Bay Journal

Michael Burke

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...

Merlin’s efficiency at dispatching prey mesmerizing to watch

Earlier, we had seen a northern harrier, gliding low over the tawny marsh grasses, cruising for prey. This bird was different. It was fast, with strong, rowing wing beats as it raced along just above the mud flats. It was another raptor, for sure, but with tapered wings and a long, compressed tail; this was a falcon, not an accipiter like the harrier.

American bittern reminds us of wonders that hide in plain sight

“I still don’t see it.”

We had been birding for about an hour at Maryland’s Patuxent Research Refuge when Pat spotted the heronlike bird hidden in the tall reeds. She directed me to it, but the bird’s camouflage coloring had me stumped.

“It’s just to the left of halfway between those two dead trees,” she explained.

...

A little bit of effort goes a long way for prairie warbler

Old Bradley Road in Wicomico County, MD, is like hundreds of other rural roads in the Chesapeake watershed. It’s just a few miles long, runs between farms and forest and is dotted with an occasional house. You can walk along the road with little concern about the sparse traffic.

And like its many rural counterparts, Old Bradley Road’s isolation and varied habitat make it a...

Squeezing out wetlands leaves green heron, wildlife thirsty for habitat

Creamy yellow blossoms sat atop the water lilies. Lotus flowers of wedding white with a central blush of pink filled the ornamental ponds. Pickerel weed and its purple plumes fought for space along the edges. And green was everywhere, in every shade, from the palest yellow-green of the aquatic plants to the Kelly green, grassy paths to the olives and jades of the trees and bushes...

Grackles’ aggressive behavior not helping its survival – a lesson?

Keeping the backyard bird feeders full is a relatively easy but endless task. Today’s ravenous flock of big black birds was making sure that the task was repeated frequently. They were gobbling down all manner of seeds, both from the feeder perches and the ground. They were keeping the usual assortment of songbirds away, making their gluttonous behavior all the more challenging....

Golden crowned kinglets: glints that catch our soul by surprise

The sky was that blue unique to winter: endlessly deep and crystalline clear, like staring into a sapphire. We were standing on a small boardwalk that juts into open water along the Marsh Edge Trail. Overhead, a bald eagle cast an indifferent gaze in our direction.

Winter is the ideal time to visit the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge near Cambridge, MD. Thousands of...

Gadwalls, ducks show that birds of many feathers can flock together

Opalescent skies brightened under the rising sun. A soft wind ruffled the waves lapping the cove, which was alive with countless waterfowl. The birds were waking, filling the morning sky with a cacophony of honks and quacks, along with softer whistles and burbles.

There were almost too many to count. The winter waterfowl had arrived in huge flocks at Eastern Neck Wildlife...

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About Michael Burke

Michael Burke's avatar Rachel Felver is Chesapeake Bay Program communications director for the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay.

 

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