Bay Journal

Michael Burke

Red-eyed vireo fills the forest, hearts of its listeners with song

Lake Artemesia is an incredibly popular natural oasis just east of the University of Maryland’s College Park campus. On summer weekends, bikers, joggers and families with children in strollers fill the 1.5-mile path that circles the lake. People fishing and bird watching or just out for a walk join the fun, all enjoying a respite from work, school and Washington, DC, traffic.

The...

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...

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.

...

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...

Eagle provides a ‘golden’ moment to crown a day of birding

We had just finished a wonderful three hours enjoying the avian bounty of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, just south of Cambridge, MD. Our animated discussion about winter waterfowl was slammed to a halt as a huge raptor flew right in front of us and disappeared into the trees bordering Key Wallace Drive.

The bird was only in view for a few seconds, but the identification...

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

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...

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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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