Infrastructure Innovation

The following first appeared in CBF's 2016 State of the Bay Report.

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The urban and suburban polluted runoff challenge is great, but many solutions reduce pollution and create good jobs. Art by Charles Hazard.

Don't Dump: Chesapeake Bay Drainage! When these words started showing up painted on storm drains in the early 1990s, it was easy to visualize the effects of oil and trash rushing directly down drain pipes to Bay tributaries. For many, those messages were the beginning of awareness that urban and suburban polluted runoff (stormwater) could hurt our beloved waterways. Much less obvious, though, is toxic dust and fluids from automobile brake pads, tailpipes, and engines; forgotten pet poop; or excess lawn fertilizer. These things can make us sick and destroy animal habitat. Rain flowing downhill across impervious (non-porous) surfaces like rooftops, parking lots, and roadways gathers speed carrying material to drain pipes that lead directly to our rivers, streams, and ultimately the Bay.

Contrast that scenario with the way rainwater fell on the Chesapeake's 64,000-square-mile watershed 400 years ago, when this land was 95 percent old-growth forest. Trees broke the fall of that rain. Water soaked into the soil below, which slowly filtered it as it moved underground to streams, creeks, rivers, and the Bay. We sometimes refer to that process as the Great Green Filter. We have developed much of our land in the intervening centuries, changing the Great Green Filter to the Gray Funnel in many cases. Today, runoff pollution from impervious surfaces continues to increase, while thanks to major efforts by municipalities and farmers, pollution from wastewater plants and agriculture is decreasing.

Restoring the Chesapeake's entire Great Green Filter is obviously not an option, but engineers, landscape architects, contractors, municipal officials, and private landowners are devoting genuinely creative thinking to rebuilding infrastructure that allows rainwater to filter through natural systems, while local and regional governments work out ways to finance the work. DC Water is an example of applying innovative solutions and financing to help address polluted runoff in Washington, D.C. While the challenge is great, many of these solutions create jobs. It's imperative that we find and implement these types of solutions if we want a healthy Chesapeake.


Slowing the Flow: Miles of Streams Renewed in Fairfax County

How Virginia is Stopping Polluted Runoff with the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund

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A restored stream in Banks Neighborhood Park.

Given that more than 1 million people call Fairfax County home, there are plenty of homes, roads, and parking lots in this suburban Northern Virginia county. Rain washes pollution off all of these hard surfaces during storms, creating polluted runoff that fills streams that flow to the Potomac River.

Fortunately, Fairfax County has been a leader in Virginia when it comes to tackling the polluted runoff problem, thanks in part to 13 different grants it has received under the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund (SLAF). Altogether, these projects are restoring more than three miles of stream channel and converting three dry stormwater ponds into wetlands.

The grants have allowed Fairfax County to tackle many stream restorations that would have otherwise been put on hold, according to Emma Gutzler of the County's Stormwater Planning Division. With 12 of the projects now complete, the County is seeing results. Recent efforts at Wakefield Park and the Banks Neighborhood Park are just two examples of successful SLAF-funded projects in Fairfax County.

Raising a Stream at Wakefield Park

Right alongside the ever-present traffic on the Capital Beltway, Accotink Creek flows through a concrete culvert under the highway and enters Wakefield Park, a beloved popular spot for locals. But until recently, the stream was in bad shape. The force of the heavy runoff from all of the development upstream wreaked havoc, scouring a deep stream channel through the park. This led to steep, eroding, streambanks with undercut trees in danger of falling over.

But SLAF-funded restoration efforts resulted in radical improvements. The deep channels were filled with soil, raising the streambed and reconnecting it with the original forested floodplain. Right in front of the culvert, a series of rocky pools now slow down the water where it is needed most to prevent erosion. "Because of this culvert that we have, the water is going to be flying," said Jason Beeler of contractor Wetland Studies and Solutions. "When it hits the pools, it has a chance to spin around in circles. The roughness of the bottom of the pool and the sides will be able to dissipate its energy."

The raised streambanks were replanted with native plants and trees. Now these areas are developing into wetlands and vernal pools, which not only help filter out pollutants, but also provide homes and breeding areas for wildlife like native frogs.

People who recreate in Wakefield Park are also seeing the benefits. Officials planning the restoration sought feedback from local hikers, joggers, and mountain bikers who use the park. As part of the project, they installed a new bridge across the stream for hikers and runners. For mountain bikers, in two different places a series of large flat boulders cross the stream. 

"The completion of the Stream Restoration Projects provided both an aesthetically pleasing and natural environment as well as functional stream crossings for all trail users to enjoy," said Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts President Ernie Rodriguez, who heads the mountain biking club that gave input on the project. "The trails within Wakefield Park provide great opportunities for our communities to enjoy outdoor recreation and to become involved with environmental responsibility."

All in all, about 2,700 linear feet of stream channel was restored within Wakefield Park along two tributary streams. The project began construction in October 2015 and was largely completed in August 2016.

Returning to Nature on the Banks Neighborhood Park

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Before the project began.

Just a few years ago, it would have been easy to overlook the stream flowing through the small park in southern Fairfax County known as the Banks Neighborhood Park. That's because about 600 feet of the waterway was trapped in deteriorating pipes underground and channels lined with rip rap and concrete. Further downstream within the project's reach, heavily eroded streambanks transported excess sediment downstream and exposed a water line. It wasn't the prettiest sight.

But since late 2014, the stream has been returned to a more natural state. The pipe and concrete have been removed along 600 feet of stream, and 500 feet of heavily eroded stream channel has been restored. The project began construction in February 2014 and was completed in November 2014

Banks After 2-1200
After the project was completed.

Lush grasses and vibrant Black-eyed Susan flowers now brighten up the streamside. Altogether, about 450 native trees and over 1,700 shrubs were planted alongside the waterway. These plants help slow down runoff and filter out pollution. What's more, locals are observing songbird species that they hadn't ever seen before in the park.

The Wakefield Park and Banks Neighborhood Park projects have made a big difference to the health of local waterways. They are just two of the 13 SLAF projects Fairfax County has implemented in recent years, making it a model for what can be done with state support for efforts by localities to reduce polluted runoff.

The Numbers

 
Number of Projects:
13
Total Linear Feet of Stream Channel Restored: 16,790
Pounds of Phosphorus Pollution Reduced per Year:   1,133
Total Amount of SLAF Grants: $8,620,359


Stay tuned for more stories of how innovative projects like these can help Virginia stop harmful polluted runoff from entering our rivers, streams, and Bay!
 

—Kenny Fletcher, CBF's Virginia Communications Coordinator

Click here to read our full "Slowing the Flow" polluted runoff series.

Above photos courtesy of Fairfax County Government.


Streams and Students in Pennsylvania

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SWEEP students enjoy the opportunity to paddle a canoe and investigate the health of local waterways through a variety of hands-on activities like up-close studies of the bugs and other species living in the water.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation educators Tom Parke and Emily Thorpe took advantage of an unseasonably warm winter day in Pennsylvania, to wash life vests, check canoes for needed repairs, and reflect on the Susquehanna Watershed Environmental Education Program's (SWEEP) 26th year of connecting students with their local waterways.

SWEEP guides students in grades 6 to 12, college level groups, and teachers through a series of water quality experiences designed to reinforce in-class lessons and emphasize the importance of clean water.

Parke, Thorpe, and their fleet of ten canoes floated over 1,700 students across waters in Pennsylvania's portion of the Bay watershed during the spring and fall seasons in 2016. During the summer months, they hosted about 75 teachers at workshops and courses.

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SWEEP students enjoy the water and do their part to collect macro-invertebrates.

Since it began, SWEEP has conducted over 2,000 programs and involved about 45,000 participants in its spring and fall Environmental Education Days.

Thorpe says SWEEP's core purpose is to, "connect kids and people in general with their local rivers and streams, emphasize the importance that it has in their daily lives. It's this sometimes invisible system that we all rely on. The importance of watersheds is one of the big things they learn," she adds. "Everyone has an impact on that watershed and is affected by its health."

"We get out to a wide geography. Our goal is to connect people to their local rivers and streams and the mission of the organization to 'Save the Bay,'" Parke says. He has been with CBF for eight years. "That isn't going to happen unless you work throughout the entire watershed. You can't have a clean Bay without clean local streams."

Students enjoy the opportunity to paddle a canoe and investigate the health of local waterways through a variety of hands-on activities like up-close studies of the bugs and other species living in the water. They study the physical characteristics of the waterway, the shoreline, and adjoining lands. They use water chemistry tests to determine quality and use maps to orient themselves with their specific watershed.

Because of changing conditions, flexibility is important, even with a set curriculum. Low water levels across the Commonwealth contributed to the SWEEP lesson plans in 2016.

"The drought really made for a different canoe experience, sometimes not in good ways with having to get out and drag boats over rocks and things," Thorpe says. She will be with CBF for two-and-a-half years in the spring. "Sometimes it was cool and interesting that the river stayed really clear. Kids could see into the grass beds and see fish swimming all around in the river."

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SWEEP students take water measurements.

The outdoor learning environment brings out a different side of the students. "Students who are more problematic in the classroom, that may have difficulties keeping it all together in the classroom, are on task the entire time when they are outside, and teachers are always surprised by that," Thorpe says. "The students want to be outside or be more physically engaged doing something. All of the problems that may arise for the student in the classroom disappear once they are outside and engaged."

"You get city students completely out of their comfort zone," Parke says of their time on the water. "We go to western PA, northern Cambria County, these kids come out in camo and muck boots, every student in the group. Compared to your average Joe, these are outdoors students." 

Students learn and form their opinions from the discoveries they make. "Some kids have never held a fish or didn't know there were bugs that live in the water," Thorpe says. "So when they see that quantity of life, they might think that the water quality is really good. Maybe all we're catching are shiners or water striders, and Tom and I are thinking 'not such a good day on the creek.' But to that kid maybe it is showing them there is life out there that they didn't know about previously."

Critters are important to the curriculum. "It's like asking the locals," Parke says. "The life in the water lives there 24/7, so you use the life to gain a long-term perspective of what's happening in the water."

"It's a little easier to connect with critters than it is to data," Thorpe adds. "Living things are a little more charismatic. The more questions you can ask about it the more excited students get about it. If it has a funny mouth shape or funny color, they are gonna latch onto something about it and ask questions."

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Braving a rainy day, students react to an impromptu lesson on stream critters, given by CBF educator Tom Parke.

"Amphibians are always so important," Parke says. "Things like salamanders, because they respirate through their skin and are so vulnerable to their surroundings. They are fun critters to catch, hold, and see. The important thing is we are finding them. They are here for a reason."

"Brook trout are always exciting," Thorpe adds. "Even if the kids don't know what one is. We found one with the Steam Academy in York in this tiny tributary of Lake Redman and so it was very cool to see them there. We didn't know they were there."

In this outdoor classroom, size matters. "Get a 14-inch crappie and people are gonna be excited," Parke says. "Big hellgrammites and big crawfish. Big and dramatic."

Parke wants the takeaway for the thousands of SWEEP students should be "that water quality is determined by runoff and what's happening on the land, so they are thinking about the connection to the land and how it affects the water."

In SWEEP, fun is an important tool for connecting young people with water quality. "We're always pushing enjoyment when on the water and that's where we see the connection take place," Parke adds. "If they enjoy it, they want to protect it."

SWEEP's fleet of canoes will shove off again in March.

—B.J. Small, CBF's Pennsylvania Media and Communications Coordinator


What You Can Do about Flooding

The following first appeared in The Virginian-Pilot.

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CBF volunteers plant a garden in Hampton in Fall 2016. Practices such as rain gardens and dry wells can help alleviate nuisance flooding while also improving water quality. Photo by CBF Staff.

A recent report that nuisance flooding is becoming more frequent in Hampton Roads comes as no surprise to most of us who live here.

Rainstorms regularly wreak havoc on traffic as water fills commuter routes, while king tides can flood streets even on calm sunny days. In my own neighborhood in the north end of Virginia Beach, flooding is so severe that even emergency vehicles like ambulances and firetrucks struggle to get through the high water.

Sea level rise is occurring on such a massive scale that it's easy to feel that there's nothing we can do as individuals. But there are steps you can take at home to alleviate flooding due to rainfall, a big part of the problem here.

Most of these practices involve holding excess water and allowing it to filter into the ground slowly. They include relatively easy and affordable steps like planting trees and installing rain gardens. What's more, such things also reduce polluted runoff, a major source of problems in local waterways.

I can tell you firsthand that they work. At my own home, those perpetual soggy patches in the yard have disappeared since I installed rain barrels and dry wells. While it may seem like a drop in the bucket, it's all about cumulative impact. If most of the homes in your neighborhood would implement these practices, you would notice a real decrease in nuisance flooding.

Each property is unique, but one of the following five things is likely to work for you.

  • Rain gardens are shallow basins filled with native plants. These gardens collect and absorb rainwater running off rooftops, driveways and streets, reducing flooding.
  • Planting trees in open or grassy areas creates a leafy canopy that intercepts rainfall and reduces runoff. The water is instead released slowly or later evaporates. A street tree can intercept from 760 to 3,000 gallons per year, depending on the size and species.
  • Permeable pavers, unlike traditional concrete or asphalt, are made up of porous materials that allow water to pass through. Using permeable pavers on a path, driveway, or street means rainfall can soak into the ground, instead of pooling and running off hard surfaces.
  • Rain barrels collect and store rainfall flowing from roofs and through downspouts. This water can later be used to water lawns and gardens during dry spells.
  • Dry wells are shallow trenches filled with stone or gravel that hold runoff, allowing it to soak into the ground.

While cities in Hampton Roads are making progress by addressing flooding on municipal property, governments can't do it all on their own. Most of the land in Hampton Roads is private property. That's why it is so important that homeowners and businesses do their part.

Fortunately, some local governments are recognizing the value of these techniques by offering incentives to property owners.

Norfolk recently took a big step in the right direction. The city approved a program to reduce the required stormwater fee for property owners who deploy techniques that reduce runoff, like the ones described above.

I hope that other cities in Hampton Roads will see this example and follow suit.

If we all are able to hold back excess water and rainfall at the source, at our own homes, we can make a dent in the flooding problem.

What's more, many of these steps also beautify the neighborhood, save money, attract wildlife and help clean up local rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.

—Thomas Quattlebaum, CBF's Sea Level Rise Fellow


Photos of the Week: Snowy Chesapeake Days

CBFThough this shot was taken after last year's Snowzilla, we were reminded of it after our recent snowy weekend.

This photo was take January 24, 2016, after the blizzard. It shows two Adirondack Chairs covered in snow.  

The Chesapeake means a great deal to myself and family simply because it's a way of life . . . we need to protect it so we can continue to enjoy its beauty.

—Carly Anello

Ensure that Carly and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary sights and places like these along the Chesapeake. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint—the plan to Save the Bay and its waters! 

Do you have a favorite Chesapeake photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign] cbf.org, along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo, and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. We look forward to seeing your photos!


Cultivating Creativity for the Bay

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Students quietly enjoy a Marsh Symphony as they listen to the subtle sounds of the salt marsh on Smith Island. Photo by Kathlean Davis.

Pablo Picasso once said, "every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up." All of us are inherently creative, but like most skills, creativity requires cultivation, nurturing, and most importantly, practice. Making the time to practice our artistic creativity in adulthood is where many of us begin to fail our inner child. When I was growing up, there were two things that consistently filled me with awe, wonder, and inspiration–art and nature. I had aspirations to be an artist and was constantly outside drawing pictures of birds, frogs, and our family dog.

As an environmental educator with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, I have retained my love of nature. Now, I'm trying to reconnect with that budding artist and bring back the awe and wonder I remember feeling about the natural world as a child. In next summer's Chesapeake Classrooms Art & Environmental Literacy course, I'll be challenging teachers from Anne Arundel County to do the same.

If you're thinking, "why art?" the reasons are as varied as the fish in the sea. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), "many factors are required as prerequisites for quality education. Learning in and through the arts…can enhance at least four of these factors: active learning; a locally-relevant curriculum that captures the interest and enthusiasm of learners; respect for, and engagement with, local communities and cultures; and trained and motivated teachers." The arts draw on the theory of "multiple intelligences;" encourage students to use all the dimensions of learning; and can strengthen student understanding, creativity, and ingenuity.

When considering dead zones in the Bay, climate change, or any other environmental challenges, it's imperative to remember our need to reach people. Quotes like "it takes all of us," "we are all connected," and "we need to act" demand our attention. In order to connect with and catalyze action among the masses however, it often takes different kinds of communication, requiring creativity and imagination. We need to foster these skills in our students, in our teachers, and in ourselves.

Participants in Chesapeake Classrooms' Art & Environmental Literacy course will visit museums and nature centers, engage with local artists and writers, and gather inspiration through hands-on experiences in nature writing, biological drawing, painting, sculpture, and more. These experiences will help teachers learn inquiry-based techniques to empower their students to investigate environmental problems, create awareness, and artistically communicate their ideas. Ultimately, this course will empower teachers to think creatively about how they share their passion for art, nature, and community in a way that continues to inspire their students, their colleagues, and others.

–Emily Thorpe, Assistant Manager, CBF's Susquehanna Watershed Environmental Education Program

Stay tuned for more information on all the Chesapeake Classrooms Professional Learning Summer Courses, including the Art & Environmental Literacy course. Registration will open January 19.


Photo of the Week: Changing Seasons

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Beautiful sunrise on Plum Point Beach. I drive by this barn every day and have taken so many pictures of it . . . it just never gets old. I love when the seasons change and the tree is full of leaves, and then when they are all snow covered. What a beautiful place I live! 

—Eve Shoemaker

 

Ensure that Eve and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary sights and places like these along the Chesapeake. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint—the plan to Save the Bay and its waters! 

Do you have a favorite Chesapeake photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign] cbf.org, along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo, and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. We look forward to seeing your photos!


Top 5 Facebook Posts of 2016

ByNickFornaro2Our favorite "beautiful swimmers" (AKA blue crabs) were quite popular in 2016! Photo by Nick Fornaro.

From shark sightings (yes, really!) to Supreme Court wins to increasing blue crab numbers, 2016 has been quite the year for the Bay and its rivers and streams
. To get an idea of all the stuff—both good and bad—that this year brought, we thought we'd take a look at our Top 5 Facebook posts of 2016. And here they are:

1. Life is sweet! Or so it appears to be in our Smith Island Cake video. Smith Islander and baker extraordinaire Mary Ada Marshall invited us into her kitchen and showed us (and the more than 282,000 other people who watched the video) just how to make the quintessential Chesapeake dessert. This video was our most popular Facebook post of the year, reaching more than 1.3 million people!

 

2. We love our "beautiful swimmers," and apparently so do you! News of the 35 percent increase in the Bay's blue crab population came in at our second most popular Facebook post this year, reaching more than 629,000 people.

 

3. In a huge win for the Bay (and for Facebook, reaching more than 420,000 readers), the Supreme Court decided in February to deny the request of the American Farm Bureau Federation and its allies to take up their case challenging the legality of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. As CBF Vice President for Litigation Jon Mueller said: "For five years we have fought in the courts to defend a commonsense solution to reducing pollution, a solution borne of a cooperative relationship between the states, the federal government, and the citizens of the Bay Region. Today, that fight has ended."

 

4. Giant Blue Crabs?! That's right! In October, we caught and released one of these beauties on the Susquehanna Flats. It got the attention of more than 388,000 blue crab lovers on Facebook.  

 

5. In June, we took a trip beneath the surface of the Severn River where we saw abundant grasses, scampering blue crabs, and thick, healthy oyster reefs — incredible signs of the Bay's recovery! Our River Reborn Video was an instant hit on Facebook, reaching more than 370,000 people and earning more than 213,000 views. I smell an Oscar!  

For those of you who made it all the way through our Top 5 list, congratulations! And make sure to follow us on Facebook (if you aren't already) for the latest and greatest in 2017 . . .

—Emmy Nicklin
CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media

 


This Week in the Watershed: 2016 in Review

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A growing oyster with CBF's oyster planting boat, the Patricia Campbell, in the background. The Bay's native oyster population began to rebound in 2016, in large part to restoration efforts. Photo by Nick Caloyianis.

It's hard to believe, but 2016 is coming to a close. Time flies when you're saving the Bay, and thanks to the incredible support of our members, CBF accomplished an awful lot. Some highlights include:

  • Educating 40,000 students, teachers, and adults through CBF's environmental education program
  • Planting 17,000 trees in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia
  • Working with 386 farmers and landowners to install conservation practices to reduce agricultural pollution and create healthier, more efficient farms

Click here for a deeper dive into the work our supporters made possible in our interactive 2016 Year in Review!

And thanks to the amazing efforts from individuals, governments, and businesses working together to reduce pollution, the Bay and its rivers and streams are beginning to heal. Underwater grasses are up 21 percent. The blue crab population jumped 35 percent. And the Bay's native oyster population began to rebound, with harvests reaching a 30-year high! All signs point to the implementation of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint bearing fruit.

But there is more to be done. Much more. The Bay is still a system dangerously out of balance, and finishing the job is going to be a tough one. Facing an uncertain future with a new administration coming to Washington, our work to save the Bay is more important than ever. Future generations deserve clean water, and we won't settle until the Bay and its rivers and streams are fully restored.

This Week in the Watershed: Clover for Cows, Endangered Shoreline, and 10,000 Pounds

  • Good news for farms in Maryland's Carroll, Frederick, and Washington counties, as CBF received a $1 million award to help farmers raise animals on pasture, rather than in confined areas. (Carroll County Times—MD) Bonus: CBF Press Statement
  • A recent study found improving the crop diversity on the Eastern Shore would benefit the region's economic and environmental health. (Star Democrat—MD)
  • President Obama's prohibition of offshore drilling along the Atlantic is a win for the Bay given the terrible harm an oil spill could cause. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
  • Bravo to the volunteers who conducted 25 cleanups along the lower Appomattox River, removing more than 10,000 pounds of trash. (Richmond Times-Dispatch—VA)
  • An aging, overwhelmed sewer system in Alexandria, VA is drawing criticism for the millions of gallons of sewage-fouled stormwater pouring into the Potomac River and its tributaries. (Bay Journal)
  • A survey found that while more Pennsylvania farmers have implemented best management practices on their farms than previously thought, it's still not enough. (Bay Journal)
  • As underwater grasses are vital to the health of local waterways, CBF is recruiting volunteers to grow grasses as part of our Grasses for the Masses restoration program. (Alt Daily—VA) Bonus: Workshops for this program are being held throughout Virginia. Register today!
  • Laws to protect Maryland's shoreline are at risk of death by a thousand cuts. (Bay Journal)

What's Happening around the Watershed?

January 5

  • Easton, MD: Listen to state legislators and numerous regional organizations discuss their preservation, land, and water goals for the 2017 Maryland General Assembly's Regular Legislative Session. The event includes beer, wine, heavy hors d'ourvres, and snacks, as well as a a tour of the Eastern Shore Conservation Center. Click here to register!

January 11-February 11

  • Throughout Virginia: Help restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay and Virginia's rivers by participating in CBF's Grasses for the Masses program. Participants grow wild celery, a type of underwater grass, in their homes for 10-12 weeks. After 10-12 weeks of grow-out, participants will gather to plant their grasses in select local rivers to bolster grass populations and help restore the Bay. With workshops held throughout Virginia, there's plenty of opportunity to get involved! Click to find one near you!

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


What's Bill Seeing in the Field: Forster's Terns

For more than 30 years, CBF Educator and photographer Bill Portlock has been exploring, documenting, and teaching the wonders of the Chesapeake and its rivers and streams. With his vast, intimate knowledge and experience with the watershed, we thought who better to check in with about what he's seeing in the field right now . . .

Terns

Forster's terns appear to be staging for their fall migration in late November. Most will leave the Bay by mid- to late December, coinciding with the arrival of cold weather. These terns are buoyant in flight, especially when diving on small fish at the water's surface. In fall, they can be seen mixed in with several species of gulls diving over hungry rockfish, foraging on schools of menhaden, silversides, or anchovies. 

These medium-sized terns nest in marshes in summer and then winter along the southern U.S. coast. Their nests vary from being an unlined scrape in mud or sand to an elaborate raft of floating vegetation. Typically placed in clumps of marsh vegetation close to open water, they occasionally nest atop muskrat lodges.

Forster's terns' red-orange bill with black tip in summer changes color to black in winter and their summer breeding plumage black caps become comma-shaped black smudges on each side of their head. These are the terns we see most often up tributaries far from the Bay.

—Photographs and Text by Bill Portlock, CBF Senior Educator

What else is Bill seeing in the field these days? Click here to see.

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