Bay Journal

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Bragging flights!

The facts listed here are no flights of fancy. Each describes a bird found in the watershed at some point of its life. Can you match them up?

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Nothing like a Kentucky warbler to restore a brighter outlook on life

I could hear it, but for the life of me, I couldn’t see it. The bird was right in front of me and singing incessantly. Prr-reet, prr-reet, prr-reet. The sound was loud enough that it must be close, but I kept staring futilely into the underbrush.

We had left Washington, DC, to get away from the endless acrimony. I needed a change of scenery and of perspective. But my frustration in the field was not helping with the emotional reset I had hoped for.

Finally, movement — a quick flash of yellow and I zeroed in on the spot with my binoculars. Mostly obscured by foliage, the bright underside was a solid, vibrant yellow. I inched closer to change my vantage point slightly, and the head came into view. Ah! A Kentucky warbler! And just like that, I felt better.

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Eat like a bird?

When people say that someone eats like a bird, they usually mean that the person eats very little. But, in some ways, the assumptions behind the saying aren’t accurate. The truth is, birds eat a lot when comparing the amount that they consume with their size. Also, one doesn’t see many humans imitating the dining habits described below. Can you match these birds that spend some time in the Chesapeake watershed with their food-related activities? 

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Black-throated blue warbler – we don’t know what we’ve got till it’s gone

The trees were coming into full leaf. The air was clear and warm without the oppressive humidity that could come with summer. And best of all, the woods were alive with birdsong and the spritely movements of wood warblers.

It was Cinco de Mayo, the fifth of May, and that meant it was time to visit Violettes Lock and see how nature celebrates this special day.

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What waterfall?

Did you know that water in a stream or river must fall at least 5 vertical feet to be classified as a true waterfall? Here are some other waterfall definitions. 

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Grasses the cure for Chesapeake’s ills, once we save the SAV

In the shallows of the Chesapeake Bay, underwater Bay grasses sway in the aquatic breeze of the tides and currents. Also known as submerged aquatic vegetation, or SAV, Bay grasses are an indicator of the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers.

Like all green plants, Bay grasses produce oxygen, a precious and often decreasing commodity in the Chesapeake. They also help to protect the shoreline from erosion by reducing wave action.

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Thanks to migratory bird act, laughing gulls making a comeback – no joke

We had traveled to Cambridge, MD, to look for late winter waterfowl on the Choptank River, but instead I found myself looking at one of the true harbingers of spring.

No, it wasn’t a robin — many of which overwinter right here in Maryland. My gaze was fixed on a laughing gull (Leucophaeus atricilla), the raucous seagull that is an integral part of any summer beach scene on the East Coast, and a real springtime migrant.

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Sink your teeth into this quiz!

It is not unusual for the weather in early March to be “biting cold.” So what better month to celebrate teeth? In this first part of the quiz, match the creatures listed here with the four statements just below them, then answer two toothy questions. 

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Feature: Archives

Save the date(s) for 2018!

Celebrate the Chesapeake year-round! Get out your 2018 calendar and save these dates that mark activities and resources to help you get the most out of living near the Bay. January 5: National Bird Day January 21: Squirrel...

Seedy birdie!

Do you want to increase the odds of seeing some of these birds, and others, at your backyard feeder but are puzzled about what to feed them? Instead of trying to solve this problem on your own, we are supplying the answers up front. Here...

Colorful critters

Here is a quiz about colors in the animal world. Will you pass it with flying colors? Answers are below. 1. A common myth is that animals can only see in black and white. Apes, and many fish, insects and birds see colors very well. Which...

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....

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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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