Tour, Toast and Taste Promises Rare Glimpse Inside Wye House

On June 8th, Pickering Creek Audubon Center’s Tour, Toast and Taste will be held at Richard and Beverly Tilghman’s Wye House in Easton. The event will afford guests a rare look inside Wye House and a great opportunity to socialize and add culinary adventures to their social calendars for the next year.

Just around the corner from the 400-acre wildlife sanctuary and nature education center, Wye House is a perfect fit for this year’s Tour, Toast and Taste event to benefit the education programs of Pickering Creek Audubon Center, the Shore’s premiere environmental center.

Wye House is one of Maryland’s most historic homes. It is located along the Wye River on land acquired by Edward Lloyd in 1659. The current house was constructed between 1784 and 1790 by Edward Lloyd IV and is currently occupied by the 12 th generation of the Lloyd family to live on the property. The house is in the Palladian style and is often referred to as the finest example of late 18 th Century Palladian architecture in the United States. Many of the original furnishings and other objects remain in the house. The Orangerie, a garden structure, predates the house and is the most complete surviving structure of its kind in the United States. The property contains numerous early 19 th century out buildings. The Lloyd family cemetery’s earliest grave is dated 1684.

Wye House was once the seat of a sprawling estate comprising of tens of thousands of acres.

The evening begins with a leisurely drive down a long, beautiful tree lined drive. Upon arrival, guests tour four first floor rooms where guests of the house were traditionally greeted and received. The rooms feature significant original woodwork and other detail features as well as
artwork that have remained with the house over the course of several generations. The home has hosted a number of dignitaries over the years including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Two generations of the family will be on hand to share the history of the house as well as how it got to its present state of perfection.

After the house tour guests will stroll through the home’s tree lined garden alleyway to the Orangerie. After visiting the Orangerie guests will adjourn to a breezy tent beside the Orangerie for cocktails, delicious hors d’ouevres, and light entertainment. At the sound of the bell, guests
will have the opportunity to purchase a wide variety of intriguing dinners, unique events and auction items offered by strong supporters of the community-based education programs of Pickering Creek Audubon Center.

The Orangerie protected fruit trees in the winter and serves the function of a greenhouse.

The evening concludes with a special presentation of live raptors of Maryland by naturalist and friend of the Center, Mike Callahan. Callahan is an expert on barn owls and raptors and introduces the public to them through his work with the Southern Maryland Audubon Society
and Charles County Public Schools. Guests will have an opportunity to learn about the birds and see them up close.

The Tour, Toast & Taste committee consists of a group of loyal Pickering supporters including Jo Storey, Bill Griffin, Tom Sanders, Dave Bent, Cheryl Tritt, Ron Ketter, Desne Roe, Liz Fisher, Audrey Forrer, Dorothy Whitcomb, Andy Smith, Brooke Mesko and Colin Walsh. This year’s Tour, Toast & Taste is generously sponsored by the Bill and Mary Griffin, Colin Walsh and Carolyn Williams, the Dock Street Foundation, the Chesapeake Audubon Society, Cheryl Tritt and Phillip Walker, The Easton Group at Morgan Stanley, Phillip and Charlotte Sechler, Parker Counts, Wye Trust, Shore United Bank, Dwelling and Design, Stuart and Melissa Strahl, Lane Engineering, Tom Divilio and Lisa Gritti, Tom and Cathy Hill, Kristina and Michael Henry, Solidago Landscapes, Rick Scobey and Bruce Ragsdale, Tred Avon Family Wealth and Wayne and Joyce Bell.

For over 30 years, Pickering Creek Audubon Center has provided environmental education opportunities to students of the Eastern Shore, moving them from awareness of their watershed to conservation action in their communities. Since establishing a well-reputed elementary
education program in partnership with Talbot County Public Schools 25 years ago, Audubon has added meaningful watershed experiences for middle and high school students to our continuum of education along with community outreach education about our region’s unique ecosystems. Pickering Creek reaches the people of the Eastern Shore throughout their academic careers outdoor learning experiences that encourage them to continue interacting with the outdoors frequently.

Tickets and more information are available online at www.pcacevents.org. For more information call the Center at 410-822-4903.

WC Students Shadow Environmental Educators at Shore Organizations in New Collaboration

Few sixth-graders can resist the opportunity to go mudlarking in a marsh, but what about when they get stuck? Or fall in?

Then it’s up to the teacher to help—or, in this case, Abby Frey, who is shadowing the teacher, because Devin Herlihy, a seasonal educator at Pickering Creek Audubon Center just outside of Easton, has her hands pretty full with the rest of the class that’s happily wading through the wetland in search of frogs, tadpoles, crayfish, dragonfly larvae, and myriad other wonders of springtime.

Helping a youngster up from the mud is all part of the experience of shadowing environmental educators, which Frey, along with about ten other Washington College students, are doing this spring throughout the upper Eastern Shore. It’s part of a one-credit course that helps them get a feel for what being an environmental educator might be like as a career.

Abby Frey oversees students in a marsh at Pickering Creek Audubon Center while educator Devin Herlihy (right) points directions to a student.

“It’s opened my eyes to the different ways environmental education works,” says Frey, an environmental studies major with a minor in public health. She has shadowed school groups in various settings, participated in public outreach events including public paddles (her first time in a canoe) and the center’s annual plant-and-seed swap, and even gotten a feel for the kind of office organization needed to operate a place like Pickering Creek, a 400-acre waterfront property whose owners donated it to Chesapeake Audubon Society in 1982. “It’s been interesting to see the different age groups. These are sixth-graders today. The last time it was high-schoolers, and the vibe was different.

“Some of the people at the canoe event were older and had no experience in canoes,” she says. “So the whole thing changes with the age group, which makes it interesting.”

This spring is the second semester for this new class, which came about when Brian Scott and Leslie Sherman, co-chairs of the Department of Environmental Science and Studies, approached Erin Counihan, coordinator of the College’s secondary education program and a National Geographic Certified Educator, with an idea. Many of their graduates were landing jobs involving educating the public, and they wondered if there was a way to collaborate with the Department of Education to help prepare students for what sorts of opportunities are out there.

Counihan said that such a course already existed in the secondary education program, in which students logged 20 hours during the semester observing teachers in the classroom, then journaled and reflected on what they’d learned. She simply had to tailor it to environmental education.

She contacted several local environmental education organizations, including the Sultana Education Foundation, Echo Hill Outdoor School, Pickering Creek, Adkins Arboretum, Sassafras Environmental Education Center, Shore Rivers, and Tuckahoe State Park. All were excited to participate.

“If I find out a student has a passion for trees and wants to be a botanist, I will try to get them to go to Adkins Arboretum. Or if one has a broad passion to teach kids about the environment, I might send them to Sassafras or Echo Hill,” Counihan says. “They are asked to complete 20 hours, but once they get to their site they can determine what that looks like.” Some of them will shadow for a few Saturdays, while others go during the week when there might be an interesting opportunity, for instance when Shore Rivers goes to Talbot County schools.

Abby Frey pours water from her boots after wading in to help a student.

Emily Rugg, a double major in international studies and French studies, spent the spring shadowing the rangers at Tuckahoe State Park. Watching them interact with the public has completely changed her thinking about environmental education. A great example, she says, was shadowing the ranger one evening as she walked through the campground with one of the park’s barred owls. Everyone was captivated by the owl, and at each site, the ranger told the story of how this owl was blinded after being hit by a car. It had swooped down to catch a mouse that was eating an apple core someone had tossed from a car window.

“The way she was able to integrate that into every conversation we had with people who ranged from children and families and young adults and then older people, it was totally diverse, and everybody had the same reaction,” Rugg says. “One of the last people that we spoke to was a dad and his young son, he must have been four or five years old, and after we did this he literally turns to him and says, ‘All right! No more throwing banana peels out the window!’ ’’

Shadowing the rangers at Tuckahoe has shown her that environmental education happens in far more diverse places and ways than in a traditional classroom.

“This course has also made me realize any field I go into there’s going to be people willing to learn and people who need to learn, and I’m going to be in a positon of an educator, especially talking about environmental policy,” Rugg says. “I think that’s what’s so cool about this course, you’ve got such a diversity of host institutions and groups … it reinforces that idea that being able to be a successful educator, especially in the field of environmental science, will be beneficial no matter what career path you end up taking.”

4th Annual Community Plant and Seed Swap April 20

Join us for the 4th Annual Community Plant and Seed Swap at Pickering Creek Audubon Center on Saturday, April 20, 2019, from 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM. This is a great opportunity to share your garden treasures and find new ones to try in your own landscape! Native plants are valuable for wildlife and humans alike. Please share your native plant divisions, cuttings, and seeds, as well as favorite herbs, vegetables, fruits, bulbs, and flowering plants.

The Swap is 100% free and open to the public. The success of the swap depends entirely upon what you bring with you to share! Think about the kinds of plants you would be interested in trying out. If you have anything particularly unusual, try to bring several samples of it in root or seed form. It could be a favorite heirloom vegetable variety, a beautiful native wildflower, or your prolific raspberry canes. Flowers, fruits, vegetables, herbs, shrubs, and tree seedlings are all welcome. Natives are highly encouraged, but non-natives are fine, too (unless they are invasive). The basic rules are: bring something – take something.

All are welcome; no gardening experience necessary. Talbot County Master Gardeners will be on hand to answer questions, and the Chesapeake Herb Society will be represented to provide guided tours of the beautiful herb garden at Pickering Creek.

If you love the idea of planting natives for birds, but are unsure about where to start, visit the Audubon Society’s Plants for Birds website at http://www.audubon.org/plantsforbirds, where you can input your ZIP code and get a printable list of species to try. Remember that birds need not just trees or shrubs to nest in, but also sources of caterpillars, berries, seeds, and cover from predators. Everything from herbaceous perennials to shrubs to canopy trees play a role in supporting bird life.

As always, the Pickering Creek Audubon Center will be open for exploration. It is open from dawn to dusk every day and is free for visitors to enjoy. The Center is a 400-acre working farm dedicated to community-based conservation of natural resources through environmental education and outreach on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay.

A few common Invasive Species to Avoid:  Periwinkle (Vinca spp.), English ivy (Hedera helix), Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), Multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora), Butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii), all grasses (unless you are certain you have a native species). For a full list of invasive species to avoid, please visit the website link below.

For more information, please contact Pickering Creek Audubon Center at 410-822-4903, or Vanessa Goold, volunteer, at vanessa.goold@gmail.com.

Plant Swap Guidelines

Each year, the Community Plant and Seed Swap has grown. We hope to make the 4th Annual Swap an even bigger success, but it depends on you and your generous contributions!

The focus is always on native plants that feed and nurture our Eastern Shore wildlife. If you have native plants to share, please bring them! We also welcome vegetables, herbs, and non-invasive garden favorites.

To make this a fantastic exchange, please divide up and label your offerings so that others can easily take a sample. The more information you can provide about your contributions, the better.

Valuable label info includes: plant name, sun/shade preference, water needs, soil, preference, bloom time and color, and mature size. Labels and containers need not be fancy: clean, recycled pots, newspaper, or even grocery bags work fine for plants. Envelopes or baggies are perfect for seeds.

Wondering if your plants are native? Check these websites for information:

USDA Plants Database: https://plants.usda.go

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center: https://www.wildflower.org/plants/

Wow – A Rare Northern Shrike Visits Pickering Creek

Northern Shrike at Pickering Creek as photographed by Wayne Bell

Birders have been flocking to Pickering Creek Audubon Center over the last couple of weeks to spot a rare bird. A first year Northern Shrike was first spotted by Dr. Wayne Bell on January 29.

Bell, an experienced birder, first observed the Northern Shrike while conducting periodic monitoring of bird species at Pickering Creek. As he scanned the area with his spotting scope from one of the wetland observation platforms, he got his first look at the bird perched in saplings before it flew across the recently restored wetlands. After returning to the parking lot, he located the bird again and observed it on and off again for a half hour – alternating between perching on exposed branches and diving into the underbrush. At this time, he was able to take a picture of the bird through his spotting scope.

The Northern Shrike is rarely found on the Eastern Shore. The bird breeds in the far northern reaches of Canada and northern Alaska. During the winter months, it migrates into the northern parts of the United States. However, it is rare to find it south of the New York-Pennsylvania state line.

The Shrike is a mostly gray songbird with a narrow black mask, black tail with white outer feathers, and black wings with a small white patch. It’s most notable feature, however, is the sharply hooked tip on its stout bill. They use this hawk-like bill to capture and snap the neck of prey, consisting largely of small mammals or other birds. Since they lack talons, the Northern Shrike will then impale the captured prey on a thorn to hold it in place while feeding.

After spotting the bird, Dr. Bell shared his sighting with other birders in the area through the Talbot County Bird Club rare bird hotline. He also reported it using eBird, a national database developed by Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology to capture bird sightings used by birders throughout the world. Once reported through eBird, the sighting was identified as a state rarity on reports shared with these birders.

By the next day, birders throughout the state were visiting Pickering Creek to see this unique bird. Most were rewarded with views of the bird as it perched high on exposed branches of sweet gums, sometimes near the parking lot, other times between the two wetland observation platforms. A review of eBird reports shows that over 70 birders added the Northern Shrike to their bird list. One birder came as far as Frostburg, MD, and another made the trip from North Carolina.

According to eBird, a Northern Shrike was last sighted at Pickering Creek in 2005, when it showed up in mid-February and stayed around for about a month. The closely related Loggerhead Shrike can be found throughout the southern half of the United States. While its range does not extend to the Eastern Shore, it sometimes makes a rare appearance. It was last seen at Pickering Creek in 2011, where it generated similar interest from birders throughout the region. The Loggerhead Shrike can be distinguished from the Northern Shrike by its thicker black mask, whiter breast, and smaller size.

Pickering Creek Audubon Center is open for the public to enjoy nature daily from dawn to dusk. There is no admission to enjoy the Center’s trails this February. There is no admission from March to December either. To learn more about Pickering Creek Audubon Center, visit its website at http://pickering.audubon.org. To learn more about the Talbot County Bird Club or subscribe to the rare bird hotline, send an email to talbotbirdclub@gmail.com.

Maryland General Assembly Recognizes 2018 as Year of the Bird

The Maryland General Assembly has presented Audubon with an official citation recognizing 2018 as the Year of the Bird in Maryland. The declaration celebrates native and migratory birds making their way through Maryland annually and the state’s many creeks, rivers, ponds, woods, meadows and wetlands that support them.  The citation was delivered by Delegate Johnny Mautz on December 3rd with the Center’s full staff and board of trustees in attendance. “As 2018 draws to a close the General Assembly’s citation reminds us again how integral birds are in Maryland’s landscape.  We are honored to have the Maryland General Assembly and Delegate Mautz recognize the importance of birds in our local landscape and recognizes 2018 as the Year of the Bird”, said Mark Scallion, Director of Pickering Creek Audubon Center.  “We are also proud of Pickering Creek Audubon Center’s role as an anchor of bird habitat in Talbot County and an important place for people, especially school aged students, to learn about birds, habitat and the Chesapeake Bay.”

Audubon works with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Maryland State Department of Education on Governor Hogan’s Project Green Classrooms as well as with a host of local, state and federal agencies on important bird area protection, environmental literacy and sea level rise adaptation.

Delegate Johnny Mautz, Pickering Creek Board President Cheryl Tritt, President Elect Dirck Bartlett and Director Mark Scallion with the Year of the Bird Citation.

Home to 42 Important Bird Areas and more than 400 observed species, the citation recognizes that Maryland and the Eastern Shore’s natural resources provide important habitat for birds. Within Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay watershed serves as an important breeding and stopover area for millions of migratory birds each year.

People around the world are celebrating 2018 as Year of the Bird. This year marks the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, one of the oldest wildlife protection laws in the United States. In honor of this milestone, National Geographic, Audubon, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, BirdLife International, and dozens of other partners around the world joined forces to celebrate 2018 as the Year of the Bird.

“Year of the Bird is an easy way people can take small everyday actions to help birds along their journeys,” said David Yarnold, president and CEO for National Audubon Society. “Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay provides wintering grounds for approximately one-third of the Atlantic coast’s migratory population including iconic waterfowl species like the Tundra Swan, Canada Goose, Northern Pintail and Green-winged Teal for centuries.”

Many conservation organizations, agencies, businesses and academics have been instrumental in protecting birds and the places they need in Maryland. In celebrating 2018 as the Year of the Bird, there is great appreciation for the efforts of many organizations, including local Audubon chapters and centers, the Maryland Ornithological Society, the Department of Natural Resources, waterfowl associations and duck clubs, and many others. For more about Year of the Bird visit www.birdyourworld.org.

Contact: Mark Scallion, National Audubon Society, mscallion@audubon.org, 410-822-4903

Mid-Shore Teachers Complete Environmental Literacy Training with Pickering Creek

For nine weeks, a cohort of mid-shore teachers gathered with staff of Pickering Creek Audubon Center on Wednesday evenings and two Saturdays to immerse themselves in Maryland’s Environmental Literacy (E-Lit) Standards. Established in 2011, Maryland’s Environmental Literacy Standards require all students to participate in multi-disciplinary environmental programs to build students’ understanding of the inextricable links between humans and the natural world. Hailing from Talbot, Kent and Wicomico counties, the eight teachers had experience in a range of grade levels and content disciplines.

Lynn Alemon, a 4th grade teacher at Easton Elementary School releases a newly banded thrush.

Focusing on one standard each week, the teachers were invited to explore environmental concepts by investigating Pickering Creek’s forest, meadow and wetland habitats, modeling activities, and engaging in discussions. These programs were led by Pickering Creek’s knowledgeable staff, which works with Eastern Shore school systems to help them meet Maryland’s Environmental Literacy Standards.  One Wednesday evening, teachers immersed themselves in a restored freshwater wetland by pulling on chest waders and seining in the waters before considering how human activities influence the availability of habitats. Another week teachers canoed on Pickering Creek, taking water quality samples while discussing the influence of the environment on human health. Before colder days set in, the group spent an evening sweeping butterfly nets through the meadows and looking for monarch butterflies and other insects while considering limiting factors on populations, communities and ecosystems.

“This reminds us that we need to be outside, and to be mindful of that with our students,” remarked Charlotte Compton, a first grade teacher at Easton Elementary School. “They need it too.”

Supported through a Chesapeake Bay Trust mini-grant, teachers had an opportunity to earn up to two continuing education credits if they attended both the nine weekday evening sessions as well as two Saturday field trips. On a Saturday in late September, the teachers traveled to Washington College’s Chester River Field Research Station, where they shadowed field ecologist, Maren Gimple, and learned about banding of migratory birds. Teachers watched as Gimple deftly removed Common Yellowthroats, Ovenbirds and other migratory birds from the station’s mist nets, took measurements of each bird, and attached a small metal bracelet to each bird’s leg. The teachers learned how data collected at the station in Chestertown is used to enhance our understanding of spring and fall seasonal bird migration along the Atlantic Flyway.

Pictured L-R (Top row): Lynn Alemon (Easton Elementary), Hayley Hartman (Pickering Creek), Danielle Devonport (Pickering Creek), Devin Herlihy (Pickering Creek), Donna Simmons (Kent School), Katelin Cep (Chapel District Elementary), Kathy Kelly (Chapel District Elementary), Jaime Bunting (Pickering Creek); (Bottom row) Jaime Eakin (Wicomico Middle), Charlotte Compton (Easton Elementary), Jeff Eutsler (White Marsh Elementary). Not pictured: Julia Berg (Bennet Middle).

In October, teachers spent a Saturday at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge where they heard from Refuge Wildlife Biologist Matt Whitbeck and Director of Science at the Nature Conservancy MD-DC, Dr. Arian Sutton-Grier, to learn about climate change, sea level rise, and the importance of protecting salt marsh habitats for wildlife and preserving the habitat’s ability to absorb and store carbon from the atmosphere. Julia Berg, a Social Studies teacher from James Bennett Middle School in Salisbury reflected, “I was fascinated to learn about blue carbon and the importance of wetlands in mitigating the effects of climate change. The E-Lit Camp has been really eye-opening and is giving me lots of ideas for working with the science teachers in my school.”

In November it was time for the teachers to synthesize what they had learned and develop activities and lessons that incorporate Environmental Literacy Standards. Jeff Eustler, a Physical Education teacher at White Marsh Elementary shared his idea of creating a fast-moving “Environmental Helpers” game during gym class that can emphasize the influence of individual and group actions on the environment. Lynn Aleman, a 4th grade Language Arts teacher at Easton Elementary School thought about how to enhance a current shark-focused reading project to include her students researching cultural and economic influences on the sharks’ populations and habitat. “I am excited to share these lessons and what I have learned with my students, in an effort to better engage them in science content during my reading block,” remarked Aleman.

Environmental literacy in the real world does not exist exclusively in the sciences; rather, it is woven throughout the many content disciplines taught in school and in all areas of our lives. But beyond the academics, the experiential aspect was what stuck for teachers. Jamie Eakin, a 6th grade science teacher from Wicomico Middle School summed it up: “E-Lit Camp is like teaching therapy for me. I get to be a student and feel the joy of learning again.”

Contact: Mary Helen Gillen, National Audubon Society, mgillen@audubon.org, 410-822-4903

Seventh Graders Search for Species at Pickering Creek

Ten seventh grade students line up along the edge of Pickering Creek’s Farm to Bay loop, peering into the forest edge across the creek. An Osprey nest sits near the top of a Virginia pine tree, and students are waiting to see if they will catch a glimpse of the powerful fish-eating raptor, or perhaps a chick peering over the edge of the nest. Each year seventh graders come to Pickering Creek for a field experience called “Biodiversity Makes the Bay Better,” and spend the day searching for and counting as many different species of animals they can find within the mature forests and creek waters of the Center’s 400 acres.

Two of Bethany Haas’ 7th grade students work together to dissect and identify the parts of a lilly.

There are over 3,600 species of plants and animals found in the Chesapeake Bay, from tiny grass shrimp to Great Blue Herons, from swaying cattails to towering tulip poplars. Described by one student as “the study of the complexity and diversity of living things,” biodiversity is a theme all 350 Talbot County seventh graders have focused on in their classrooms. Funded by the Mid Shore Community Foundation, Pickering educators lead a 7th grade program that includes an in-school lesson about taxonomy, or the way organisms are classified. Working in pairs, students make observations on different physical features and adaptations of plants and animals and discuss the advantages of high species diversity, such as a greater number of natural resources, like food, being available for humans and other animals. Students learn that the more biodiversity in an ecosystem, the better that ecosystem can withstand change or disaster.

During their field experience at Pickering Creek the 7th graders get to discover for themselves many species that are found locally.  Each activity students complete—fishing on the dock, hiking the trails with binoculars, pulling seine nets through the creek—is designed to bring them into contact with a new group of organisms. The species list—student-generated proof of local biodiversity—grows as each group adds their new finds to it.

Leading seventh grade trips focused on biodiversity has multiple benefits: students build significantly on their knowledge of ecology, but also get the chance to explore and experience nature in an active way. Activities such as combing the forest for insects and seining in the creek are loved by students because it engages them fully, and it is fun! In the forest students spread out to look under leaf litter, roll over decaying logs, and catch scurrying beetles in bug boxes. Often students find small worm snakes, toads, beetle larva and spiders on the forest floor. The experience is new for many of them, and they find the freedom to explore and catch things exciting. “I can catch that toad? Really?” asks one student. Similarly, seining in the creek is a chance for students to find something new, unexpected, or often unnoticed. One day in May students found over 40 individual grass shrimp in about ten minutes. “That was really fun,” another student added after reluctantly leaving the creek and pulling off waders.

A 7th grader holds up a fish he caught during a biodiversity field trip.

Easton Middle School teacher Bethany Haas appreciates the opportunity for her students to learn about and experience biodiversity in a real-world way. “The students really enjoy going to Pickering Creek and having them come in to our classroom.  The lessons are always hands on and get them thinking more about the unique and diverse area where we live.  When they visit Pickering Creek they always enjoy the experience.  It’s nice to see young people out learning and enjoying the wonders of outdoors rather than sitting inside staring at a screen.”

At the conclusion of each field trip students review their species totals. The Osprey did not appear at the nest, but one was spotted soaring overhead while the group was fishing off the dock. “Add it to the list!” shouted one seventh-grader after seeing it fly around the creek’s corner. Students have found as many as 51 animal species in a single morning—proof of not only local biodiversity, but of the students’ engagement and persistence in finding all kinds of wildlife while visiting the Center.

Collaborating with classroom teachers is essential in creating and maintaining meaningful environmental lessons and experiences. “We always strive to work closely with teachers to develop our programs,” says Jaime Bunting, Pickering Creek’s Education Manager. “When teachers can incorporate the program directly into their curriculum, the visit from our educators and the field trip to Pickering Creek are not seen as separate and apart, but rather as an experience that harmonizes with what the students are already learning.”

In spring of 2018, Bunting met with the seventh grade teachers to partner on updating the in-class portion of the program so that it continues to closely align with the Next Generation Science Standards, Maryland Environmental Literacy Standards and recent middle school curriculum changes. Since that time Pickering Creek has been piloting updated in-class lessons that focus more on ecosystems, adaptations and variations within wildlife populations.

This work has been supported by the Mid Shore Community Foundation and many community donors like you.  Pickering Creek Audubon Center sees Eastern Shore students of all grade levels for hands on, standards-aligned environmental education programs in both classroom and field-based experiences. Educators and schools interested in developing a program for their students should contact the Center at 410-822-4903.

New Trustees Welcomed to the Pickering Creek Audubon Team

At Pickering Creek Audubon Center’s recent Board of Trustees meeting Esther Fleischmann, Dorothy Whitcomb and Andrew Smith joined the Pickering Creek Audubon Center Board of Trustees as new members, elected to a three year term.  They join recent addition Ron Ketter and current trustees Dirck Bartlett, Dave Bent, Tom Kimbis, Cemmy Peterson, Tom Sanders, Stuart Strahl, Carol Thompson and Cheryl Tritt.

Esther Fleischmann has been teaching Human Anatomy and Physiology at UMBC for over 20 years where she has been privileged to work with curious and highly motivated students.  Her academic roots stem from time living on Guam where she learned to scuba dive and decided to become a marine biologist.

Esther only started birding seriously in the last five years and can only imagine what her life lists would look like if they included Guam and other places she has traveled.  Birding and an invitation from long-time colleague, Bryan Mackay, led to her serving on the board of the Chesapeake Audubon Society for the last two years.  It is all she can do to get to work on time during the spring migration, wiping off her muddy boots on the way into the classroom.  Esther is committed to being an educator and a life-long learner herself.

Top: Esther Fleischmann and Dorothy Whitcomb. Bottom: Andrew Smith and Ron Ketter

Dorothy Whitcomb worked in the home furnishings industry for over 30 years.  As a contributing editor and freelance journalist, she covered business and design trends, as well as a diverse range of products. In addition to her work in the home furnishings industry, she is the owner and president of Quarter Cove Associates, a consulting firm that provides communications and business strategy services to small businesses and non-profit organizations.

In 1997, Whitcomb began living part time the Eastern Shore. Two years later, she and her husband, Don Whitcomb, moved full time to a home they built on Presquile Point, just down the road past Pickering Creek. They lived there for seventeen years before moving in 2017 to the town of Easton.

Andrew Smith’s family moved to Easton when he was 14. He grew up on the Miles River where he developed a love for the outdoors. He met his future wife, Sally, in high school, and together they have raised three beautiful children and five wonderful grandchildren.

Before moving back to Easton, Andy spent from 1970-1980 at a family lumber business in Baltimore. He retired four years ago from a twenty-eight year career with O.N.Andrew and Son, a local roofing contractor. Andy has been on the board of the Chesapeake Center, and delights in seeing the accomplishments of the clients there!

Andy enjoys being involved with the wood duck monitoring program at Pickering Creek for several years. It is truly a treat to have seen Pickering Creek develop into an educational asset for the community for young and old.

Ron Ketter and his wife, Janet, moved to the Eastern Shore in 2016, where they live just outside of Easton and enjoy birdwatching, gardening, camping and hiking. Ron has a lifelong interest in nature and conservation, both in his personal and professional life. He retired from the U.S. Forest Service in 2016, where he served in the national office in Washington DC as Director of Strategic Planning, Acting Budget Director, and Chief of Staff to the Chief Financial Officer. He also spent over four years in California as Deputy Regional Forester for the Pacific Southwest Region. In addition to volunteering at Pickering Creek, Ron’s other volunteer activities include assisting with biological surveys and monitoring at Blackwater National Refuge, serving on the Board of the Friends of Blackwater as their Treasurer, monitoring the Tred Avon River quality for ShoreRivers, and serving as a mentor with Talbot Mentors.

A key part of the National Audubon Society network, Pickering Creek Audubon Center funds its budget through contributions and fees secured by the Pickering staff and board. This local funding directly supports science and environmental education programs for students and residents in Talbot, Dorchester, Caroline and Wicomico counties.

Pickering Creek’s Harvest Hoedown on October 14

People around the world are celebrating 2018 as Year of the Bird. This year marks the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, one of the oldest wildlife protection laws in the United States. In honor of this milestone, Audubon, National Geographic, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, BirdLife International, and dozens of other partners around the world joined forces to celebrate 2018 as the Year of the Bird.

The CBMM’s Winnie Estelle will offer rides on Pickering Creek.

Pickering Creek Audubon Center will celebrate birds and fall on the Eastern Shore at this year’s Year of the Bird themed Harvest Hoedown on Sunday October 14. Harvest Hoedown features music at three locations, unique craftspeople, nature walks, wildlife exhibits, boat rides on the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum’s Winnie Estelle and entertaining kids and adult activities about birds as well as food prepared by the Easton Lions Club and new local food vendors. Activities and vendors will be found throughout the Center. Explore the property with wagon rides or take a stroll on the forest trail for a sampling of the Eastern Shore’s natural beauty from wetlands to 100 year-old trees, all highlighted in vibrant fall colors.

Harvest Hoedown 2018 will feature live music, puppet shows, a family friendly scavenger hunt with prizes and Year of the Bird themed fun throughout the day.  Native plants will be available for guests who participate in activities about birds, plants and habitat. From deep in the vaults of Pickering Creek the Harvest Hoedown T-Shirt Art collection will be on display, featuring the great folk art that has graced the back of each Harvest Hoedown T-Shirt for the last twenty years.  These works will be on display at the Center’s Welcome Center.  Scheduled events will include not only music on the main stage, but also brief nature talks by area naturalists including topics pertinent to the Year of the Bird, the Chesapeake Bay and life on the Eastern Shore.

Harvest Hoedown features great music for all ages!  The Harvest Hoedown main stage, framed by Pickering’s historic corncrib, will host toe tapping blues and bluegrass with four acts throughout the day. The kid’s stage is just down the lane right next to Pickering’s beautiful gardens, surrounded by a bevy of fun educational activities led by Audubon Naturalists and budding volunteer leaders.  The musical artists featured frequently perform in their own right, but Pickering puts them all together for a wonderful fall day of music and fun.

The kid’s stage features Slim Harrison and the Sunnyland Band from Western Maryland and returning for their seventeenth year. The best thing about the Sunnyland Band is that it is you!  With over 40,000 members worldwide it may very well be the biggest band around.  The main stage kicks off at 11:30 am with local favorites Fog after Midnight, followed by Baltimore musician Norm Hogeland. Playing next at Harvest Hoedown on the main stage are Slim Harrison and the Rock Candy Cloggers.

The New and Used Bluegrass Band headlines the Mainstage

Headlining the main stage is the New and Used Bluegrass band, based on the Eastern Shore with members from across the shore. New and Used Bluegrass features Alan Breeding on banjo, Jim Bieneman on bass fiddle and vocals, Toby Price on mandolin and vocals, Ed Finkner on guitar and vocals and Jon Simmons on fiddle, mandolin and vocals. New and Used Bluegrass performs various flavors of bluegrass music, ranging from the traditional  – like the Stanley Brothers “How Mountain Girls Can Love” to “Eastbound and Down” from the Smokey and the Bandit movie, to “Caravan”, a Duke Ellington tune, as well as assorted banjo and fiddle tunes and songs.  They are well known locally for their excellent bluegrass pickin’.

Harvest Hoedown is generously supported by the following sponsors: Bartlett Griffin and Vermilye, Johnson Lumber Company, Shore United Bank, Shorebancshares, Donald and Dorothy Whitcomb, Stuart and Melissa Strahl, Wye Gardens, LLC, Dorothy and Donald Whitcomb, Jo Storey, Bountiful, Hank Spies, Richard and Beverly Tilghman, The Star Democrat, the Chesapeake Audubon Society, Out of the Fire, Kelly Distributing, and Pepsi Cola. Please contact the Center for if you would like to be a sponsor.

Harvest Hoedown means fun for all ages!  Music, hayrides, boat rides, local arts, and great family activities put smiles on every face. Mark your calendar, dig up your overalls, boots and hat and make your way out to Pickering Creek on October 14.  We will be having fun from 11 am- 4 pm.

New Homeowners Install Bird and Bay-Friendly Gardens

Orange Butterfly Milkweed blossoms were beginning to open on a hot Saturday in June as Tynita Cummings planted her new Bay-friendly garden at her home in Hurlock. Tynita is one of six Habitat for Humanity Choptank homeowners partnered with Pickering Creek Audubon Center in the Native Habitats for Habitat program, which works with homeowners to install native plant gardens at their homes. Each garden serves multiple purposes of landscaping the home with beautiful plants providing nectar, seeds and fruit for birds and pollinators, and helping to clean our local waterways.

The Native Habitats for Habitat program, supported by a Chesapeake Bay Trust Outreach and Restoration Grant and Audubon, kicked off in March with a gardening workshop led by Pickering Creek’s Krysta Hougen and Jaime Bunting.  The workshop was open to current Habitat for Humanity Choptank homeowners or homebuyers who wanted to learn more about landscaping for wildlife with native plants and are interested in attracting birds to their yards. Ultimately the program envisions homeowners being ambassadors for native plants and habitats in their communities. Workshop participants learned gardening and landscaping basics, such as preparing a site for planting, choosing native plants that will be successful at a given site, suggestions for tools, and how to properly plant, weed, and maintain a landscaped yard.

Habitat homeowners plant native plants during a Native Gardening workshop in March. Photo Credit: Jill Jasuta.

Pat Ingram, Program Coordinator for Habitat for Humanity Choptank shared the importance of homeowners participating in ‘sweat equity’ hours at the workshop. “The culminating event was digging in the dirt and actually planting pollinator-friendly perennials. All our homebuyers and their coaches attended, earning three ‘sweat equity’ hours toward their individual goals. Sweat equity takes the place of a down-payment on their homes. It is usually accumulated by building on the job sites, but workshops that provide information enhancing their ability to be successful homeowners are vitally important. The Native Gardening workshop more than lived up to this mandate!,”  said Ingram

Beyond the March workshop, which drew nearly forty Habitat for Humanity Choptank participants, Pickering Creek continues to work closely with six homeowners selected for the Habitats for Habitat program.  Homeowners surveyed their yards and considered a variety of factors, including preferred size and location of a garden, sunlight, soil moisture, color preferences of blooming flowers, and desirable wildlife, such as birds and butterflies, they’d like to attract with a garden.

The homeowners and Pickering Creek staff collaborated to finalize plans and each homeowner prepared their site by turning over the soil and adding compost. Homeowners invited friends and family members to help on their planting day when Pickering Creek arrived with plants and mulch.

Easton homeowner Keisha Temp poses in front of her newly planted Bay-friendly garden.

“I was not unhappy to get rid of the wire grass that was once my ‘front lawn,’” commented homeowner Nora Skiver. “The work was difficult at first, spreading new topsoil and compost, but planting day finally came. I was like a kid on Christmas morning. It was hot when they arrived; we placed plants and then planted. Then the rain poured and we were all soaked, but what fun! My mailman commented several times as the garden progressed and said he could not wait to see the end result. It is truly a beautiful transformation.”

Pickering Creek staff will continue to consult one-on-one with each homeowner every month through summer and fall and will help to prepare the gardens for winter. Next spring, homeowners will have the opportunity to expand their garden or add new features.

“Working with Habitat for Humanity homeowners is a natural fit for us,” said Krysta Hougen of Pickering Creek. “We enjoy the opportunity to share the benefits of using native plants with a new audience and we are so excited to connect Habitat for Humanity Choptank homeowners with plants that will become beautiful features of their homes.”

Pickering Creek Audubon Center will be offering native plant gardening tips for Habitat Choptank ReStore customers in the fall. Habitat homeowners will be able to earn sweat equity during short presentations and Pickering staff will be available to answer questions and offer suggestions for anyone who stops by. The ReStore location is 8610 Commerce Drive Easton, MD.

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