MRC Partners with the Town of Greensboro on Tree Initiative

Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy (MRC) and the Town of Greensboro have formed a partnership to develop and implement the Greensboro Tree Initiative. Freezing fall temperatures could not stop MRC and over 20 volunteers from planting 32 native trees on public land in the Town of Greensboro on Saturday, November 11th. Tree species included willow oak, eastern redbud, and river birch. The Town of Greensboro is located in Caroline County on the north bank of the Choptank River, and is designated by the state of Maryland as a Sustainable Community. The Town of Greensboro is committed to increasing public tree canopy in order to improve local water quality, mitigate flooding, and beautify the town while providing native habitat. For more information about the tree initiative, contact Choptank Riverkeeper Matt Pluta at matt@midshoreriverkeeper.org or 443.385.0511.

A spring planting will be held in April, coinciding with Arbor Day. To volunteer for the spring planting, please contact Suzanne@midshorriverkeeper.org.

MRC owes the Town of Greensboro Department of Public Works a huge thank you for their collaboration and site preparations, as well as project funder, Chesapeake Bay Trust.

 Environmental Concern to become Host for Chesapeake Conservation Corps Volunteers

Connor Burton

Environmental Concern was recently selected by the Chesapeake Bay Trust as a Host Organization for Chesapeake Conservation Corps Volunteers. This CCCV Program funds a one year paid internship for selected participants to work with an organization whose mission is consistent with the goals of the Trust and the Corps Program. Environmental Concern has been restoring wetlands in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed for 45 years. Teaching and mentoring the next generation of Bay stewards is one of EC’s primary goals and is consistent with the goal of the Corps Program.

A total of thirty-seven Host Organizations were matched with forty-two Chesapeake Conservation Corps Volunteers. EC was honored to be selected as a Host Organization for two Volunteers. Samantha Alvey and Connor Burton joined the EC team in late August for the 2017-2018 Corps Program. Samantha and Connor will be required to design, plan, fund and construct a Project. The Project planning process challenges the volunteer to learn design software programs, prepare grant applications to fund the Project, and to work with community volunteers to implement the project.  

Samantha Alvey

Samantha will be working with Environmental Concern’s Education staff, to complete the Queen Anne’s County Public School’s Milkweed and Habitat Maintenance and Monitoring Grant. Samantha will also develop an Environmental Literacy Pilot Implementation Program. After completing this project, Samantha will work with EC’s Mid-Atlantic Monarch Initiative to promote processes that increase the availability and production of milkweed species- the key habitat of the endangered Monarch butterfly.

Connor will be working with Environmental Concern’s Restoration and Nursery Teams. Connor is working with the EC staff, controlling invasive Phragmites, in the first 2 months of his Volunteer commitment with EC. Connor learned quickly that getting wet and muddy is a requirement in the wetland field. Connor is working with EC’s Restoration Specialists, assisting with Projects throughout the year. The projects involve site surveys, developing concept designs , site assessments, and monitoring and maintenance. Connor’s “Work Plan” also includes supporting the Nursery’s seed collection initiative, plant propagation and processing activities. We are confident that Connor will be well prepared to start a career in the wetland field when he has completed his Volunteer commitment with Environmental Concern.

“We are grateful to the Chesapeake Bay Trust for selecting EC as a Host Organization”, said Suzanne Pittenger-Slear, Environmental Concern’s President. “We look forward to mentoring these two exceptional individuals. They will join a long list of environmental professionals who started their wetland career at Environmental Concern.”

Winging It at Pickering Creek Audubon Center

Participants in the recent Introduction to Bird Language public program at Pickering Creek Audubon Center were treated to a unique outdoor experience at the Center’s new Peterson Woods at Pickering Creek Audubon Center. The Introduction to Bird Language public program was a fun way to enjoy outdoors for diverse group of people ranging from very experienced bird watchers to others who simply enjoyed wildlife and spending time outside.  All eyes and binoculars zoomed in on the creek response to lively chattering as a bird flew by. “There goes a kingfisher!” someone excitedly called out.  These visitors at Peterson Woods were enjoying a day outdoors, not just looking for birds, but listening and learning how to interpret what the birds were saying through their sounds and behaviors.

Intro to bird Language participants scanning for birds over the creek.

Jon Young of BirdLanguage.org says, “The calls, postures, and other behaviors of birds convey much information to those who understand their patterns. The attentive, trained observer can deduce through bird language the location of predators and other forces on the landscape.

The reaction of birds and animals also speaks volumes about the awareness and behavior of the observer. In this way, birds become a barometer for one’s own awareness of the landscape, both inner and outer.”

One of the goals of the program was to help participants sharpen their perception beyond the everyday things they might ordinarily notice.  Participants spent time tuning into birds and other nature sounds.  After many minutes of concentrated listening, several were surprised at the variety of things they heard– from the splashing of fish in the nearby creek, to the rat-ta-tat drumming of woodpeckers in the distance, to the dim drone of a plane high overhead, and the tiny scraping of leaves scattering across a concrete patio in a gentle breeze.  They listened to and practiced identifying different types of bird sounds-calls, alarms, songs- then applied their new knowledge and heightened awareness listening for birds on a woodland walk.  “ I think that’s an alarm. I’ve heard that bird in my yard before ” noted one person.  They also observed the interactions of birds at a feeder and discovered common patterns behavior birds display when people or potential predators disturb them.

The highlight of the morning included having bluejays call back during a bird observation activity to human crow calls. Everyone left the program eager to try out their new skills observing birds more closely at their homes.

Peter Yungbluth and Dave Bent listening at bird calls being played on ipad by Jaime Bunting.

Introduction to Bird Language kicked off several bird-centered public programs geared to people of all ages and bird watching skill levels as well as a wide range of interests in the outdoors planned through this spring at Pickering Creek Audubon Center.

Adults new to the bird watching can come out for the Beginner Bird Basics program on Saturday February 10, 10:00am to 12:00pm.  Join Pickering Creek staff and knowledgeable birders for a fun and engaging morning honing your birding skills at Peterson Woods.

Birders of all ages and abilities are invited to participate in Great Backyard Bird Count at Pickering Creek on Saturday, February 17 from 9:00am to 12:00pm. Several birding groups will be lead by experienced birders who will count and tally species we find along the Centers trails during this annual nationwide winter census of birds.

Enjoy a unique evening birding experience during the Flight of the Timberdoodle program on Tuesday, March 13 from 7:00 to 8:30pm.  Look for the male woodcocks as they call and perform a dazzling display in Pickering Creek’s warm season grass meadows.

Gather up some gardening ideas in time for spring during the Planting for Birds program on Saturday, April 14, 10:00am to 12:00pm.  Find out how you can invite feathered friends to your yard with plants that provide birds with what they need.

And if you are bit disappointed that you missed an opportunity to understand what birds are chattering about in your backyard, you is still another chance to find out this spring when Pickering Creek Audubon Center holds a second Introduction to Bird Language on Tuesday, May 1 from 10:00am to 12:00pm.

Waterfowl Festival Wraps Up Its 47th Year

Waterfowl Festival had many successes as well as some challenges during its 47th year. Despite the cold temperatures, the streets of Easton were full of people of all ages enjoying food, music and fall weather, making the downtown area vibrant with activity and showcasing the best of an Eastern Shore fall. Yet bustling streets are not the only measure of success for the town-wide, non-profit event; this year’s official attendance came in at approximately 14,300 people, a decrease from the last several years.

“Festival has always been about celebrating our community – through wildlife art, our sporting heritage, and the Eastern Shore way of life. We are very pleased to have attracted so many visitors to town,” says Festival President Albert Pritchett. “As an event, however, tickets sales are also a measure of our continued success, so the reduced number of tickets purchased is something we’ll be thinking about as we plan for the future.”

The more than fifty Festival Chairman – who volunteer countless hours and days to manage everything from venues and exhibits to ticket sales, transportation and security – were supported by a veritable army of more than 1,200 people who also gave their time to the weekend. “The Chairs and the community volunteers are the engine that make the Festival unique,” says Judy Knight, Festival Volunteer Chair, who is a volunteer herself. “We are so grateful to everyone who came out to make our 47th year a great success!”

The Festival weekend kicked off with Waterfowl Chesapeake’s Premiere Night Party, attended by more than 600 guests – including corporate supporters and art buyers – who turned out to enjoy an evening of food, cocktails and a preview of the Festival’s five downtown art galleries. The “Making Way for Ducklings” Art and Decoy Auction, held that evening to benefit the Wm. A. Perry Scholarship Fund, successfully raised more than $8,000 that will benefit local college-bound students. “We felt the evening was a great fun overall and were very pleased with the number of new people that joined the party,” said Waterfowl Chesapeake Executive Director Margaret Enloe.

The Chesapeake Conservation Pavilion, sponsored by Easton Utilities, hosted twenty conservation exhibits this year, a kids’ scavenger hunt and offered “Chesapeake Snap Chats” – short talks by experts that highlighted everything from oyster restoration efforts to using mosquito-larvae-eating zooplankton for pest control to changes in student education programs. It was also the location for the Friday morning “Coffee & Conservation” breakfast, co-hosted by Waterfowl and the Talbot County Office of Tourism and Economic Development, where more than 100 local business and conservation representatives networked and heard about innovative efforts to improve quality of life, build business and conservation partnerships and ways in which ‘green’ financing can be supportive of capital improvement projects.

In the five Festival Art Galleries, more than 110 of the world’s finest nature and wildlife artists – some here for their first Festival, some who were returning favorites – came from all over the world. Featured Artist Julia Rogers had a great weekend, selling “The Long Stretch” to a Festival guest from Virginia, who came specifically to purchase the piece. Master Carver Richard Jones was thrilled to sell several of his unique, interpretive bird sculptures as well, having one of his best events of the year.

If the number of children playing is any indication, families certainly seemed to enjoy the more family-friendly atmosphere at Easton Middle School venue which included an expanded food vendor area, a birds-of-prey handler and a hay bale maze. Several artisans in the Artisans’ Crafts and Gifts there reported selling out and seemed to enjoy the new layout for the venue. The ever-popular Delmarva DockDogs® continued to draw spectators but the temperatures meant fewer dogs made the leap into the chilly pool. Across town, temperatures didn’t stop our regional hunting dogs from showing off their skills at the Retriever Demonstrations, though the hardy spectators there and during the fishing activities were bundled up tight.

The expanded Sportsman’s Pavilion focused on the regions’ sporting heritage was a beehive of activity all weekend. With two new tents, including an additional space for duck and goose call-makers, several major vendors completely sold out of their wares. Activities onsite like the new Kids Goose & Duck Calling Clinic, led by champions from the World Waterfowl Calling Contest, saw registration fill quickly and helped introduce at least sixty of the youngest Festival guests to the nuances of duck and goose calling. Across the street, the Buy, Sell, Swap offered visitors the opportunity to learn about the Shore’s waterfowl-related heritage by visiting with traders and collectors. At the Harry M. Walsh Artifacts Exhibit next door guests had the singular opportunity to see museum exhibitions and private historic collections – including one belonging to a young, 13-year-old collector.

“The Festival owes a great deal of thanks to our many corporate, business, promotional and non-profit partners for their new or continued support this year,” says Pritchett. “We absolutely couldn’t do it without each and every one of them and the services that the town and county also provide. We are particularly grateful for the funding we received from the Talbot County Arts Council and Maryland State Arts Council.”

Waterfowl Festival will be back next year on the second weekend in November, the 9th – 11th, 2018.

Midshore Riverkeepers Host Creation Care Workshop November 30

St. Luke’s congregation in Cambridge planting native trees in St. Luke’s second environmental stewardship project.

Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy (MRC), in partnership with Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake, will host a one-hour “Creation Care” workshop to bring together the faith community and the environmental community. The workshop, which is part of MRC’s Stewards for Streams Faith Initiative, will be held on Thursday, November 30 from 5:30-6:30pm at the Eastern Shore Conservation Center, located at 114 S. Washington Street in Easton.

Faith organizations and dedicated individuals of any denomination are encouraged to attend. Through this workshop, MRC will offer three free ways that the faith community can engage their congregations in environmental stewardship and education. MRC and Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake have already collaborated with 10 churches to install rain gardens and native trees that beautify the church grounds while reducing pollution and benefiting the local environment. MRC and Interfaith Partners can provide a menu of options that go beyond in-the-ground projects, including youth trips and service learning, adult education programs, and advocacy.

“Faith organizations are pillars in our community that can stand as examples of environmental stewardship,” says Suzanne Sullivan, MRC’s Stewards for Streams coordinator. “They have an audience of dedicated individuals and families who can help spread environmental messages and actions.”

Participating congregations include: Grace Lutheran, Presbyterian Church, and St. Mark’s in Easton, and St. Luke United Methodist and Waugh Chapel in Cambridge, as well as Greater New Hope Baptist in Preston. To RSVP for this event, email Suzanne@midshoreriverkeeper.org or call 443-385-0511.

Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy Offers glassybaby Candles for Holiday Giving

Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy (MRC), along with Waterkeepers Chesapeake, has formed a partnership that brings the West and East Coasts together in support of a cleaner Chesapeake Bay. In glassybaby hot shops in Seattle and Berkeley, more than 80 glassblowers handcraft molten glass into unique and functional votive candles and drinking glasses in a dazzling array of colors. In addition to creating beautiful products, glassybaby reports that it “actively supports causes that help people, animals and our planet heal.” To date, glassybaby has given over $7 million to a wide variety of nonprofit organizations.

A gaggle of shimmering Chesapeake glassybaby votive candles.

MRC is one of 19 Riverkeeper organizations that make up Waterkeepers Chesapeake, a coalition of independent programs working to make the waters of the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays swimmable and fishable. MRC is part of this alliance that monitors and cares for all the rivers that flow to the Chesapeake Bay, a watershed that covers six states.

Waterkeepers Chesapeake and glassybaby have joined forces to launch a beautiful new votive candle called Chesapeake, glassybaby’s first product for the Chesapeake Bay region. The Chesapeake votive captures the colors and clarity that are the essence of the Bay. Under glassybaby’s power of giving program, 10% of the price of each Chesapeake glassybaby will be donated to Waterkeepers Chesapeake to help support their work from New York to Virginia.

The glassybaby candles will be available at Easton’s famous Waterfowl Festival, which takes place November 10-12, 2017. NOTE: Waterkeepers Chesapeake will receive 10% of ALL SALES (not just Chesapeake) made during Waterfowl Festival (November 10-12) and up to 2 weeks afterwards. Use the code “waterfowl” when ordering.

Or purchase your very own Chesapeake glassybaby online at midshoreriverkeeper.org/glassybaby. For more information, contact Kristan Droter at kdroter@midshoreriverkeeper.org or 443.385.0511.

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

Open House at Horn Point Laboratory October 14

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Horn Point Laboratory invites the public to a free Open House on Saturday, October 14, 2017, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Located along the banks of the Choptank River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the laboratory is renowned for its study of marine ecosystems.

The theme for this year’s event is “Bay Strong – fighting for a clean environment.” It features exhibits by the laboratory’s scientists of their investigations in the Chesapeake Bay and coastal areas along the Atlantic Coast. This year’s theme will introduce our visitors to the super heroes fighting for a healthier Chesapeake Bay. All Community Open House activities are free and open to the public, and children will receive a free t-shirt.

“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.
– Build a healthy marsh and learn who are our best partners in this effort.
– See an animation of the travels of oyster larvae as they move from the reef where they spawned to their new, permanent home reef.
– Match up a DNA sequence to microscopic creatures important to the food chain.
– Touch a sturgeon whose ancestors date to the Jurassic period
– Create different shorelines and model weather’s impact with laser imaging over a sand pit.
– Meet and talk to graduate students about their environmental career goals.
– At the children’s activity booth, create animals that live in the water with thumb print art. Play games that teach fun facts about the Bay. Go on a scavenger hunt through the exhibits to learn how the Bay’s super heroes are fighting for a cleaner environment.

The open house is designed to interest all ages and will take place rain or shine. The Horn Point Laboratory campus is located 2020 Horns Point Road on Route 343 outside of Cambridge, Maryland.

For more information, visit  http://www.umces.edu/hpl/openhouse or contact Carin Starr at cstarr@umces.edu, 410-221-8408.

Part of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s statewide network of research centers, the Horn Point Laboratory on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, has advanced society’s understanding of the world’s estuarine and ocean ecosystems. Horn Point scientists are world-respected for their interdisciplinary programs in oceanography, water quality, restoration of sea grasses, marshes and shellfish, and investigations of sea level rise and storm surge.

UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE
For 90 years, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) has led the way toward better management of Maryland’s natural resources and the protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. From a network of laboratories spanning from the Allegheny Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean, our scientists analyze changes in rivers and streams, monitor air quality, sample fish populations, and assess the impacts of climate change along our coastal communities. We provide sound scientific 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

Midshore Riverkeepers Receive Major Grant for Agricultural Conservation

Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy (MRC) was recently awarded a grant of $451,960 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund to create a regional program that advances the implementation of conservation drainage practices and tests new agricultural best management practice technologies that have great potential to reduce nutrient and sediment from entering the Chesapeake Bay.

Many local farms were initially drained using a system of drain tiles. Unfortunately, over the decades these structures have deteriorated. MRC will work with agricultural landowners to retrofit old and failing drain tile lines with the latest conservation practices and create a drainage water management plan to maximize the benefits of the new conservation drainage system. These innovations will reduce sediment, nitrogen, and phosphorus losses from agricultural land that has drain tile lines. A goal of this program is to accelerate the implementation of the outlet and infield best management practices by incentivizing farmers through offering the replacement of antiquated existing drain tile and surface inlets.

MRC Staff Scientist Tim Rosen installs an updated conservation drainage system at an agricultural site.

This work will create a framework for a conservation drainage program that can be used to justify the funding of a state-run program administered by the Maryland Department of Agriculture. In addition, the program will provide a blueprint for other Bay states to adopt their version of a conservation drainage program. This program will help bring Maryland to the forefront in addressing agricultural drainage pollution and help position our farm community to be more economically and environmentally sustainable. MRC’s program will focus on four watersheds—the Choptank, Nanticoke, Pocomoke/Tangier, and Chester—that span eight Maryland counties.

Completion of this grant will result in the installation of eight separate projects that incorporate either a denitrifying bioreactor, saturated buffer, or structure for water control and blind inlets. It is anticipated that 2 denitrifying bioreactors, 2 saturated buffers, and 4 structures for water control will be installed with an estimated 14 blind inlets. In total, this will reduce a total of 3,456 pounds of nitrate-nitrogen per year, 49 pounds of phosphorus per year, and 46,666 pounds of sediment per year.

MRC has obtained commitments from private and state sources to provide a match of $467,980, enabling the organization to devote a total of $919,940 to this important work.

For more information contact MRC Staff Scientist Tim Rosen at 443.385.0511 or trosen@midshoreriverkeeper.org.