Bay Journal

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Still waters reveal raft of deep-diving white-winged scoters

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We arrived at the refuge at daybreak and had already spent an hour watching huge flocks of waterfowl in the coves at Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge in Kent County, MD. Our attention shifted to the open waters leading away from the Chester River into the main body of the Chesapeake Bay. We weren’t disappointed.

Fifty yards offshore, a small raft of sea ducks was loafing on the still waters. I focused the spotting scope on the center of the group and pulled a large black duck into focus.

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Hurricanes no match for Baltimore’s Harriet the Osprey on her fall trek

This spring, a pair of ospreys returned to a webcam nesting platform in Baltimore’s Masonville Cove.

The ospreys, named Frederick and Harriet by osprey cam followers, are determined birds. In 2016, a pair of Canada geese took over their nest. Although Frederick and Harriet built a nest at another platform and laid eggs, unusually cold wet weather in May caused them to abandon this nest.

This year, the goose scenario repeated itself.

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Canal children

For 75 years, (1850–1924) canal boats carried salt, salted fish, oysters, potatoes, bricks, salt and plaster upstream. Downstream loads included flour, corn, oats, cornmeal, pork and stone. Lumber and wheat were carried both ways. Operating a canal boat was often a family operation. In fact, Thomas F. Hahn, in his book, The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Lock-Houses and Lock-Keepers, wrote that one boat captain noted that on the canal, women and children were as good as the men, and if it weren’t for the children, the canal wouldn’t run one day. Learn more about what it was like to be a child on a canal boat in this quiz.

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We must protect bats as if our lives rely on each other, because they do

With Halloween quickly approaching, images of bats are appearing everywhere. It’s a good time to take a look at one of the most incredible animals on this planet.

No other animal compares to the Earth’s only flying mammal. Like all mammals, bats have hair and their young are born live and feed on milk. But unlike other mammals, the fingers in a bat’s hand are elongated and connected by skin to form a wing.

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How canny are you about the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal?

The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal opened in 1850, but was gradually made obsolete by railroads. The towpath alongside the canal still exists at the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, operated by the National Park Service. Take this quiz to test how much you know about the canal.

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By the time it looks like autumn to us, Bay wildlife is already on the move

With warm days still hanging on, it’s hard to remember that summer is waning. Though it may not be that obvious, September is a month of change. Autumn doesn’t officially start until Sept. 21, but nature is already preparing for it, transforming and migrating.

In the forests, trees and other plants are beginning to alter their physiology. Some trees have already begun to change color, hinting at the inevitable falling of leaves.

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What am I?

It’s a wild world out there and the Chesapeake Bay is no exception. Here is a list of species you might encounter while hiking in the Chesapeake watershed. All you need to do is figure out what kind of species it is.

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Feature: Archives

Bears & Snakes!

Some people won’t hike in an area where they fear they might run into a bear or snake. The chance of encountering one of these creatures is very small, and if you take precautions, the chance of being injured is even smaller. Here are...

Terrific trails to try in Maryland, New York

Last month’s Chesapeake Challenge featured hikes in Pennsylvania and Delaware. This month’s quiz explores hikes in the New York and Maryland portions of the Bay watershed. After matching a trail or location to its description,...

Take a hike! Pennsylvania Paths & Delaware Delights

The Chesapeake watershed is awash in walks, from leg stretchers to day trips to multi-day backpacks. This month’s puzzle features trails in Pennsylvania and Delaware. Match the description with the trail or site/area it passes...

Appalachian Trail quiz

Chances are that if you or your family like to hike, you have already walked on part of the Appalachian Trail. Hikes can last anywhere from half a day to a multi-day backpacking trip. Then there are the thru-hikers: Hardy souls/soles who...

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Bay Buddies

Bears & Snakes!

Some people won’t hike in an area where they fear they might run into a bear or snake. The chance of encountering one of these creatures is very small, and if you take precautions, the chance of being injured is even smaller. Here are safety tips. See if you can figure out which are...

Sea cucumbers

There are more than 1,200 sea cucumbers in the world’s oceans and their bays. The Chesapeake Bay is home to two of these creatures, the common sea cucumber and the pale sea cucumber. Take this quiz to learn more about these amazing creatures. Answers are below. 1. Sea cucumbers are...

Lightning!

Lightning strikes thousands of people every year. Those struck directly by lightning usually die. Take this quiz and use what you learn from it to help avoid becoming one of lightning’s unfortunate victims. Answers are below. 1. Should you touch someone who has been struck by...

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Bay Naturalist

Be a good gardener – replace invasive plants with natives

It’s finally spring and your attention may be turning to sprucing up or creating green spaces around your home, school or business. But be careful when choosing flowers, shrubs and trees to plant. You could unknowingly introduce an invasive plant into the surrounding environment....

Delmarva fox squirrel scampers off endangered species list

The Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel (Sciurus niger cinereus) is found only on the Delmarva Peninsula, the land between the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean that includes Delaware, eastern Maryland and eastern Virginia. This large tree squirrel inhabits the mature forests of this...

Honking signals the traffic of Chesapeake’s migrating waterfowl

Every fall, a great migration begins as thousands of swans, geese and ducks leave northern breeding grounds and begin flying south. The Chesapeake watershed lures these birds from Alaska, Canada, the Northcentral United States and New England as they seek out the open water of the Bay,...

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Chesapeake Challenge

Is it a lake? That de-ponds…

Is it a large pond or a small lake? Believe it or not, there is no “official” definition of a pond. While many use size as criteria — large = lake, small=pond — remember that the Atlantic Ocean is sometimes referred to as “The Pond” by people who live on...

Washington, DC, is a capital place to see wildlife in the winter

Washington, DC, is teeming with wildlife in the winter, and we aren’t talking donkeys and elephants. In fact, winter is a great time for wildlife watching: little or no vegetation to block the view, fewer tourists to get in the way and no mosquitoes! Here are five birds that can be...

Three new reports talk trash

Three important news items related to trash hit the wires last week. Now trash may not be the most exciting subject — nor is it likely to attract a lot of attention around a long holiday weekend. But solid waste that becomes trash in our waterways through mishandling or outright...

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On the Wing

Admiration for oddball American coot is an a acquired taste

A crisp morning breeze turned the waters of Tubby Cove into a corrugated surface of sparkling silver. We had arrived early and found hundreds of geese, ducks and swans loafing in the morning sun. Tundra swans looked regal with their brilliant white bodies and elegant long necks. Just in...

Common goldeneye has heart of gold when young are concerned

The calendar said that Thanksgiving was just a week away, but the weather told a different story. The temperature was near 70 degrees and the bright sun made it feel warmer still. New York’s Glimmerglass State Park is aptly named. The placid waters of Lake Otsego reflected a few...

Quest for food, refuge drives broad-winged hawk migration

The day was autumn-perfect with a few high clouds, a brilliant azure sky, and a zephyr coming off the nearby Chesapeake Bay. We had just departed the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on a lovely late September afternoon. Soybean and cornfields were newly harvested. Pumpkins and apple...

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Past is Prologue

Young surveyors learn to measure up on 1907–08 Patuxent cruise

St. Leonard's Creek on the Patuxent, the Chesapeake's sixth largest river, was formed by the slow inundation of a forested valley as sea levels rose and land subsided during and after the melt of great continental glaciers. The process, which commenced 12,000–14,000 years ago...

From plow furrows to peach trees, early Patuxent River survey had it all

Please excuse this writer as he blurs history slightly in describing early survey work on the Chesapeake Bay. It is his intention to breathe life into events that likely happened 165 years ago this summer. R.D. Cutts stepped lightly ashore from the longboat carrying his transit and...

Bricks reveal foundations of early Bay buildings from ground up

After decades of studying the early colonization of the Chesapeake region, I still stand in awe of those men who stepped off their ships with axes, shovels and a few saws to face an immense forest from which they had to fashion structures that allowed some of them to survive the hard...

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