriving, standing tall, promising to thrill hikers here long after he and I are gone.

With Larry, it’s never been “hug or log” or “for us or against us.” Maybe that’s why his recent farewell party was a unique assemblage of the region’s logging community and a number of environmentalists. Only for Larry, I thought.

He could have cut that big cedar and others like it anytime during the years he managed around 60,000 acres of woodlands and wetlands around the Bay’s tidal rivers for Chesapeake Forest Products, a Virginia-based commercial timber corporation.

The company surely was not shy about clear-cutting or the almost complete leveling of the forests it owned hereabouts. That’s simply the most effective way to harvest the predominantly pine stands that are the mainstay of commercial timbering in this region.

Clear-cuts, to most non-timber people, are visually shocking, ugly. Far less apparent was what Larry and Chesapeake were electing not to cut, which included some beautiful forests and magnificent trees, including woods buffering tidal creeks and rivers like the Nanticoke and Pocomoke.

Where we were hiking could easily have been a giant sand and gravel pit, he said. Instead, it’s a fine tract of pine and hardwood, with patches of forested swamp, sloping down to the Nanticoke. It’s understory of wild rhododendron will bloom gorgeously in May and June. It features a nature trail now, open year-round to the public.

“A mining company approached us about selling this and forests up on the Marshyhope,” he said, referring to a tributary of the Nanticoke, where sturgeon are making a historic comeback. “We just didn’t like that kind of future for the land.”

Back in the early 1990s, stung by environmental criticism of his company, Larry and one of his woodland managers, the late Tom Tyler, began opening up to environmentalists, taking us through their operations. It gave us a lot to think about, and it began to build trust. More than anyone I knew on the logging side of things, Larry understood us greenies and respected where we were coming from, even if it wasn’t his view.

“A lighter shade of green,” is how he describes himself. Even as a New Jersey kid growing up in the shadow of New York and Newark, he loved wandering the phragmites-lined local brook, which wound through landfills and developments on its way to the Passaic River. Summers with family in the Maine woods probably steered him to Clemson University’s forestry school, he said.

Around 2000, as his timbering career flourished, something happened that would delight environmentalists but threaten to end life as Larry knew it. In a massive land deal, assembled in secrecy until it was done, all of the forests he managed for Chesapeake Forest Products were sold out from under him, to be added to Maryland’s public timberlands as the Chesapeake Forest.

“I was about as welcome as a pig at a Bar Mitzvah,” recalled Neil Sampson, a nationally known conservationist and forestry consultant who came to the Eastern Shore to handle the transition with Larry and his staff.

The giant Chesapeake acquisition, which added 58,000 acres, or 1 percent of the state’s area, to public lands, was intended by state officials to set the standard for sustainable, verifiable, long-term forest management.

Larry and his crew “made it happen,” Sampson said. Eventually he and Larry would form a new company, Vision Forestry, and take over management of the whole forest for several years.

Today, 17 years later, “it is a heck of a lot better forest . . . huge improvements,” Sampson said.
Larry plans to soon head back to the Clemson, SC, area for retirement. “[There are] opportunities in disagreement,” he said during our walk. “But it seems like it’s getting harder to disagree respectfully anymore.”

Years ago, Larry gave me a bumper sticker. “Trees Are the Answer,” it said. I told him I was always leery of simplistic solutions. But you know what? He was right.

Bottom line, there is no other land use better for the Chesapeake Bay and its flora and fauna. The worst clear-cut, if left to regrow, is still better for air and water quality than farming or suburban development, and it leaves your options open for an older, more diverse forest next time.

Tom Horton has written about Chesapeake Bay for more than 40 years, including eight books. He lives in Salisbury, MD, where he is also a professor of Environmental Studies at Salisbury University. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the Bay Journal.

Bay Ecosystem:Tangier Island Recovers from Icy Grip

As temperatures on the Chesapeake Bay dropped as low as 9 degrees early this month, a barricade of ice up to 10 inches thick formed around Tangier Island, preventing boats from bringing groceries, medicine and other supplies to the 722 residents on that speck of Virginia off the Eastern Shore.

Fortunately, a variety of agencies came to the rescue — the U.S. Coast Guard out of Maryland, the Virginia National Guard and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources organized emergency ice-breaking operations to free Tangier Island.

Nearly two weeks after the snowstorm, regular activity on the waters around Tangier resumed Wednesday, and the mail delivery ferry went out to Tangier’s residents for the first time Thursday morning.

“We’re happy to help with what is really life-saving work,” said Gregg Bortz, spokesman for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Tangier is located in the Chesapeake Bay and consists of three villages — Ewell, Tylerton and Rhodes Point. The island depends on boats for mail and shipments, and single-digit temperatures and thick ice made that impossible.

Tangier Island falls within the Coast Guard’s 5th District, which includes Maryland and Virginia.

“The Coast Guard has a history of providing assistance to Tangier,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Ronald Hodges. “The organizations that responded to Tangier Island were based on the availability of assets with ice-breaking capabilities.”

Then the Virginia National Guard flew in from Richmond, making two trips to deliver additional food.

Island officials sought assistance from the Coast Guard, which sent the cutter Chock on Jan. 3. The ship conducted ice breaking and supply delivery until Jan. 5, Hodges said.

“The Chock had to be redirected to break ice in another area, and second request was submitted to the Coast Guard by Tangier for assistance,” Hodges said. “The Coast Guard was unable to facilitate the request, and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management took over relief duties.”

According to Bortz, a 100-foot Maryland icebreaker, the J. Millard-Tawes, was brought in from Crisfield, Maryland, 13 1/2 miles from Tangier.

Clearing a path, he said, was “the primary goal.”

The Maryland DNR was called to the island last in 2015. Bortz said the U.S. Coast Guard primarily responds to Tangier while Maryland DNR focuses on helping nearby Smith Island, Maryland.

Capt. Eddie Somers of the J. Millard-Tawes was part of the rescue team that met trucks of supplies at the city docks in Crisfield and took the two-hour journey to Tangier.

Besides the Tawes, the Maryland DNR has three ice-breaking vessels — the John C. Widener in Annapolis, A.V. Sandusky in Kent Narrows and Big Lou on the Choptank River.

Tangier Mayor James Eskridge said the island hasn’t experienced ice like this in many years. The community, he added, always pulls together.

“Some 40 years ago, folks would have bonfires and go ice skating,” he said. “This was the closest to an ice storm we’ve had since then.”

By Sophia Belletti and Katie Bashista.

Photos from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources 

Bay Ecosystem: Ocean Deoxygenation Changes Pose Real Threat to Marine Ecosystems by Amy Pelsinsky

An international team of scientists warns that the ocean may run out of breath unless action is taken to rein in climate change and nutrient pollution. In the first sweeping look at the causes, consequences and solutions to low oxygen worldwide, published in Science, researchers reveal that the amount of oxygen in the world’s oceans and coastal waters is steadily decreasing.

The oxygen content of the open ocean and coastal waters has been declining for at least the past half century as a result of human activities that have increased global temperatures and nutrients discharged to coastal waters.

“Oxygen is fundamental to life in the oceans,” said Denise Breitburg, lead author and marine ecologist with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. “The decline in ocean oxygen ranks among the most serious effects of human activities on the Earth’s environment.”

In the past 50 years, the amount of water in the open ocean with zero oxygen has gone up more than fourfold. In coastal water bodies, including estuaries and seas, low-oxygen sites have increased more than 10-fold since 1950. For the upper ocean, oxygen and heat content are highly correlated for the period of 1958-2015 with sharp increases in both deoxygenation and ocean heat content beginning in the mid 1980s.

Many areas around the globe are looking at how we used sound science to make wise environmental management decisions to improve the water quality of Chesapeake Bay.

The study came from a team of scientists from GO2NE (Global Ocean Oxygen Network), a new working group created in 2016 by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission that includes Mike Roman and Kenny Rose from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Horn Point Laboratory.

The review paper is the first to take such a sweeping look at the causes, consequences and solutions to low oxygen worldwide, in both the open ocean and coastal waters. The article highlights the biggest dangers to the ocean and society, and what it will take to keep Earth’s waters healthy and productive.

The Stakes

In areas traditionally called “dead zones,” like those in Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, oxygen plummets to levels so low many animals suffocate and die. As fish avoid these zones, their habitats shrink and they become more vulnerable to predators or fishing. But the problem goes far beyond “dead zones,” the authors point out.

Even smaller oxygen declines can stunt growth in animals, hinder reproduction and lead to disease or even death. It also can trigger the release of dangerous chemicals such as nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas up to 300 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, and toxic hydrogen sulfide. While some animals can thrive in dead zones, overall biodiversity falls.

The ongoing recovery of Chesapeake Bay, where nitrogen pollution has dropped 24 percent since its peak thanks to better sewage treatment, better farming practices and successful laws like the Clean Air Act, is an example of what’s possible to reverse this trend. While some low-oxygen zones persist, the area of the Chesapeake with zero oxygen has almost disappeared.

“Many areas around the globe are looking at how we used sound science to make wise environmental management decisions to improve the water quality of Chesapeake Bay,” said Roman, co-author of the report and director of the UMCES’ Horn Point Laboratory in Cambridge, Maryland.

Climate change is the key culprit in the open ocean. Warming surface waters make it harder for oxygen to reach the ocean interior. Furthermore, as the ocean as a whole gets warmer, it holds less oxygen. In coastal waters, excess nutrient pollution from land creates algal blooms, which drain oxygen as they die and decompose. In an unfortunate twist, animals also need more oxygen in warmer waters, even as it is disappearing.

People’s livelihoods are also on the line, the scientists reported, especially in developing nations. Smaller, artisanal fisheries may be unable to relocate when low oxygen destroys their harvests or forces fish to move elsewhere. In the Philippines, fish kills in a single town’s aquaculture pens cost more than $10 million. Coral reefs, a key tourism attraction in many countries, also can waste away without enough oxygen.

Some popular fisheries could benefit, at least in the short term. Nutrient pollution can stimulate production of food for fish. In addition, when fish are forced to crowd to escape low oxygen, they can become easier to catch. But in the long run, this could result in overfishing and damage to the economy.

“Getting the effects of low oxygen on fish populations and supporting food webs correct, especially as it worsens, will enable more effective analyses and decisions on how to sustainably manage many fisheries, from artisanal that support local communities to large-scale industrial fisheries,” said Rose, a co-author of the report and a professor at Horn Point Laboratory.

Winning the War: A Three-Pronged Approach

To keep low oxygen in check, the scientists said the world needs to take on the issue from three angles:

Address the causes: nutrient pollution and climate change. While neither issue is simple or easy, the steps needed to win can benefit people as well as the environment. Better septic systems and sanitation can protect human health and keep pollution out of the water. Cutting fossil fuel emissions not only cuts greenhouse gases and fights climate change, but also slashes dangerous air pollutants like mercury.

Protect vulnerable marine life. With some low oxygen unavoidable, it is crucial to protect at-risk fisheries from further stress. According to the GO2NE team, this could mean creating marine protected areas or no-catch zones in areas animals use to escape low oxygen, or switching to fish that are not as threatened by falling oxygen levels.

Improve low-oxygen tracking worldwide. Scientists have a decent grasp of how much oxygen the ocean could lose in the future, but they do not know exactly where those low-oxygen zones will be. Enhanced monitoring, especially in developing countries, and numerical models will help pinpoint which places are most at risk and determine the most effective solutions.

The Global Ocean Oxygen Network (GO2NE) is a scientific working group organized by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, part of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Established in 2016, its scientists from around the world are committed to providing a global and multidisciplinary view of deoxygenation, advising policymakers on countering low oxygen and preserving marine resources.

Amy Pelsinsky is Director of Communications at  the University Of Maryland’s Center For Environmental Science. For more information please go here

 

CBF to Honor Washington College with Conservationist of the Year Award

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) announced today that it will honor Washington College for its leadership and commitment to educating the next generation of Chesapeake Bay leaders. CBF President Will Baker will present the Conservationist of the Year Award to Washington College President Kurt Landgraf on Monday, February 26 at the third annual DC on the Half Shell gala in Washington, D.C.

“Now more than ever we need sound leadership to save the Chesapeake Bay and our natural world,” Baker said. “From our earliest days, we at CBF understood we must help students appreciate the wonders of the Bay and to become our future environmental stewards. Washington College has become preeminent in that effort.”

CBF will also award Virginia Wesleyan University with the Conservationist of the Year award at DC on the Half Shell.

“We’re thrilled that Washington College’s environmental programming is being honored in this way by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation,” Landgraf says. “The students who explore our unique assets like our River and Field Campus and programs like the Chesapeake Semester, as well as hands-on learning opportunities through our fantastic faculty, leave here poised to find creative solutions to issues facing not only the Chesapeake Bay, but the global environment as well.”

A longtime leader in innovative environmental instruction, Washington College in recent months has announced several major expansions to its environmental programs. These include the launch of the 4,700-acre River and Field Campus, a new dual-degree program for environmental science or environmental studies majors with Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, groundbreaking for the Semans-Griswold Environmental Hall, and a $500,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to the college’s Center for Environment & Society (CES) to expand a project that motivates landowners to reduce polluted runoff into the Chesapeake.

Located on the Chester River, Washington College uses the Chesapeake Bay region as a learning laboratory. The River and Field Campus (RAFC) is home to the only bird banding station and observatory on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, an innovative native grassland restoration project, and part of the Chester River Watershed Observatory. In the future, it will provide a wild food and foraging lab for the new Eastern Shore Food Lab at Washington College, as well as expanded opportunities for collaborative student and faculty research. The College’s Center for Environment & Society, which focuses on the relationship between human communities and natural systems, oversees RAFC and also manages the school’s two research vessels.

Washington College’s environmental education programs emphasize critical analysis and investigation to find solutions to regional and global environmental problems. Those issues include depleted fisheries, world population concerns, loss of biodiversity, climatic changes, and land use management. The school’s environmental science and environmental studies majors are grounded in an interdisciplinary course of studies which include a focus on the local while also providing opportunities for comparative study in Bermuda, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Maine. The innovative Chesapeake Semester, overseen by CES, immerses a small group of students each fall in studies that examine the challenges facing the Chesapeake through the lenses of the Bay’s economy, culture, history, environment, ecology, and politics.

On a given day, a Washington College student might be banding migratory birds, planting an “edible forest garden” to demonstrate the benefits of perennial polyculture in agriculture, starting sourdough culture in his or her dorm rooms, or studying ocean sciences in Bermuda or the Galapagos Islands.

DC on the Half Shell is a celebration of the Chesapeake Bay, called a National Treasure by President Ronald Reagan. CBF also is celebrating its 50th year of working to Save the Bay.

The event will be held at 6:30 pm at Dock5 at Union Market. It will feature gourmet Bay cuisine, cocktails, live entertainment and oysters galore. Co-chairs of the event are Wendy Culp and Larry Culp, chair of the College’s Board of Visitors and Governors, and Kay and David Kaufman. Major sponsors include Kaiser Permanente and Jane P. Batten.

For ticket information, cbf.org/dconthehalfshell. For sponsorship opportunities, contact Taryn Dwan at tdwan@cbf.org or 443-482-2111.

All proceeds from the event support CBF’s own award-winning environmental education and habitat restoration programs. CBF takes 35,000 students, teachers and principals per year on field experiences of hands-on learning and critical analysis. CBF also engages thousands of volunteers in raising oysters, restoring oyster habitat, restoring underwater grass beds, and restoring forest buffers.

About Washington College

Founded in 1782, Washington College is the tenth oldest college in the nation and the first chartered under the new Republic. It enrolls approximately 1,450 undergraduates from more than 35 states and a dozen nations. With an emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning in the arts and sciences, and more than 40 multidisciplinary areas of study, the College is home to nationally recognized academic centers in the environment, history, and writing. Learn more at washcoll.edu.

Camping under Meteors

The Leonid Meteor Shower lit up the Eastern Shore sky on a cold evening this past month. The annual event happens around November 17th and often requires its viewers to bundle up – and this year was no exception. The near freezing temperatures would not deter the Junior Naturalist of Pickering Creek Audubon Center from an opportunity to spot a meteor.

A periodic warm-up by the fire for some of the Junior Naturalists participating in the Meteor Shower campout.

The Junior Naturalists are local 7th-12th graders who spend the school year learning about and visiting Maryland’s diverse environments and the summer volunteering during Pickering Creek’s popular EcoCamp. The students are as diverse as the habitats they explore – they come with different interests, hobbies, and knowledge of our environment – but all are excited to spend more time outside.

Pickering Creek planned a campout along the waterfront for the Junior Naturalists so they could quickly escape to their warm tents but the teens had another idea. Starting around 8:00 pm, they started counting off meteors. The tents were quickly abandoned. The Junior Naturalists decided instead to zip into their sleeping bags at the end of Pickering Creek’s dock.

“I counted 18 meteors!” exclaimed Harrison, a new Junior Naturalists, the next morning. As they warmed up over a pancake breakfast, the Junior Naturalists shared stories of the meteors, nighttime sounds over the water, and compared the thickness of frost found on their sleeping bags. Hopefully their next monthly meeting won’t be quite as cold as they hike into the forest for an owl prowl.

To learn more about the yearlong Junior Naturalist program, contact Krysta Hougen at Pickering Creek Audubon Center (khougen@audubon.org).

Food Friday: It’s Fruitcake Weather!

“Cherries and citron, ginger and vanilla and canned Hawaiian pineapple, rinds and raisins and walnuts and whiskey and on, so much flour, butter, so many eggs, spices, flavorings.”
-Truman Capote, A Christmas Memory

Fruitcake weather! It is an ineffable moment when the air cools, the leaves are falling and the light changes from summer golds and yellows to winter whites and grays. The slant of the light is different; more oblique. Truman Capote’s cousin Sook could tell us for sure. Sunsets speed across the back yard. Their dark flat shadows race over the fallen leaves and the sad pumpkin I have tossed out near the birdbath, hoping to lure squirrels into Luke the wonder dog’s line of sight. Dark falls abruptly.

Earlier this year we moved into a little house that has 5 towering pecan trees in the back yard. Luke and I wander around, picking up windfall pecans. We toss the ones tested and deemed unworthy by the squirrels into the yard of the vacant house next door. And now we have collected a big old bucket o’pecans. And what exactly are we going to do with them?

It is time for the great fruitcake experiment. Though we have never been a fruitcake family. When I was small my mother kept a fruitcake on the dining room sideboard with the ancestral tea set, just in case someone came calling and asked for fruitcake. She might have been ahead of her time, and it might have been the same fruitcake, wrapped up with the Christmas ornaments, and hauled up to the attic every January, and brought down again the following December. I don’t know. It is a great mystery, lost to the ages.

We were a family who glommed onto other families’ traditions. Cinematic families, that is. I feel sure we didn’t decorate our Christmas tree until Christmas Eve, because that was what the Bailey family did in It’s a Wonderful Life. Also, the Brougham family in The Bishop’s Wife. We did not have a business-suited angel who helped decorate, however. Instead, my mother employed child labor. Merrily I strung garlands and tinsel up the banisters, over the mantels and on windowsills waiting for a miraculous transformation of silvered ornaments and a Hollywood designer’s vision of domestic perfection to appear.

My introduction to Truman Capote’s family Christmas traditions came when we watched and (my mother wept through) A Christmas Memory, a filmed version of Truman Capote’s short story. And even though my mother had bravely attempted fancy cooking because of Julia Child’s benevolent television presence, she was not moved to try baking fruitcake. Instead we continued to bake sugar cookies and gingersnaps at Christmas.

This year I need to find some justification for the time that Luke and I spend out in the back yard, kicking up leaves and hunting for pecans, while we are really bird watching and taking a break from the drawing board. And maybe we will find a field for some kite flying.

Fruitcake Inspired by Truman Capote’s Cousin Sook

Ingredients
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup chopped candied orange peel
½ cup chopped candied ginger
½ cup dark raisins
½ cup golden raisins
1 cup pecans that have been lightly roasted and coarsely chopped
1 cup walnuts that have been lightly roasted and coarsely chopped
1½ cups white sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon orange extract

Directions
Preheat oven to 325° F. Butter and flour a 10-inch tube pan.
2. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Add orange peel, ginger, raisins, pecans and walnuts and toss to coat.
3. In electric mixer beat sugars and butter until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add extracts.
4. Add dry ingredients and fold until just combined. The batter will resemble chocolate chip cookie dough.
5. Spoon batter into pan. Smooth the top. Bake until cake is golden and tester  —  I use a long, very thin wooden skewer  —  comes out clean. Start testing after 1½ hours. Cool cake on rack for 10 minutes, then turn out of pan and cool completely.

http://zesterdaily.com/cooking/capote-inspires-a-fresh-take-on-christmas-fruitcake/

“If you please, Mr. Haha, we’d like a quart of your finest whiskey.”
His eyes tilt more. Would you believe it? Haha is smiling! Laughing, too.
“Which one of you is a drinkin’ man?”
“It’s for making fruitcakes, Mr. Haha. Cooking.”
This sobers him. He frowns. “That’s no way to waste good whiskey.”
― Truman Capote, A Christmas Memory

A Christmas Memory: http://www.sailthouforth.com/2009/12/christmas-memory.html

The Bishop’s Wife: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0039190/

It’s a Wonderful Life:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0038650/?ref_=nv_sr_2

Bay Ecosystem: Relationships Before Reason with Peter Forbes

The Eastern Shore Land Conservancy’s annual planning conference has a reputation of “shaking it up” every year with the inclusion of sometimes radical points of view on ecosystem protection with a full range of political and social perspectives, and this year was no different.

Peter Forbes, with such important credentials as having a long career in the land conservation movement, an award winning nature photographer, the author of four books, and since 2001, the owner of a working berry and sheep breed stock farm in Northern Vermont is one those with a unique point of view. As a keynote speaker for the ESLC’s 18th meeting on Kent Island. Peter may hold conventional views of the state of our environment and the threats of global warming, his thoughts of finding solutions are not your typical policy or political prescriptions.

In fact, Peter’s first weapon in the battle to confront the world’s climate challenges is as simple as forming lasting relationships with those who may disagree on what needs to be done. Everything else, according to Peter, is secondary to the need and the importance of finding common ground and purpose with those who work the land.

In his Spy interview, Peter talks frankly about this enormous gap in conservation thinking and how it can be the real solution to moving forward.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy please go here

 

Pickering Creek Announces Late Fall Programs for the Public

Pickering Creek’s four miles of trails are open to the public dawn to dusk every day.  In addition to wandering on your own the Center invites the community to join us at one of our upcoming programs, they are a great opportunities to get outside this fall.

A student at the Center looking at a skink he captured on his woods walk.

Introduction to Bird Language will be held on Saturday, November 4 from 9:00 – 11:00am. Participants will discover the language of birds and listen in on what they tell us about the world around us during this fun morning at the Center’s newest tract, Peterson Woods at Pickering Creek Audubon Center. You will sharpen your observation skills and uncover the keys to understanding unique patterns of behavior common to birds through guided instruction and outdoor activities. You’ll see birds and the world we share with them in a whole new way. The program requires no experience in bird watching and is for adults. More bird fun is offered the following week with Hoot and Holler Owl Prowl on Friday, November 10 from 5:30 – 7:30pm. Take a break from the crowds in town and use your senses to discover nightlife on an evening hike at Pickering Creek! Participants will listen for Barred Owls calling, “Whoooo cooks for youuu,” identify the rambunctious hoots of the Great Horned Owl, and awe at the whinnies coming from our smallest, the Eastern Screech Owl.  Adults and families with children are welcome as we search out Owls at the Center.

Pickering offers a pre Thanksgiving exploration for our youngest friends with their parents and grandparents at Tiny Tots:  Totally Turkeys! on Thursday, November 16, 2017 from 10:00 – 11:00am. Bring your 3 to 5 year old to Pickering Creek for a morning of turkey tales, gobbling, outdoor exploration, and a craft.  We’ll start with a fall-theme turkey story before adventuring outside in search of turkey habitat.  Your tiny turkey will leave with a fun and creative turkey craft.

The season’s final offering is an opportunity to get outside, volunteer and make your community nature center even better.  At the Fall Cleanup on Saturday, December 9 from 9:00 am-12:00 pm you are invited to join Center staff for the last Saturday Service Day at Pickering Creek Audubon Center of the year. We will be painting inside our garden classroom during this down time between the fall and spring school field trip season.  We’ll also be clearing the leaves from the waterfront picnic area and making adjustments to the trails. Join us for a hearty morning of activity then stay for potluck lunch. If you’d like to sign up to attend a program at the Center please call 410 822 4903, reservations are strongly recommended as programs do sell out.

Outstanding Day of Exploration at Horn Point Laboratory’s Open House

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Horn Point Laboratory (HPL) welcomed over 650 guests to their annual Open House Saturday, October 14.  Free and open to the public, people of all ages explored over 15 hands on exhibits with Horn Point faculty and graduate students giving visitors the opportunity to experience science in real world situations.  The theme for this year’s event was “Bay Strong: Fighting for a clean environment.” A scavenger hunt introduced kids and parents alike to the “super heroes” of the Chesapeake Bay – oysters, marshes, plankton, and sturgeon,and shared how these heroes help make the Chesapeake Bay a healthier place for all of us.  Children received a free t-shirt for completing the scavenger hunt.

Kids rolled up their sleeves to forage in the Oyster Hatchery’s touch tank, finding baby horseshoe crabs, fish, eels, and crabs among the grasses.  The sturgeon exhibit gave visitors the opportunity to observe these prehistoric fish close up and compare other marine life of the Bay to these prehistoric giants growing up to 14 feet in length.

Visitors to the Open House were able to

  • Build a healthy marsh and learned who are our best partners to protect our shorelines.
  • Create and tag a bag of oyster shells to follow through the restoration projects.
  • Match up a DNA sequence to microscopic creatures important to the food chain.
  • Touch a sturgeon whose ancestors date to the Jurassic period
  • Create changing landscapes in a digital sand box to mimic different shorelines and model weather’s impact with laser imaging.
  • Take a “cell-fie” with the plankton that improves water quality.
  • Play a video game to learn what and how the balance of sediment to sea life is achieved.
  • Model the effects of sea level rise, increasing temperatures, and surge impacts on Baltimore Harbor and regional cities in 2050 and beyond.

“This is the best day of the year for the community to learn about the science of the Bay. Everyone at the lab is on deck to explain their research with activities and displays that make it easy to understand,” said Horn Point Laboratory Director Mike Roman.

From the banks of the Choptank River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, HPL scientists engage in world-renowned research in oceanography, water quality, restoration of sea grasses, marshes and shellfish, and expertise in ecosystem modeling.

The open house is an annual event geared to all ages.

For more information, visit contact Carin Starr at cstarr@umces.edu, 410-221-8408.

UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science leads the way toward better management of Maryland’s natural resources and the protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. From a network of laboratories located across the state, UMCES scientists provide sound advice to help state and national leaders manage the environment, and prepare future scientists to meet the global challenges of the 21st century. www.umces.edu

Waterfowl Chesapeake Challenges Community to Matching Campaign

Waterfowl Chesapeake (WC) is excited to launch its first Community in Conservation Match Challenge and announce the three 2017 Community In Conservation award recipients, who are receiving $7,500 from this small grant program.

WC’s support is “seed funding” to give these initiatives a jump- start toward the monies they need. To get them fully funded and show the region’s love for waterfowl, the WC is challenging the community – and the thousands of Festival visitors – with a matching campaign now through Nov. 13. Every dollar raised will go directly to these initiatives, increasing each organization’s capacity to get the job done.

The Match Campaign, with a goal of raising an additional $7,500, reconnects communities with conservation as well as raises funds. WC is asking its stakeholders, supporters and people in our communities to ‘match’ its dollars by dropping a “green feather” or two for community-based waterfowl conservation.

“We are so excited to focus on supporting several kinds of projects, all which have an impact on waterfowl and their habitats. And doing so for organizations in our Delmarva communities,” says Margaret Enloe, Executive Director. “We like to think it’s one of our unique ways of connecting people and financial resources with environmental needs.”

The Match Campaign also highlights the Festival’s legacy of supporting our beloved birds and their habitats – wetlands, marshes, underwater grass beds and woodlands – all which make our region unique. As long as there have been available funds, Waterfowl Festival has given something back to the ducks, geese and swans for its entire 47-year history.

Contributions can be made online at www.waterfowlchesapeake.org/matchchallenge2017 or Festival visitors may drop a few “green feathers” in any of the blue “Wood Duck Donation Boxes” around Easton now