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Bay Blog: photo of the week

Feb
17
2017

Photo of the Week: The many uses of milkweed

Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) seeds and seed pods are arranged in a still life. Native throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the plant’s bright-orange coloring and copious nectar production attract bees, hummingbirds and other native pollinators. Milkweed seeds’ fine, feathery fibers—called silk or floss—allow the seeds to be carried on the wind.

As its name implies, butterfly milkweed is perhaps best known for its importance to butterflies. Also called butterfly flower or butterflyweed, the plant—along with other types of milkweed, including common milkweed and swamp milkweed—is the only food source of the monarch butterfly. Milkweed produces toxic chemicals that accumulate in the insect’s body, making them poisonous to predators.

But historically, milkweed has played an important role for humans as well. Pillows and mattresses have been stuffed with milkweed silk for centuries. During World War II, the plant gained national fame when war with Japan cut off access to the soft, cottony fibers of the seeds of the kapok tree, which the U.S. had used as filling for military life jackets. Through a national campaign, an estimated 11 million pounds of milkweed were collected—primarily by children using pillowcases—as a substitute filling.

Although potentially poisonous, the plant has been used for medicinal purposes as well. Many indigenous tribes applied milkweed sap for wart removal and chewed its roots to treat dysentery. It was also used in salves and infusions to treat swelling, rashes, coughs, fevers and asthma. Milkweed was even added to dishes for flavor, or to thicken soups—although special care was needed in the identification and preparation of the plant, to avoid its toxicity.

Learn more about butterfly milkweed, or learn how you can use native plants to provide habitat for butterflies and other pollinators.

Image by Will Parson

Stephanie Smith's avatar
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.



Feb
03
2017

Photo of the Week: Falcons find homes among man-made structures

A peregrine falcon flies from its nest at the Conowingo Hydroelectric Generating Station, or Conowingo Dam, in Conowingo, Maryland, on March 11, 2015. The dam sits across the lower Susquehanna River, about ten miles from where the waterway meets the Chesapeake Bay.

Just below the dam is an area well-known for bird-watching—most famously for bald eagles and great blue herons, drawn there by the high availability of fish around the dam’s outflow. Also known to frequent the site are peregrine falcons, whose preference for hunting by diving leads them to nest high on natural and man-made structures, like the nearly-100-foot-tall Conowingo Dam. Highly territorial, only one to two birds typically nest at the site at a time.

Although peregrines can be found on every continent except Antarctica, the falcons are uncommon in many parts of their historic range: in the mid-20th century, widespread pesticide use led to a drastic decline in peregrine falcon populations. By 1964, nesting peregrines were extinct in the eastern United States.

In 1979, a recovery plan was established to restore breeding peregrines to the eastern U.S. Through the program, 174 pairs of nesting peregrine falcons were established by 1997, with at least 27 pairs originating from the Chesapeake Bay region. By 1999, the peregrine falcon was removed from the Endangered Species List—and in the years since, the Chesapeake Bay has reestablished itself as an important region for nesting and migrating peregrines.

Peregrines in the Chesapeake region are perhaps best-known for their tendency to nest on man-made structures: the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Francis Scott Key Bridge, as well as skyscrapers in downtown Baltimore, Richmond, Harrisburg and other cities. Each spring, the Chesapeake Conservancy streams live video of a pair of peregrine falcons nesting on Baltimore’s Transamerica Building. Last year, peregrines “Boh” and “Barb” raised three young falcons at the site.

Learn more about the peregrine falcon.

Image by Will Parson

Stephanie Smith's avatar
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.



Jan
27
2017

Photo of the Week: Piecing together the food web puzzle

A tray at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) holds the remnants of some of the unique organisms found in the stomach contents of fish. Depending on the species, a fish’s diet may include smaller fish like bay anchovy and menhaden, or underwater invertebrates like mysid shrimp, worms and bivalves.

Fisheries in the Chesapeake Bay are an important part of the region’s culture, economy and ecosystem. As key species in the food web, larger fish like striped bass and bluefish rely on “forage”—the smaller fish, shellfish and invertebrates that underwater predators feed on. But despite their importance, uncertainty remains about the species that make up the forage base and how they interact with their environment.

Programs like the Chesapeake Bay Multispecies Monitoring and Assessment Program (ChesMMAP) and the Northeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program (NEAMAP), which collected the samples above, help scientists understand which forage species predators rely on by looking directly at the source: the fishes’ stomachs.

"The main objectives of the survey are primarily to get a handle on the abundances of all the different fishes and invertebrates that are inhabiting the Bay," said Jim Gartland, an Assistant Research Scientist at VIMS, one of the many organizations who partner to conduct the surveys. With a better understanding of the interactions between predators and forage species, experts can work to better support both predator species and the Bay ecosystem as a whole.

Learn more about forage in the Chesapeake Bay by watching our Bay 101: Fish Food video.

Image by Will Parson

Stephanie Smith's avatar
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.



Jan
20
2017

Photo of the Week: ‘Winter jellyfish’ basks in cold Bay waters

A lion's mane jellyfish visits Spa Creek in Annapolis, Maryland, on January 18, 2017. Sometimes called the “winter jellyfish,” the lion’s mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata) visits the Chesapeake Bay region from late November through March. Their preference for frigid, Arctic temperatures means they only venture down from northern latitudes when waters are sufficiently cold.

The type of lion’s mane jellyfish that visits the Bay is planktonic, meaning it floats where the currents take it—so while the lion’s mane is not an uncommon sight in the Chesapeake Bay, its presence can be unpredictable. When water currents and chilly temperatures align to bring them to the area, though, they’re easy to spot, because they prefer to float near the water’s surface.

Like the sea nettles that are prevalent in summer months, lion’s mane jellyfish have stinging tentacles. But since fewer people are out swimming in the chilly waters of January—except, perhaps, those participating in a Polar Bear Plunge—swimmers are less likely to suffer the lion’s mane’s sting.

Lion’s mane jellyfish that visit the Bay average about four to six inches in diameter, similar in size to the sea nettle. Travel further north, however, and you may encounter a much larger specimen. In 1870, the largest recorded lion’s mane jellyfish washed up along a beach in Massachusetts: its body measured more than seven feet in diameter, and its tentacles were 120 feet long.

Learn more about jellyfish that can be found in the Chesapeake Bay.

Image by Will Parson

Stephanie Smith's avatar
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.



Jan
13
2017

Photo of the Week: Protecting the home of the American black duck

Hutch Walbridge, Wildlife Biologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, places an identification band on the leg of a female American black duck on a farm in Church Creek, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, on March 5, 2013.

Not truly black, the dark, dusky-brown plumage of the American black duck (Anas rubripes) appears black from a distance. This shy, native waterfowl can be found year-round along the quiet, isolated tidal wetlands of the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers. When food sources in the north become scarce in colder months, additional ducks migrate to the Bay region to overwinter.

Black ducks were once the most abundant dabbling duck in eastern North America. But as the Bay’s wetlands disappeared, black duck populations dropped dramatically. In the 1950s, close to 200,000 black ducks spent their winters in the Chesapeake Bay region. But recent estimates show that, from 2013 and 2015, just over 51,000 black ducks overwintered on the Bay each year.

Marshes and wetlands in the Bay region are critical to the long-term survival of the black duck. Protection of the area’s remaining tidal marshes—along with large-scale habitat restoration projects like Poplar Island—helps provide the birds with the habitat and food sources they need. Under the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, our partners are working toward having enough habitat to support 100,000 wintering black ducks by 2025.

Learn more about what experts are doing to conserve habitat for the American black duck.

Image by Will Parson

Stephanie Smith's avatar
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.



Dec
29
2016

Photo of the Week: Making the outdoors a place for everyone

Beverly-Triton Beach Park in Edgewater, Maryland, is blanketed by snow on February 17, 2015. The park used to be a private beach open only to whites and gentiles until a civil rights lawsuit was filed in the 1960s. Now the park is managed by Anne Arundel County and is open to the public seven days a week, but its history calls to mind the fact that, for so long, ethnic and religious minorities were excluded from many outdoor spaces.

That history of exclusion has led in part to a perception that people of color aren’t welcome in nature. The most recent survey of visitors to national parks found that minorities made up just over 20 percent, even though they make up almost 40 percent of the population.

The National Park Service, seeing the disconnect between the demographics of its visitors and that of the country, is working to increase the number of minorities who visit national parks. At the same time, minority-led groups like Latino Outdoors and Outdoor Afro are working to increase engagement in outdoor activities by people of color, and create new leaders in conservation education.

One way states are encouraging everyone to visit park lands is through First Day Hikes. Now in its sixth year, this national initiative encourages outdoor exploration and recreation in the New Year. On January 1st, all 50 states will offer guided hikes with park rangers, naturalists and volunteers who can share knowledge about a park’s natural and cultural history. Along with hiking, activities include biking, horseback riding, wildlife viewing, strolling and more. These activities are a great opportunity for everyone to get outside in the New Year, from those who have never hiked before to those who are just looking for a good excuse to get outside.

Find a First Day Hike in your area.

Image by Will Parson

Joan Smedinghoff's avatar
About Joan Smedinghoff - Joan is the Communications Office Staffer at the Chesapeake Bay Program. Originally from Chicago, she was introduced to the Chesapeake Bay region through the streams of central Pennsylvania. She received her Bachelor's in Environmental Studies from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., where she first discovered her passion for storytelling.



Dec
22
2016

Photo of the Week: In winter, the Bay can be paradise for both bird and bird-watcher

A group of tundra swans gathers at Beverly-Triton Beach Park in Edgewater, Maryland. Tundra swans breed during the summer in the tundra of northern Canada, but migrate to the Chesapeake Bay region in the fall and stay here throughout the winter.

Tundra swans aren’t the only birds that migrate to or through the Chesapeake Bay region in winter. The Bay sits on the Atlantic Flyway, a broad range covering the East Coast of the United States and eastern Canada that many birds follow on their annual migration. The Chesapeake Bay is an ideal resting point for many species of songbirds, shorebirds and raptors as they fly south, but also serves as the final destination for about 1 million swans, geese and ducks. Some of those birds come from as far north as the Arctic while others migrate as far south as South America.

Due to its location on the Atlantic Flyway, the Chesapeake Bay region is full of great places for birding. But if you want to be able to enjoy birds from the comfort of your home, there are many things you can do to make your home bird-friendly, even in winter. For example, you can provide a source of food for birds by planting species such as Virginia creeper or winterberry holly that have berries in the winter. If you don’t have yard, you can hang a bird feeder or set out a shallow dish filled with seeds. After attracting birds to your home, the next step is to identify them!

Learn more about how you can begin birding this winter.

Image by Will Parson

Joan Smedinghoff's avatar
About Joan Smedinghoff - Joan is the Communications Office Staffer at the Chesapeake Bay Program. Originally from Chicago, she was introduced to the Chesapeake Bay region through the streams of central Pennsylvania. She received her Bachelor's in Environmental Studies from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., where she first discovered her passion for storytelling.



Dec
16
2016

Photo of the Week: A big lift to help restore the American shad

American shad larvae start to hatch from eggs collected from the Potomac River at the Van Dyke Research Station for Anadromous Fishes in Port Royal, Pennsylvania. Anadromous fish, like shad, live their adult lives in the ocean, but migrate back to freshwater rivers and streams to spawn.

Shad are an iconic species of the Chesapeake Bay region, but a combination of pollution, overfishing and the blocking of their migratory paths has led to a decline in their populations. To help boost shad numbers, federal, state and tribal governments have raised young shad in hatcheries and released them in rivers across the region.

But in order to sustain a stable population, shad need to be able to reproduce for themselves. As migratory fish, they require clear passage from the ocean to where they spawn in the Chesapeake’s freshwater tributaries, but barriers such as dams and culverts block waterways and separate shad from their spawning areas. The Chesapeake Bay Program’s Fish Passage Workgroup works with state agencies, local governments and nonprofits to remove these barriers where possible.

There are some places where barriers can’t be removed, such as the Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River, so the dam’s owner, Exelon Corporation, built a fish lift to help transport shad upstream. Unfortunately, despite some early success with the lift—transporting as many as 193,000 shad in 2001—annual catches have been steadily declining, with only 8,341 shad transported in 2015.

In an attempt to increase those numbers, in April 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a 50-year agreement with Exelon to help American shad migrate up the Susquehanna River to spawn. Exelon agreed to make structural changes, including improvements to the fish lift, to help attract shad to the lift and create enough room so they aren’t crowded out by other fish. The company also pledged to truck up to 100,000 shad upstream.

Learn more about the important role shad play in the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem and the work being done to restore them.

 

Image by Will Parson

Joan Smedinghoff's avatar
About Joan Smedinghoff - Joan is the Communications Office Staffer at the Chesapeake Bay Program. Originally from Chicago, she was introduced to the Chesapeake Bay region through the streams of central Pennsylvania. She received her Bachelor's in Environmental Studies from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., where she first discovered her passion for storytelling.



Dec
09
2016

Photo of the Week: Recycling materials to rebuild oyster reefs

The Elizabeth River Project stored roughly 1,000 cubic yards, or about 30 truckloads, of shucked oyster shell in Chesapeake, Virginia. Now, these shells are part of a 1-acre oyster reef located in the Eastern Branch of the Elizabeth River, in a project funded by the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation.

The Eastern Branch oyster reef was constructed in two layers. On the bottom is a layer of crushed concrete, recycled from nearby buildings that were knocked down, followed by a layer of shells sourced from shucking houses in North Carolina. The Elizabeth River Project completed building its acre-sized oyster reef in June, but has a much larger goal of restoring 10 acres of native oysters by the year 2024. Using a National Oceanic & Atmospheric Association survey of the Eastern Branch, the Elizabeth River Project identified an additional eight acres for restoration and is now working on getting funding to continue their restoration work.

Along with creating the oyster reef, the Elizabeth River Project has also been busy building oyster “castles” along the branch’s shoreline. Oyster castles are stacks of concrete blocks that create suitable habitat for first-generation oysters. The height allows for oysters to attach without sinking into the mud, and since oysters prefer to attach to areas that already have oyster shells, the blocks typically contain about 30 percent shell.

The restoration projects in the Eastern Branch would not be possible without local partnerships, says Deputy Director of Restoration Joe Rieger. The Elizabeth River Project partnered with organizations such as Kinder Morgen to store and stockpile oyster shells, the Hampton Roads Sanitation District to turn waste concrete into oyster blocks and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to eventually seed the area with baby oysters.

Learn more about the important role oysters play in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries and check out photos from the Elizabeth River Project’s oyster castle building.

Image by Will Parson

Joan Smedinghoff's avatar
About Joan Smedinghoff - Joan is the Communications Office Staffer at the Chesapeake Bay Program. Originally from Chicago, she was introduced to the Chesapeake Bay region through the streams of central Pennsylvania. She received her Bachelor's in Environmental Studies from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., where she first discovered her passion for storytelling.



Dec
02
2016

Photo of the Week: Cows are part of the family at Misty Meadows Farm

Dave Herbst drives a tractor trailer full of visitors through his family’s dairy farm, Misty Meadows, in Smithsville, Maryland on October 2, 2016. The family hosts tours and school field trips to educate people about the work they do and how they care for their cows.

There are currently about 160 cows, mostly Holsteins, being milked at Misty Meadows Farm. They are milked twice a day in a room that holds 12 cows at a time. Before milking, the cows’ teats are cleaned with iodine to kill off any germs and bacteria. They are then wiped off and attached to the milking units which feeds into a large milk tank. Of all of the cows’ milk, about eight to ten percent is used in the farm’s on-site creamery.

When the family living on the farm expanded, they had three choices: farm more land, increase the size of the herd or add a new facet to the business. That is when they decided to build the creamery, which was completed five years ago. There was no more available farmland and Jenny Malott, Herbst’s daughter who manages the herd, wanted to be able to know every one of her cows. Increasing it to the size necessary would mean losing that connection with her cows.

Like most dairies, they use antibiotics, but only as treatment for an animal’s specific problem. That means that only two of their roughly 300 animals were on antibiotics. “They are all my kids,” says Malott, who says she knows each cow by name. “If your kid is sick you’re going to take them to the doctor, and that’s how I feel about my girls.”

Milk from cows that are on antibiotics is dumped, and once the cows are off of the drugs, their milk is tested to be free of antibiotics before it is used for human consumption. In 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration completed a milk sampling survey which found that over 99 percent of milk tested was free of drug residues of concern.

Learn more about agriculture in the Chesapeake Bay region and check out Misty Meadows Farm Creamery on the Maryland’s Best Ice Cream Trail.

Image by Will Parson

Joan Smedinghoff's avatar
About Joan Smedinghoff - Joan is the Communications Office Staffer at the Chesapeake Bay Program. Originally from Chicago, she was introduced to the Chesapeake Bay region through the streams of central Pennsylvania. She received her Bachelor's in Environmental Studies from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., where she first discovered her passion for storytelling.



Nov
22
2016

Photo of the Week: Chemical contaminants pose invisible threat

Industry lines the Elizabeth River, looking south from the South Norfolk Jordan Bridge in Portsmouth, Virginia. As the site of ports, shipyards and industrial processing facilities—both past and present—the Elizabeth River has faced significant pollution challenges.

One of the most highly polluted waterbodies in both the Bay region and the entire East Coast, the Elizabeth River has been identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as one of three “regions of concern” in the Bay watershed for chemical contaminants, alongside Baltimore Harbor and the Anacostia River. These chemical contaminants can range from pesticides to pharmaceuticals, metals and more, and can harm the health of both humans and wildlife.

Almost three-quarters of the Chesapeake Bay’s tidal waters are considered impaired by chemical contaminants, according to the most recent estimates. Contaminants can enter the Bay and its tributaries in a multitude of ways: air pollution, agricultural runoff, polluted stormwater and wastewater are all potential sources. These toxics can then be taken up by fish, shellfish, birds and other critters, affecting their survival and threatening the health of humans who use them for food. Cities and states issue fish consumption advisories in areas when there is a concern that locally caught fish could contain chemical contaminants.

Learn more about chemical contaminants in the Bay watershed.

Image by Will Parson

Stephanie Smith's avatar
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.



Nov
17
2016

Photo of the Week: Hands-on lessons about the natural world

Jennifer Carr of the South River Federation identifies leaves with her daughter at the 2016 Chesapeake Watershed Forum, held at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, on September 30, 2016.

A critical piece of Chesapeake Bay restoration is teaching individuals—young and old—about the Bay, its rivers and streams and the lands that surround them. Educational opportunities provide people of all ages with rich natural, cultural, historical and recreational experiences and can inspire lifelong stewardship of the environment. For some students, that includes climbing aboard the steel deck of the Elizabeth River Project’s Learning Barge to learn about blue crabs and marsh periwinkles. For others, it means measuring local water quality in the river than runs mere yards from their school campus in Lititz, Pennsylvania, or using microscopes to identify plankton collected in Baltimore’s Patapsco River.

With close to 18 million people living in the Chesapeake Bay region—a number that continues to grow—education and stewardship is vital to restoring and maintaining the Bay’s health. In the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, Chesapeake Bay Program partners committed to providing each student in the watershed with at least one “meaningful watershed educational experience” in elementary, middle and high school, giving students the knowledge and skills to protect and restore their local waterways.

Learn more about the Bay Program’s efforts to promote environmental literacy.

 

Image by Will Parson

Stephanie Smith's avatar
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.



Nov
10
2016

Photo of the Week: Searching for clams in the Chesapeake Bay

Mark Connolly of St. Michaels, Maryland, harvests clams on Maryland's Eastern Shore in the pre-dawn light.

When the hydraulic escalator dredge—shown above being used by Connolly—was first used to harvest soft-shell clams in Maryland in 1951, it quickly led to the harvest of millions of the bivalves each year. At its peak in 1964, the commercial fishery of soft-shell clams reached close to 680,000 bushels. But in the late 1960s and early 1970s, parasites, disease and severe weather collided to contribute to a stark decline in harvests. Despite a slight recovery in the late 1980s, harvests crashed again in 1992 and have yet to recover. Once the most prolific producer of soft-shell clams in the country, commercial harvest of soft-shell clams in Maryland now measures in the hundreds of bushels.

As soft-shell clam harvests plummeted, watermen turned to harvesting the stout razor clam for use as bait for blue crabs. For nearly two decades, razor clams served as an adequate alternative—but in 2003, watermen reported observing unprecedented numbers of dead razor clams. Subsequent surveys estimated that between 70 and 80 percent of the stout razor clams in the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay had died, most likely from a fatal blood cancer called DN Disease.

These days, watermen looking to harvest clams in the Chesapeake Bay are focused on the hard clam. Aquaculture operations in the saltier waters of the lower Bay have been particularly successful harvesting the bivalves: Virginia shellfish farmers planted 526 million hard clams in 2015, an increase from 400 million a decade prior.

Learn more about the decline of soft shell and razor clams in the Bay.

 

Image by Keith Rutowski

Stephanie Smith's avatar
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.



Nov
04
2016

Photo of the Week: Resident geese may ruffle locals’ feathers

Canada geese fly along the Mattaponi River in Walkerton, Virginia. The characteristic honking and “V”-shaped flying pattern of Canada geese are distinctive sounds and sights of autumn in the Chesapeake region.

As part of the Atlantic Flyway—one of the major bird migration routes in the United States—the Chesapeake Bay is an important stopover for migrating geese. But these migratory birds are not the only type of Canada geese found in the area. While many flocks leave the area in early spring to return to their northern breeding grounds, countless others remain year-round. “Resident” geese, as they’re known, may appear nearly identical to their migratory relatives, but they actually make up a distinct population.

Most resident geese originated from flocks that were brought to the Chesapeake region in the early 1900s, through government stocking programs and for use as live decoys. These non-migratory geese are typically larger, begin breeding at a younger age and produce more eggs than their migratory counterparts. And because they tend to live in urban and suburban areas—like lawns, parks and golf courses—resident geese are less likely to be exposed to hunting, meaning they live longer as well.

In the Bay region and beyond, populations of resident Canada geese have grown exponentially since the mid-20th century, bringing with them a variety of environmental problems: from threatening the health of waterways and humans with their droppings to overgrazing on aquatic vegetation that might otherwise sustain migratory birds on their long journeys. Both resident and migratory Canada geese are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, but experts have worked to identify ways to reduce the damage caused by resident geese. The National Park Service, for example, sought public comments last year on its plan to use border collies to chase away Canada geese on the National Mall.

Learn more about Canada geese and the environmental effects of resident geese.

Image by Will Parson

Stephanie Smith's avatar
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.



Oct
27
2016

Photo of the Week: Tiny crustaceans invade area waterways

A small crayfish is found along the banks of the Potomac River in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. The thousands of rivers and streams that flow to the Chesapeake Bay are home to many species of native crayfish—also called crawfish, crawdads or mudbugs—which are freshwater crustaceans that resemble small lobsters. But several species of invasive crayfish also call the waterways home, displacing native species of crayfish and reducing the amount and diversity of underwater plants.

Certain species of crayfish are commonly eaten or even kept as pets in freshwater aquariums. But the widespread use of live crayfish by fishermen as bait has led to their introduction in waterways across the region. Unused buckets of live crayfish are often unknowingly dumped into rivers and streams, where they aggressively establish themselves at the expense of native crayfish populations.

Some of the most infamous invasive crayfish in the region include the rusty crayfish (Orconectes rusticus), the red swamp crawfish (Procambarus clarkii) and the virile crayfish (Orconectes virilis). According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), virile crayfish populations in the state are nine times more abundant than all native crayfish species combined. And because removing invasive crayfish would harm other, native species, prevention is the only effective way to stop the spread. The DNR recommends never moving caught crayfish from one waterbody to another and either disposing of unused bait humanely or saving it for future use.

Learn more about invasive species in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Image by Will Parson

Stephanie Smith's avatar
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.



Oct
20
2016

Photo of the Week: Elizabeth River Project connects community to its river

Robin Dunbar of the Elizabeth River Project conducts a teachers' workshop at Paradise Creek Nature Park in Portsmouth, Virginia. The area surrounding Paradise Creek—a tributary of the Elizabeth River—was once nicknamed "Paradise Lost" because of its close proximity to the former New Gosport landfill. Now, the creek has become a model for urban waterway restoration.

Since 1991, the Elizabeth River Project has worked tirelessly to restore the Elizabeth River, which flows between the cities of Norfolk, Portsmouth and Chesapeake, Virginia, before making its way to the Bay. For years, the river was one of the most polluted in the region. But in recent years, though the river still faces a long road to recovery, improving trends have brought new hope to a waterway once thought to be devoid of life.

In addition to on-the-ground restoration projects, part of the Elizabeth River Project’s mission is connecting with and educating the local community. Initiatives include the River Star Homes, River Star Schools and River Star Businesses programs; the Learning Barge, a 120-by-32 foot barge-turned-classroom; and Paradise Creek Nature Park, which hosts educational programs for both schools and the general public.

Learn more about the Elizabeth River Project.

 

Image by Will Parson

Stephanie Smith's avatar
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.



Oct
13
2016

Photo of the Week: Natural beauty and national history converge in Harpers Ferry

Paddlers travel on the Potomac River where it meets the Shenandoah River at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Described by Thomas Jefferson as “perhaps one of the most stupendous scenes in nature,” the town offers views of three states: West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland.

This scenic spot offers not only boundless natural beauty, but a rich piece of national history. The town was named for Robert Harper, a Quaker from Pennsylvania who in 1747 was sent to erect a mission house in the Shenandoah Valley. On his way, he passed through “The Hole”—the gap in the mountains where the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers meet. He recognized the value of the site for water power and transportation, purchased 126 acres of land at the site, then established a mill and began operating a ferry across the Potomac.

In 1799, construction began on the Harpers Ferry Armory, which produced more than 600,000 muskets, rifles and pistols before 1859, when one of the most famous events in Harpers Ferry history—and indeed, United States history—occurred. Abolitionist activist John Brown and 21 companions led a raid on the armory, hoping to seize weapons from the warehouse to initiate a slave uprising throughout the South. The attempted takeover of the armory was unsuccessful, however, and the event stoked the already tense relationship between the North and South, ultimately hastening the onset of the Civil War.

Today, the town is home to a national historic park where visitors can explore the historic town, visit museums and battlefields or hike the nearby mountains. It’s also home to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and is known to hikers as the “psychological halfway point” of the 2,190 mile Appalachian Trail.

 

Image by Will Parson

Stephanie Smith's avatar
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.



Oct
06
2016

Photo of the Week: Finding a balance for white-tailed deer

A white-tailed deer stands at forest's edge near a resting flock of Canada geese at Terrapin Nature Park in Stevensville, Maryland. Also known as the Virginia deer, the white-tailed deer gets its name from the white underside of its tail, which it will raise like a flag when alarmed.

In the early 1900s, unrestricted hunting, loss of forests and a rapid increase in development lead to a sharp decline in white-tailed deer populations. Over the next few decades, conservation programs in many states helped re-establish deer populations in the Eastern United States. But just as deer populations had previously suffered, the numbers of their natural predators—wolves, coyotes and mountain lions—fell, too. And as deer populations rebounded, a lack of these major predators allowed herds to grow exponentially, bringing with them a multitude of growing pains, including damage to agricultural crops and gardens, a loss of diversity in plant species and dangerous deer-vehicle collisions.

Scientists refer to the maximum population size that can thrive in a given habitat as that area’s “biological carrying capacity”: the amount of individuals in a species that can survive indefinitely on the food, water and other necessities available in the environment. But another concept is the “cultural carrying capacity”: the number of individuals of a species that can coexist comfortably with the local human population. Deer management experts across the Chesapeake Bay watershed are working to solve the complex puzzle of maintaining deer populations at levels that both support a healthy ecosystem and strike a balance with humans.

Learn more about the white-tailed deer, or learn about deer management programs in Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.

 

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Stephanie Smith's avatar
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.



Sep
29
2016

Photo of the Week: Competition celebrates skills of canine companions

Apollo, an English Labrador owned by Michael Stellabotte of Annapolis, Maryland, makes a jump of 19 feet during the Dock Dogs competition at the annual Waterfowl Festival in Easton, Maryland.

Domesticated dogs—particularly retriever breeds—have a long history in the Chesapeake Bay region. The Chesapeake Bay Retriever, often called a “Chessie,” can trace its history in the area back to 1807, when two Newfoundland puppies named Sailor and Canton were rescued from a sinking ship off the coast of Maryland. Each dog was given to a separate owner, where they were bred with area dogs for their sturdy build, endurance and agility.

Bred to be working dogs, Chessies are particularly helpful to waterfowl hunters, as they will happily brave ice-cold waters to retrieve ducks, geese and other birds. As part of the Atlantic Flyway, the Chesapeake Bay region sees millions of migratory birds pass through during their seasonal flights, making the region a haven for hunters. Events like the Waterfowl Festival and Dock Dogs competitions celebrate the skills and intelligence of the four-legged friends who travel alongside them.

Learn more about the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, or about types of waterfowl that visit the Bay region.

 

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Stephanie Smith's avatar
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.



Sep
22
2016

Photo of the Week: Follow the North Star along the Harriet Tubman Byway

Polaris, also known as the North Star, appears stationary above the horizon of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. Harriet Tubman, who grew up near the refuge in Dorchester County, Maryland, used Polaris as her guiding light as she and other escaped slaves fled north on the Underground Railroad, a path forged by freedom-seeking slaves and abolitionists in the 19th century.

On their journeys, Tubman and others fleeing to Canada could rely on several natural signs to point them northward: moss grows on the north side of trees, migrating birds fly north in the summer and Polaris always points north. Over the course of a decade, Tubman risked her life on more than a dozen trips back to Maryland to transport her parents, brothers, family members and friends to freedom.

As the birthplace of Tubman, the Eastern Shore of Maryland holds a rich history in its expansive farm fields, settlements and wetlands that nestle into the crooks and creeks of the Chesapeake Bay. Along the 125-mile Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, which winds through Caroline and Dorchester Counties, visitors can stop at more than 30 sites that tell the story of Tubman’s pathway to freedom, where she lived, worked and fought to free herself and countless others.

See some of the sights along the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway.

 

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Stephanie Smith's avatar
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.



Sep
15
2016

Photo of the Week: Keeping oysters safe and appetizing year-round

Richard Burlingame hoses down cages of oysters pulled from the Rappahannock River at Rappahannock Oyster Company in Topping, Virginia. Like many others in Virginia, the company has turned to aquaculture—oyster farming—in recent years to yield a more sustainable harvest.

An oft-repeated piece of advice about oysters is to only eat them in months containing the letter “R”: September, October, November and so on. But this adage became popular before commercial harvesting and oyster aquaculture were widespread. Warm weather brings along a variety of conditions that can make oysters less-than-appetizing: the bivalve’s natural lifecycle leads to a soft, flimsy oyster in the summer months; bacteria and harmful algae are more likely to be present and absorbed by the oysters; and it simply isn’t safe to eat shellfish that have been sitting out in hot weather, which was a concern in the days before refrigeration.

These days, oyster farming, water-quality monitoring and strict food safety practices have made it safe to eat raw oysters year-round. Many vendors use sterile breeds or import shellfish from cooler climates to avoid the thin, milky meat of spawning oysters. Monitoring bacteria and pollution at every step of the farming and harvesting process ensures that only oysters from clean waters make it onto your plate. And strict food safety regulations mean the shellfish are refrigerated from the moment they leave the water to when they’re sold to consumers.

Still, aficionados know the flavor of oysters can vary based on when and where they’re harvested. But you can rest easy knowing they’re safe to eat no matter the month.

Learn more about the eastern oyster, or learn about the role oysters play in the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem.

 

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Stephanie Smith's avatar
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.



Sep
08
2016

Photo of the Week: Clearing the air to help clean local waters

A wind turbine generates energy above agricultural crops in Madison County, New York. Wind energy is just one of the many ways federal, state and local partners are working to reduce air pollution across the Chesapeake Bay region.

Polluted air doesn’t just cloud the air we breathe—it can also have quite an impact on water quality. Experts estimate that one-third of the nitrogen in the Bay comes from the air through a process known as atmospheric deposition. Wind and weather can carry the pollution emitted by power plants, airplanes, cars and other sources over long distances until it falls onto land or directly into the water.

While the area of land that drains into the Bay spans six states and 64,000 square miles, the Bay’s “airshed”—the area of land over which airborne pollutants travel to enter the estuary—is nine times that size. This makes far-reaching efforts like the Clean Air Act essential in reducing the amount of pollution that reaches the Bay. Alternative sources of energy like hydropower dams, manure and poultry litter, wind turbines and solar panels can also help lessen the amount of energy-related pollution emitted into the air.

Learn more about air pollution in the Chesapeake Bay region, or learn how efforts like the Clean Air Act are improving water quality.

 

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Stephanie Smith's avatar
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.



Sep
01
2016

Photo of the Week: Monarchs prepare for a remarkable journey

A monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) alights on a flower to forage for nectar. The insect’s distinctive orange and black wings signal to predators that the species is poisonous. Milkweed, the preferred food source for monarch caterpillars and adults, produces toxic chemicals that accumulate in the insect’s body.

The bright, delicate flutter of a monarch is a common sight throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed—but in the fall, when the butterflies begin their migration south, the view becomes spectacular. From early September through late October, millions of monarchs in central and eastern North America make their way to the Gulf States and Mexico (while monarchs in the west migrate to southern California).

To avoid crossing large bodies of water as they migrate, monarchs are naturally drawn to peninsulas. This makes the Delmarva Peninsula a major player in the insect’s migration—but peninsulas on both the eastern and western shores of the Bay are opportune spots to sight the migrating butterflies.

Learn more about the monarch butterfly, or check this migration map to see where monarchs have been spotted near you.

 

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Stephanie Smith's avatar
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.



Aug
25
2016

Photo of the Week: Regatta races down the Susquehanna River

Spectators look on as hundreds of amateur and professional paddlers participate in the 2015 General Clinton Canoe Regatta. The 70-mile canoe race—the longest single-day canoe race in North America—is held each year on Memorial Day weekend. Teams begin in Otsego Lake in Cooperstown, New York, with the first finishers reaching Bainbridge, New York, in about eight hours.

First held in 1963, the General Clinton Canoe Regatta started as a way for the Chamber of Commerce in Bainbridge, New York, to promote community and tourism. The event is named after Revolutionary War figure Brigadier General James Clinton. As part of a campaign, General Clinton had his men dam the Susquehanna River—allowing waters in Otsego Lake, the river’s source, to rise. They then destroyed the dam, flooded the river and rode in canoes on the high waters to surprise their adversaries downstream.

Originally just a single, one-day canoe race, the regatta has grown to a four-day spectacle full of live music, a 5K run, carnival rides and fireworks. But the canoe races are still the main event, with close to 1,000 participants in the 2016 regatta.

See more photos of the General Clinton Canoe Regatta, or learn more about the event.

 

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Stephanie Smith's avatar
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.



Aug
18
2016

Photo of the Week: Woodpecker feasts on fallen trees

A pileated woodpecker chips away the bark on a fallen tree before probing for insects in Chenango Valley State Park in Broome County, New York.

Growing up to 20 inches in length with a nearly 30 inch wingspan, the pileated woodpecker (Dryocopous pileatus) is one of the largest species of woodpecker. This striking bird with its bright-red crest can be found year-round throughout most of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. But don’t expect to see a pileated woodpecker as a backyard birder: this bird is most likely to be found in mature, old-growth forests full of dead trees and fallen logs (although it can sometimes be found in young forests, as well).

With a characteristic thunk sound, the pileated woodpecker uses its long neck and chisel-like bill to powerfully strike logs, stumps and dead trees, leaving behind a distinctive rectangular-shaped hole. It then uses its spear-like, barbed tongue to feed on ants, termites, beetle larvae and other insects.

Experts believe populations of pileated woodpeckers may have declined in previous centuries, due to the clearing of forests in the eastern United States. But since the mid-20th century, populations have steadily increased as the forests rebounded.

Learn more about the pileated woodpecker, or discover some of the many other species found in the watershed.

 

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Stephanie Smith's avatar
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.



Aug
11
2016

Photo of the Week: Public access along the Rappahannock River

Joe Wright of Stafford, Virginia, fishes off the end of the Port Royal Landing in Caroline County, Virginia. Port Royal’s new 200-foot pier—just opened in 2015—features a soft launch for paddlers and was funded by grants from the National Park Service, Friends of the Rappahannock, the Chesapeake Conservancy and other organizations.

Nestled along the Rappahannock River, the small historic town of Port Royal borders the Port Royal Unit of the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge, where a 1.4-mile wildlife trail and two viewing platforms allow for visitors to hike and observe the river and surrounding land. The refuge—one of the first of its kind—is actually a collection of 17 unconnected tracts of land. From the northernmost Port Royal Unit to the Laurel Grove tract nearly 40 miles downstream, the refuge makes up 8,720 acres of protected land. The goal is to one day protect 20,000 acres along the river and its tributaries.

In the future, Friends of the Rappahannock and the Town of Port Royal will be working with the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge to establish a water trail that will provide access to the Styer Bishop, Port Royal and Toby’s Point areas of the refuge.

Plan a visit to the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge, or use the Find Your Chesapeake site to find more places you can explore the watershed.

 

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Stephanie Smith's avatar
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.



Aug
05
2016

Photo of the Week: Growing healthy food for a healthy waterway

Miguel Sacedo harvests squash on Cottingham Farm in Easton, Maryland, at sunrise. Owned by environmental-lawyer-turned-farmer Cleo Braver, the 156-acre farm has a mission to produce sustainably grown, locally distributed and certified organic food.

Years ago, Braver was unaware of the impact certain agricultural techniques could have on local waterways. But after some research, she learned how the use of excessive pesticides and fertilizers was partially responsible for the poor water quality in Goldsborough Neck Creek, a tributary of the Miles River that runs behind her house. Braver’s interest in producing healthy food while minimizing her impact prompted her to make a change.

Now, Cottingham Farm is home to a variety of restoration efforts, including forest buffers that help trap nutrients and sediment from running into local waterways. The land is also home to an 18-acre wetland—a once-cornfield that was transformed into habitat for shorebirds and waterfowl with the help of Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage, Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the USDA Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). 

Learn more about Cottingham Farm, or learn about the effects of agriculture on the Chesapeake Bay.

 

Image by Keith Rutowski

Stephanie Smith's avatar
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.



Jul
28
2016

Photo of the Week: Invasive mussels pose growing threat

Dr. Bill Harman, Director of the State University of New York (SUNY) at Oneonta Biological Field Station in Cooperstown, New York, holds a flip-flop recovered from Otsego Lake and covered with invasive zebra mussels.

Zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) are freshwater bivalves found in lakes, rivers, streams and reservoirs. Native to Europe, zebra mussels were found in the Great Lakes region in 1988 and later discovered in the upper Susquehanna River in 2002. Since then, the invasive mussel has spread further into the Chesapeake region’s rivers and streams. In 2011, the mussel was spotted for the first time in the Eastern Shore’s Sassafras River. And in 2015, two watermen found zebra mussels colonizing on their fishing gear in the Susquehanna Flats.

Efficient filter-feeders, zebra mussels can remove a lot of plankton—an important food source for other critters—from the water. They also attach themselves to native mussels and to manmade structures, clogging intake pipes and encrusting boat hulls and buoys. Scraping, power-washing and chemical treatments can be used to control zebra mussels, but once a population has been established, it can be almost impossible to eradicate.

To prevent the spread of zebra mussels and other invasive species, make sure boat hulls, trailers and other equipment are thoroughly cleaned before moving them to a new body of water.

Image by Will Parson

Stephanie Smith's avatar
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.



Jul
21
2016

Photo of the Week: Protecting the plumage of the great egret

A great egret (Ardea alba) lands in Kenilworth Marsh in Washington, D.C. Growing to more than three feet tall with a 55-inch wingspan, great egrets are the largest of the three egret species that call the Chesapeake Bay region home.

In the United States, great egret populations are not currently listed as endangered. But in the 19th century, the birds were hunted nearly to extinction for their plumage. In breeding season, long, delicate plumes—called aigrettes—grow from the egret’s back, and these feathers were in high-demand in the fashion world. Experts estimate that at the height of the feather trade, millions of egrets, herons and other birds were killed for their feathers.

In the late 1890s, cousins Harriet Hemenway and Minna Hall began a boycott of the feather trade. The pair formed the Massachusetts Audubon Society, which would eventually grow to become the National Audubon Society—the symbol of which is the great egret. Decades later, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 protected migratory birds like the great egret from human activities like hunting and capturing.

Learn more about the great egret, or read how Hemenway and Hall’s work helped protect these and other remarkable birds.

 

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Stephanie Smith's avatar
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.



Jul
14
2016

Photo of the Week: Using birds of prey to mentor at-risk youth

Rodney Stotts, left, of Wings Over America, lets high schooler DeShawn Wheeler touch a rehabilitated red-tailed hawk at the Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center in Baltimore, Maryland, while classmate Ramond Thomas looks on. More than two decades ago, Stotts left behind a past life of drugs and violence to begin working with birds of prey.

In 1992, Stotts worked as one of the founding staff members of the Earth Conservation Corps (ECC), a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., that pairs unemployed community youth with conservation work along the Anacostia River and beyond. From ECC arose Wings Over America, a group that provides at-risk young adults with opportunities to rehabilitate injured raptors, such as hawks, falcons and eagles. The group is currently working to establish a bird sanctuary at their headquarters in Laurel, Maryland—close by to New Beginnings Youth Development Center, a rehabilitation facility for young men.

Learn more about Rodney Stotts and the work of Wings Over America.

 

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Stephanie Smith's avatar
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.



Jul
07
2016

Photo of the Week: Pelicans roost along the Bay’s islands

A colony of brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis) roosts on an uninhabited portion of Smith Island. A non-native species in the Chesapeake region, the brown pelican’s range has been expanding north into the Bay in recent decades. Once found only in the lower Bay, the birds can now be found breeding on islands in the mid-Bay in summer.

In the mid-20th century, widespread use of the pesticide DDT caused populations of many birds, including brown pelicans, to decline significantly. In 1970, the brown pelican was listed as an endangered species, but had recovered enough to be de-listed along its Atlantic Coast range in 1985 and throughout the rest of its range in 2009.

In 1987, only five known pairs of pelicans were nesting in the Chesapeake Bay region—by 2008, more than 1,000 pairs were nesting on Holland Island alone. Many experts credit the influx of pelican visitors to climate change: warmer weather and milder winters may be prompting the birds to expand the northernmost reaches of their range to include the Chesapeake Bay.

Learn more about the brown pelican, or learn about other ways climate change is expected to affect the Chesapeake region.

 

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Stephanie Smith's avatar
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.



Jul
01
2016

Photo of the Week: Paddling the Anacostia River

Nahshon Forde, an operations assistant with the Anacostia Watershed Society, steers his kayak to shore after helping with a free paddle night organized by the AWS in Washington, D.C. "By doing paddle nights and things like that we’re helping people develop a relationship with the river, and that’s kind of a conveyor belt to a lot of our other ways to be involved with AWS," said Lee Cain, former Director of Recreation at AWS.

Historically overrun with pollution, the Anacostia is still plagued by litter, toxics and stormwater runoff. But the river is also home to a wealth of wildlife: deer silently approaching the water’s edge, egrets congregating in the shallows and bald eagles defending their nests.

In June 2014, the Anacostia Water Trail officially opened. This nine-mile water trail runs from Bladensburg, Maryland, through Washington, D.C., to where the Anacostia meets the Potomac River, passing by natural areas and recreation sites like Kenilworth Park, the National Arboretum, Kingman Island and Yards Park.

Learn more about the Anacostia Watershed Society, or plan a trip along the Anacostia Water Trail.

 

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Stephanie Smith's avatar
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.



Jun
24
2016

Photo of the Week: A Pennsylvania farm helps protect the Bay

Lightning strikes, signaling a coming storm at Schrack Dairy Farm in Loganton, Pennsylvania. Owner Jim Harbach practices no-till farming—a method that leaves the soil undisturbed from the fall harvest to spring planting—along with other sustainable efforts to improve soil quality on the farm that has been in his wife's family for 12 generations, since 1773. Close to one-quarter of the land in the Chesapeake region is used for agricultural production, providing us with food and fiber, natural spaces and a multitude of economic and environmental benefits.

But agriculture is also the largest source of nutrient and sediment pollution entering the Bay’s waters. Over-irrigating farmland, over-tilling soil and over-applying fertilizers and pesticides can push pollution into local waterways. Agricultural “best management practices,” or BMPs, are tools that farmers can use to reduce the runoff of pollution. Techniques like cover crops help prevent soil erosion, while streamside forest buffers can slow polluted runoff, stabilize stream banks and provide habitat for wildlife.

Learn more about how agriculture can affect the Chesapeake Bay and the tools farmers are using to help.

 

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Stephanie Smith's avatar
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.



Jun
17
2016

Photo of the Week: The powerful pinch of a blue crab

Tuana Phillips, a staffer with the Chesapeake Research Consortium, holds an adult blue crab during a trip to Smith Island, Maryland. With its bright blue claws, the colorful crustacean is one of the most recognizable species in the Chesapeake Bay. A blue crab’s strong claws allow it to crack open or pry apart the shells of clams, snails, mussels and more in its search for a meal.

But blue crabs don’t just use their claws to find food: they can also use the powerful pincers to defend themselves. Their sharp and strong grip can be quite painful, as anyone who has ever been pinched by one can confirm. And if threatened, a crab may break off claw or leg to try to escape predators; the limb will later regrow through a process called regeneration.

Crab claws have made headlines in recent months with viral images and videos showing the crustaceans wielding everything from cigarettes to knives. And though these posts may seem silly, as Jack Cover of Baltimore’s National Aquarium told The Washington Post, the crabs in these images are “absolutely distressed”: either unable to let go of what they’re holding or instinctively clamping their claws in self-defense. If you see a blue crab, it’s best to avoid putting anything—especially your fingers—between its claws.

Learn more about Callinectes sapidus, the blue crab.

 

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Stephanie Smith's avatar
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.



Jun
10
2016

Photo of the Week: An early bird catches a quick bite

An American robin pulls a worm from the grass at Jeff Robertson Park in Norfolk, Virginia. Although often considered harbingers of spring, most robins actually stay in their breeding range year-long. But because they spend the winter roosting in trees instead of hopping across the lawn, you’re less likely to see them. Robins hunt for one of their favorite foods, earthworms, by cocking their head to the side so they can see—contrary to popular belief, they don’t actually hear the worms. These birds can often be seen after a rainstorm, feasting on the worms that rise to the surface.

Due to their susceptibility to pesticide poisoning, robins can be an indicator of pollution in the environment. Chemicals like DDT, which was banned in the U.S. in 1972, can persist in the soil for decades, where earthworms can absorb them and pass them to feeding robins. In one Michigan town, sick and dying robins were one of many indicators that DDT was still contaminating the environment. By studying the health of robins and other wildlife, experts can continue to monitor how ecosystems recover from DDT and other harmful chemicals.

Learn about how chemical contaminants affect the health of the Bay and its rivers and streams.

 

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Stephanie Smith's avatar
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.



Jun
03
2016

Photo of the Week: Use caution at turtle crossings

Two eastern box turtles cross Croom Airport Road in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. From spring through fall, you can often see turtles like these crossing the road to find a mate, build a nest or track down food or water. But each year, many of these slow-moving reptiles are injured or killed after being struck by vehicles. With their rudimentary ears, turtles have a hard time hearing oncoming cars and can’t move quickly enough to get out of the way. In fact, although both male and female turtles can be found crossing roadways, research has shown that many aquatic turtle populations in the United States have unusually high proportions of males, in part because so many females are hit by vehicles while trying to find good nesting territory.

What can you do to help? If you happen upon a turtle as it makes its way across the road, follow these guidelines to safely help it on its journey:

  • First, make sure to keep yourself, others and the turtle safe by being aware of other drivers and your surroundings.
  • Second, limit your contact with the critter. If there’s no oncoming traffic, observe the turtle at a safe distance while allowing it to continue across the road on its own. If you must pick a turtle up, be gentle and avoid handling it too much. Using both hands, lightly grasp the shell near its middle, and keep the critter close to the ground in case it falls. And remember, never pick a turtle up by its tail.
  • Finally, always keep the turtle moving in the same direction it was already heading—don’t turn it around. Move it quickly across the roadway in as direct a line as possible. If you shift the turtle in a different direction, it will simply attempt to cross the road again once you’ve left. After you’ve helped the critter on its journey, you can watch from a safe distance to make sure it continues on its way and doesn’t climb back into the road.

Visit the Mid-Atlantic Turtle & Tortoise Society site for tips on handling turtles and helping them across roads.

 

Image by Will Parson

Stephanie Smith's avatar
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.



May
26
2016

Photo of the Week: Tiny residents of a recovering waterway

Marsh periwinkles cling to saltmarsh cordgrass at Money Point in Chesapeake, Virginia. The periwinkle is a small snail that lives in tidal marshes and wetlands near the mid- and lower Chesapeake Bay. Periwinkles rise and fall with each tide, feeding on algae growing on the blades of grass. The small snails are also known to practice “fungiculture” by chewing holes in the cordgrass and spreading waste across the cuts, allowing them to “farm” fungus.

Previously a 35-acre “dead zone,” Money Point is located along the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River. It was once so polluted that the river bottom was nearly lifeless. Recent restoration projects led by the Elizabeth River Project and others have significantly improved the health of the waterway.

Learn more about the recovery of the Elizabeth River.

 

Image by Will Parson

Stephanie Smith's avatar
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.



May
20
2016

Photo of the Week: Protecting a wetland from invasive species

Zach Bruce, center, and fellow Maryland Conservation Corps members, from left, Taylor Lundstrom, Kevin McNamara and Rachel Werderits, remove invasive trees of heaven and garlic mustard plants at the site of a wetland restoration on Church Creek in Annapolis, Maryland.

Many wetlands in the Chesapeake Bay region have been severely altered by the presence of plants and animals that have been introduced there, whether accidentally or on purpose. Invasive species like the tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima) and garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) can cause harm when they establish themselves at the expense of native plants, encroaching on their habitat.

Once an invasive species is established, it can be incredibly difficult to eradicate; controlling invasive species takes resources, cooperation and commitment, which is why it’s crucial to prevent them from being introduced in the first place. Native trees, shrubs and flowers play a vital role in a healthy ecosystem, in part by serving as food and habitat for native critters and insects.

Learn about how you can choose native plants for your own backyard to provide food and habitat to native insects & critters.

 

Image by Will Parson

Stephanie Smith's avatar
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.



May
13
2016

Photo of the Week: Warm rains spring salamanders into action

A spotted salamander rests near the edge of a vernal pool in Edgewater, Maryland. Named for their bright yellow spots, these amphibians thrive in the swamps and bottomland forests of the Chesapeake Bay region.

The first warm spring rains prompt the annual migrations of these salamanders, along with wood frogs and other vernal pool breeders—species that depend on these small, seasonal bodies of water to reproduce. Vernal pools are short-lived forest ponds, fed by snow, rain or groundwater. They only stay wet for about seven months, just long enough for a cascade of frogs and salamanders to use them as a home for their developing young.

Areas that house vernal pools are often vulnerable to development, endangering the breeding grounds of critters like the spotted salamander, which will return to the same pool year after year to reproduce. But conserved lands like the Forests Pools Preserve near Carlisle, Pennsylvania, provide an oasis for these ephemeral ponds—and the species that depend on them.

 

Photo by Will Parson

Stephanie Smith's avatar
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.



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