This Week in the Watershed: One Giant Crab

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CBF Educator Ian Robbins, exploring the Susquehanna Flats on a trip with Aberdeen High School students, caught a gigantic blue crab. The crab was measured at eight inches across the width of the shell—making it one of the larger crabs found in the Bay.

From dolphins, to sharks, to manatees, the Bay is always full of surprises. This week revealed yet another, as a gigantic blue crab was caught and released on a CBF education trip. In addition to this monster crab, students also observed an abundance of underwater grasses, soaring bald eagles, and countless other critters.

Witnessing the flourishing wildlife in the Bay reminds us why we love the Bay. And while giant crabs aren't caught on every CBF education trip, thousands of students join us on the water every year, leaving with a greater appreciation of the Bay and its rivers and streams.

But we can't take this national treasure for granted. These waters face a bevy of threats. To save the Bay and conserve it so future generations can also experience its natural wonders, we need to fully implement the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. Leaving a legacy of clean water will not only ensure expanded recreational opportunities, improved public health, and massive economic benefits, it will also allow our children to witness the truly priceless wonders of the Bay—from a playful pod of dolphins, to reefs of water-filtering oysters, to even a gigantic blue crab.

Sign our pledge to stand with us to restore the Bay and its rivers and all the extraordinary critters, such as the iconic blue crab, that call them home.

This Week in the Watershed: A Giant Crab, Good Stewards, and Grass Seeds

  • A giant blue crab was caught on a CBF Education trip in the lower Susquehanna Flats, near Havre de Grace, MD, causing quite a stir on social media. (WBAL—MD) Bonus: CBF Facebook Post
  • We're inspired by this story of an Eastern Shore farming family acting as good stewards over their land for generations. (Carroll County Times—MD)
  • Pennsylvania students got a taste of the Susquehanna River and the critters in its waters on a trip with CBF's Susquehanna Watershed Education Program. (Bay Journal)
  • CBF staff was hard at work finding seed pods to use for our "Grasses for the Masses" program, where volunteers grow grasses over the winter and plant them in the spring in efforts to bolster the grass population in the Bay. (Free Lance-Star—VA)
  • Two thumbs up to newly anointed Eagle Scout Brendan Leary of Alexandria, VA, who led a group of 53 volunteers in constructing 105 oyster cages to help restore the Bay's native oyster population. (The Zebra—VA)

What's Happening around the Watershed?

October 17

  • Annapolis, MD: The Annapolis VoiCeS (Volunteers as Chesapeake Stewards) class is back! Come "back-to-school" with CBF in a six-week, professionally taught course on all things clean water. Learn about Bay science and fisheries, pollution problems and solutions, and how volunteers can help restoration efforts in their local waters and the Bay. Click here to register! Deadline to register is October 13!

October 18

  • Easton, MD: The Eastern Shore VoiCeS (Volunteers as Chesapeake Stewards) class is back! Come "back-to-school" with CBF in a six-week, professionally taught course on all things clean water. Learn about Bay science and fisheries, pollution problems and solutions, and how volunteers can help restoration efforts in their local waters and the Bay. Click here to register! Deadline to register is October 13!

October 19

  • Cambridge, MD: Join us at a workshop to learn more about best management practices (BMPs) to slow and filter polluted runoff. Facilitated by expert trainers with the Chesapeake Stormwater Network, this workshop is designed for local government managers and field operators with instruction in BMP inspection, maintenance, and facility failure decision-making, Participants will increase their knowledge of effectively treating polluted runoff while complying with local, state, and federal stormwater management expectations. Networking with colleagues in neighboring Eastern Shore communities enhances opportunities to learn about locally relevant problems and solutions. Click here to register!

October 22

  • Virginia Beach, VA: Come on out to a sustainable living expo. This fun, family-friendly event is designed as a showcase for eco-friendly, sustainable solutions, crafts, and food, with many participating organizations. See ideas you can use at your home from edible landscaping and urban gardening to beekeeping and alternative energy. CBF is also looking for volunteers to help staff a CBF display and share information with attendees at the expo. This event is suitable for all volunteer experience levels, so come out, share, and learn. Email or call Tanner Council to inquire and volunteer at tcouncil@cbf.org or call 757-622-1964.

October 29

  • Woodsboro, MD: Help CBF plant over 1,000 trees and shrubs along Israel Creek on a beef cattle farm in Frederick County. Approximately 5,000 feet of stream banks will be planted resulting in six acres of new riparian buffer. Israel Creek is in the Monocacy River watershed which flows to the Potomac River then to the Chesapeake Bay. Click here to register!

November 3

  • Easton, MD: Oyster season is here, and whether or not you're a fan of eating the Bay's beloved bivalve, you've probably noticed a growing number of farmed oyster varieties available in local seafood markets and restaurants on the Eastern Shore. This is a sure sign that oyster farming, also known as "aquaculture," is on the rise in Maryland. Join us for a forum on this rising trend to learn more about oyster aquaculture from experts in the field. The event is free, but click here to register!

November 5

  • Smithsburg, MD: Join CBF at this recently completed stream restoration project on Little Antietam Creek and help us with the final stages of restoring the stream banks and floodplain. Volunteers will install live stakes consisting of willow cuttings as well as native trees and shrubs.  Learn about stream restoration techniques used throughout the region by touring this recently completed project and lend your hand for the final touches. Click here to register!

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


Fox Island Magic

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As Arthur Sherwood, one of CBF's founding members and first executive director, said: "The place to teach people about the Bay is on it and in it." Now in its 40th year, our education program has been doing just that, providing students and teachers with meaningful outdoor experiences on the Bay and its rivers and streams. And our Fox Island Education Center is no exception.

Fox Island is part of a string of salt water marshes surrounded by the Tangier and Pocomoke Sounds of Chesapeake Bay and is the ideal place to investigate how the Bay's health depends on its watershed of 64,000 square miles, 17 million people, and six state governments and the District of Columbia. The lodge was constructed in 1929 by the Fox Island Rod and Gun Club for recreational fishing and hunting. After many years of hunting and fishing, the group decided to donate the lodge to CBF. 

At Fox, we want to inspire current and future generations of environmental stewards. Even after 40 years, each field experience is completely unique, and this season has been filled with some amazing moments. Veritas School (an independent school in Richmond, Virginia) started our season off with a bang by breaking in the lodge and being the first school to join our "Conservation Challenge Hall of Fame"! This distinguished award is given to those groups that meet or exceed our conservation challenges in water usage, energy conservation, species identification, and S.L.O.P. (Stuff Left On Plate). Because of its unique elements, if Fox Island students use 3 gallons of water or less each, have less than three strikes in energy baseball (a race to shut off lights), identify at least 50 Chesapeake species, and have no S.L.O.P. after each meal, then they are true conservationists and are inducted into our "Hall of Fame." When students take these conservation practices home, they send out a wave of responsible resource use that influences their family, friends, and community.

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One of Veritas' favorite field investigations was exploring the submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) and the critters that inhabit this environment. Using a crab scrape, a tool used by watermen for centuries that includes a metal frame and net that extends roughly 5 feet, we scraped the grass beds underneath the Walter Ridder, CBF's 40-foot, jet-drive field investigation boat, for about two minutes and dumped our catch onto the engine box. Sixteen students crowded around the Ridder’s engine box, sifting through the grasses, on the prowl for life. A habitat that provides food and protection for many types of animals, underwater grasses harbor large critters like terrapins, blue crabs, and fish, along with small mud crabs, amphipods, and shrimp.

As natural filters of pollutants and sediment, Bay grasses are incredible indicators of the health of the Bay. As students explore these grasses and the species that rely on them, with their hands and using books and dichotomous keys, the connection between the health of the Bay and the grasses is immediate. Further, we discuss what prevents these grasses from thriving, like contributing excess nutrients into the Bay's rivers and streams and overworking the grasses with large sediment loads.

Time and time again teachers and students talk about something called "Fox Magic." We certainly experienced that "magic" out there in the middle of the Bay with Veritas students, and I, too,  experienced that magic in high school on education experiences with CBF on Fox Island in 2010 and 2011. It's an honor to capture these awesome moments and speak for such a great place.

—Adam Dunn, CBF Fox Island Educator

Click here to learn how you can take part in "Fox Magic" and other CBF education experiences.

 


Teachers Connect Schools to Improving Pennsylvania's Water Quality

The following first appeared in The Sentinel.

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Teachers take a closer look at a Dragonfly Nymph being held by CBF Educator Emily Thorpe, right, during a study of aquatic life along the Susquehanna River. The two-day workshop showed teachers what schools can do to reduce polluted runoff and improve Pennsylvania's water quality. Teachers are, from left, Sondra Picciotto of Harrisburg City, Abigail Frey of the Diocese of Harrisburg, and Nicolette Place of Northern York. Photo by Myrannda Kleckner.

A group of Pennsylvania teachers became students when the lessons turned to what schools can do to reduce polluted runoff and improve the Commonwealth's water quality. The two-day "Pennsylvania's Waterways: Real Change, Real Connections Workshop" was sponsored by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's (CBF) Susquehanna Watershed Education Program.

"The main idea of the workshop was for teachers to connect their schoolyards and communities to local waterways," said CBF Educator Emily Thorpe. "It is proven that urban and suburban runoff is the fastest growing source of pollution. These teachers will have the experience to learn what types of best management practices may be beneficial for their area and how they can go about proposing action to reduce pollution."

About 19,000 miles of Pennsylvania rivers and streams are polluted, and the Commonwealth has a Clean Water Blueprint to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment runoff that is damaging its waters. But the Environmental Protection Agency reported recently that Pennsylvania is significantly behind in meeting its Blueprint goals of having 60 percent of the pollution-reduction practices necessary to restore water quality in place by 2017 and 100 percent in place by 2025.

Teachers who attended were asked to evaluate their schoolyards and identify water management strengths and weaknesses, so they might share suggestions for improvement, with students and the administrators.

"For most schools, we have too many paved surfaces that could cause problems with stormwater runoff," said Sondra Picciotto, a 7th and 8th grade science teacher in the Harrisburg City School District. "If schoolyards were able to add rain gardens and rain barrels to their campus, we would see positive effects in our local water."

"I believe that it would be better for schools to put money into programs like storm water practices," added Mary Catherine Sweeney, an English teacher at the Diocese of Harrisburg.

"A first step a school could do is to transform their open plots of land," said Jane Macedonia, a science teacher within Lancaster Catholic High School. "Turn them into rain gardens or add rain barrels that serve as biological functions that not only will be beneficial to your environment, but will be beneficial to the kids sitting in the classrooms."

Macedonia said, "There are so many types of programs that schools can adopt that conserve water quality. "Think about hydroponics. These systems recycle water throughout the process of growing plants, which later could be used within the school's cafeteria," she added. "No matter what type of program, though, the students will be having so much fun that they won't realize that it was meant to be a learning experience."

Nolan Canter, CBF educator for the Philip Merrill Center Education Program in Annapolis, MD, said, "For aquaponics, schools could raise trout or other fish inside the schools themselves and over time, be able to release them into local streams to help the populations. Also, students can learn about water chemistry while working on a project like this. It doesn't all have to be outside," he added.

During a session at the Wildwood Nature Center in Harrisburg, teachers learned more about water resources and the Chesapeake Bay, and how their schools measure up in preventing pollution. They also toured the Benjamin Olewine Nature Center and the Capital Region Water Treatment Plant. They spent the second day of the workshop paddling canoes down the Susquehanna River, stopping for hands-on lessons about aquatic life in the river, and water chemistry.

Teachers were from the Diocese of Harrisburg, Harrisburg City School District, Lancaster Catholic High School, Northern York School District, River Rock Academy, St. Catherine Laboure School, and St. John the Baptist Catholic School.

"If we emphasize water quality issues," said Nicolette Place, a teacher at Wellsville Elementary in the Northern York School District, "we will be able to come up with solutions that will continue to keep our environment healthy for the next generation."

—Myrannda Kleckner, CBF Pennsylvania Communications Intern


Life on the Chickahominy

Late spring is a heady time on the Chickahominy River. Thick cypress trees with knobby knees rise out of dark, tannin-stained waters. Vibrant yellow prothonotary warblers flit among the greening trees and blooming wildflowers. Occasionally, the river's surface explodes as a toothy chain pickerel makes a meal out of an unwary fish. The river, which winds through the forests to the east of Richmond, courses across classic Southern swamps on Virginia's Coastal Plain. 

In mid-May, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation partnered with Virginia's Department of Environmental Quality to canoe the Chickahominy with the Watershed Educators Institute, made up of field educators from organizations across Virginia. Below is just a glimpse of that beautiful day out on the water . . . 

 —Text and photos by Kenny Fletcher, CBF's Virginia Communications Coordinator

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Paddlers gaze up at an osprey nest high in an old cypress tree. Osprey pairs usually mate for life and often return to the same nest year after year.
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River and forest merge on the Chickahominy, allowing intrepid canoeists to explore watery passageways among the trees.
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CBF Educator Alex McCrickard examines a yellow drake mayfly that had fallen into the river.
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A feisty mud turtle comes out of its shell.
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A fisherman shows off a bright yellow perch reeled in from a dock along the Chickahominy.
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Field educators examine fish caught in a seine net pulled near the river's shore.
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A small colorful sunfish pulled from the Chickahominy shines in the May light.

 


Teachers on the Bay

Image003Last summer, I participated in CBF's Chesapeake Classrooms course, Teachers on the Bay, thanks to a scholarship from the Garden Club of the Northern Neck. My goal was to bring some of the participatory lessons CBF teaches back to Northumberland County Public Schools, specifically middle schoolers and my 6th grade Community Problem Solving team, which I tasked with taking on a Chesapeake Bay-related problem.

Some of my students come from families who have worked on the Chesapeake Bay for generations; others have never been out on the water. What most students and I have in common is a lack of hands-on understanding of the Bay.

The week-long teachers education program began on the Rappahannock River where we learned how to test water quality and watched the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries electrofish to monitor species, most of which were invasive blue catfish. We listed types of marsh grasses, species we sighted, including 50 bald eagles in our first hour out on the water and a nesting pair of peregrine falcons that live under the Robert O. Norris Bridge in Tappahannock. We motored part of a route once traveled by Captain John Smith, some of which has barely changed. We also learned about the threat of development to the river and Fones Cliffs, where we spotted most of the eagles.

After two days on the Rappahannock, we went out on the Bay and tested the water at about 126 feet, one of its deepest points. We spent the rest of our time at CBF's Fox Island Education Center in the middle of the Bay. We learned the purpose of marshes and climbed into thick gooey mud holes, a practice known as marsh mucking (highly recommended!). At one point, I was buzzed by what turned out to be a peregrine falcon on its way to harass some oyster catchers.

Image002Across the water, watermen from Tangier and Smith Islands scraped Bay grasses for crabs, a method that glides a mesh bag over grass beds. We, too, scraped the underwater grasses, bringing aboard oysters, crabs, pufferfish, and the occasional seahorse to observe, study, and then release. In a few months my 6th grade students would be doing the same thing, punctuated by squeals of delight, though some still apprehensive about handling a crab swiping at them.

Last year, Virginia Gov. McAuliffe signed an executive order, establishing the Environmental Literacy Challenge, a voluntary effort to increase meaningful, outdoor experiences and sustainability projects to improve student knowledge about their environment. Finding school time and money to accomplish this is a task, but I found there are resources from grants, support from local businesses as well as state and local officials who will volunteer their time.

In our county, a local environmental group, Northumberland Association for Progressive Stewardship funded a fall trip for a group of 7th and 8th grade students aboard a Waterman Heritage Tour. The trip along the Little Wicomico River and out to the Bay was modeled after the CBF teacher's program. Students counted species, learned how water quality is tested from a local shellfish sanitation official, and toured a working oyster aquaculture farm and oyster house. 

Also in the fall, my 6th grade Community Problem Solving team of 14 students spent three days at CBF's Port Isobel Education Center. Students crabbed, scraped, tried out a new tow net, did a night walk and marsh mucked. They spent time on Tangier Island visiting Mayor "Ooker" Eskridge's crab shanty where they saw shedding crabs and tried wrangling his eels. They walked the island to get a feel for life there and watched a movie at the museum about how the island is disappearing from rising sea levels, subsidence, and erosion. They were touched by the experience and back at school they announced their problem solve would be to "Save Tangier Island."

IMG_0337Their resulting two-year project encompasses raising awareness through education and fundraising to build a living shoreline to help the people of Tangier remain on their home or to help them move if it ever comes to that. The students have partnered with Tangier Town Manager Renee Tyler and participated in a webinar and other interactions with the Norfolk Division of the Army Corps of Engineers to learn more about living shorelines.

Last month, Tangier Town Manager Tyler invited the students to meet with the crew of the Polynesian Voyaging Society's Hōkūleʻa expedition when the Polynesian voyaging canoe visited Tangier. The resourceful students held a bake sale, got a grant from NAPS, and another $100 from the school superintendent so they could hire a heritage waterman to take them to Tangier. They then invited Norfolk Army Corps Commander Col. Jason Kelly, Corps Scientist David Schulte, and Virginia Institute for Marine Science Scientist Molly Mitchell. Along with Tangier's 6th graders and educators from the Hōkūleʻa, the group sat together and discussed climate change and Tangier’s fate along with the potential loss of its heritage and culture.

Community Problem Solving teams are a great way to align environmental literacy with classroom work, and CBF's teacher professional learning courses enabled me to use new lessons (and those shared by other teachers) to do just that. I have about one hour each week to pull students out of a morning class to work on their project. My team's work is entirely student driven while I coach. The students conduct research or bring in experts and plan field trips. The program usually runs for the length of a school year, but this time students are committing two years to the project due to the complexity of their problem. Community Problem Solving and environmental literacy are a great way to keep students motivated and focused on a project as they become active and knowledgeable members of their community.

 —Pamela D'Angelo Hagy
Hagy is a journalist covering the Bay for public radio and various publications as well as a part-time educator.

If you'd like to participate in a Chesapeake Classrooms teacher professional learning course this summer, see the schedule and course descriptions at www.cbf.org/CCsummer. There are still openings on a few courses!


What's Bill Seeing in the Field: Opportunistic Eagles

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 . . .

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On a recent spring morning, I was fortunate to be in my skiff on Cat Point Creek, a tidal tributary of the Rappahannock River in Richmond County, Virginia.

Eagle-rich Fones Cliffs, just four miles upstream from Cat Point Creek, is a unique Bald Eagle concentration zone, with thousands of eagles from Labrador to Florida as well as native Virginia birds using the area for nocturnal roosts, foraging, and (for residents) nesting. Many eagles spill over into Cat Point to forage on its abundant fish, primarily blue catfish and gizzard shad, but at this time of year there are migratory river herring and shad in the river. That the herring spring run to spawn is tied to bald eagle reproduction is yet another interwoven cycle of nature. It is a cornucopia of protein for a couple of months.

Bill1One eagle caught my attention that day by successfully capturing an alewife, a river herring just in from the ocean to spawn, in an oxbow of the creek. After the successful catch, he flew to a low branch over the water to eat his catch. Males are about 20 percent smaller than females, and when females are incubating eggs, males do most of the fishing. I allowed the ebbing tide to quietly drift me toward the scene. Today, this eagle was more focused on consuming his meal than paying attention to me.

Alewives and blueback herring are related to hickory and american shad and are members of the herring family (Clupeidae). These are anadromous fish, meaning they spend the majority of their adult lives at sea and migrate up coastal rivers in the spring to spawn in freshwater.

Bald eagles reproduce earlier than most birds in the Bay region, starting nest construction or repair in December and January. Egg laying and incubation takes place as early as December (and can run until March) in the Chesapeake Bay region. The hatching and rearing of young eagles takes place from March to June. Thus, the spawning run of herring and shad feed young eagles and the parents.

There were dozens of Wilson's snipe feeding on insect larvae, worms, and other invertebrates in the arrow arum marshes. These medium-sized shorebirds frequent the creek during winter before migrating north in April. Two pairs of blue-winged teal and a handsome pair of common mergansers were the only ducks present. But the main show on Cat Point that morning was this adult Bald Eagle capturing and eating this 12-inch river herring right in front of me.

4At one time in the not-too-distant past, coastal rivers supported thriving herring and shad industries, with millions of fish harvested each year. However, populations of these fishes declined dramatically in the last century due to dam obstructions, overharvesting, and pollution. The river herring fishery (which includes the alewife and the blueback herring) has been one of the most valuable in the Bay, with annual catches once exceeding 8 million pounds in Maryland and 30 million pounds in Virginia.

Opportunistic feeders, bald eagles also catch ducks, turtles, and small mammals (muskrat size). But fish make up the bulk of their diet, especially in warmer months. Availability of non-migratory gizzard shad and the introduced blue catfish make up the majority of prey captured now.

But on this day, a migratory alewife was the prey of this hungry eagle. Drifting slowly in my skiff to within 30 feet of the perched eagle, I was able to quietly watch and photograph the eagle. I  felt privileged to be there.   

—Photographs and Text by Bill Portlock, CBF Senior Educator

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

 


Photo of the Week: This Is What It's All About

IMG_5169[I took this] on Smith Island on Wednesday, April 20. Myself and another William H. Farquhar Middle School teacher took a group of our students on one of CBF's overnight education experiences

I chose [this photo] because this is what the trip is all about. Students were able to take a moment to not just enjoy the gorgeous sunset that night, but also be able to do it while enjoying the Bay itself. The students loved every moment of this experience and this was just one of their many highlights.

—Matthew Green

Ensure that Matthew, his students, and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary places like these along the Chesapeake. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint—the plan to Save the Bay! 

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!

 


Five Ways to Celebrate Earth Day!

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Photo by Nikki Davis.

"The wealth of the nation is its air, water, soil, forests, minerals, rivers, lakes, oceans, scenic beauty, wildlife habitats, and biodiversity . . . that's all there is. That's the whole economy. That's where all the economic activity and jobs come from. These biological systems are the sustaining wealth of the world." —U.S. Senator and Earth Day Founder Gaylord Nelson

 

While this Friday marks the 46th year since U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson said those beautiful words and founded Earth Day, we're firm believers that every day ought to be Earth Day. In that spirit, here are five ways you can celebrate Earth Day in the Chesapeake region—not just this Friday on the actual day, but right now and through the coming weeks:

  1. Shake some shell, plant a tree, pick up trash! Whatever your fancy, there are tons of ways to get out in the field with us this spring and do something great for our rivers and Bay. From our 28th Annual Clean the Bay Day to our tree and oyster plantings to the Earth, Water, Faith Festival, click here to see all the different upcoming volunteer opportunities and events in your area.

  2. Test your knowledge of our favorite bivalve and take the oyster quiz! For every quiz taker, The Orvis Company will donate $1 to our oyster restoration efforts.

  3. Sail the Bay on our 114-year-old skipjack the Stanley Norman, canoe the islands of the Lower Susquehanna at dusk, or explore Baltimore Harbor at the height of spring on our 46-foot workboat the Snow Goose—there's no better way to learn about the Bay and its rivers than being out on the water. So sign up for one of our Bay Discovery Trips!

  4. Celebrate this week's National Environmental Education Week by signing up for a Chesapeake Classrooms Professional Learning Course or another CBF education experience. Not a teacher, administrator, or student? Just take a look at how powerful learning outside can be in our Facebook photo album. Then share it with your friends!

  5. Show us your vision of the Bay and its waters! The undulating glow of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the quiet tidal marshes of the Eastern Shore, cool rocky streams in Pennsylvania . . . What places inspire you? Show us by submitting your photos to our Save the Bay Photo Contest! Hurry, contest closes this Friday.

—Emmy Nicklin
CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media

 


What's Bill Seeing in the Field: Egret Colonies

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 . . . DSC_2980
The Great Egret is a large wading bird common to the Bay but residing largely along the Southeastern U.S. coast in winter. As spring arrives, they move north and west to begin building their stick nests in rookeries with other egrets and, often, with Great Blue Herons.

Earlier in April, near Blacksnake Island there were six pairs of Great Egrets and a single pair of smaller Snowy Egrets setting up housekeeping in a forest of loblolly pines and oaks in full flower. Their new nuptial plumes glowed in the afternoon light and waved in the 10-knot southeast wind. An osprey passing overhead got their attention but they remained in the canopy. There were nests to build and soon, eggs to incubate. An egret colony in its earliest, pre-nest stage: another sign of spring.

—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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Creating Jobs—and Environmental Awareness

The following first appeared in the Baltimore Sun.

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CBF's Snow Goose in Baltimore Harbor. Photo by Captain Craig Biggs.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is proud to be part of the BLocal campaign ("A commitment to 'BLocal' in Baltimore," April 8). While small by comparison to other partners, we recognize that our business choices can help support our city's economy.

CBF is uniquely qualified to assist in another way. We have committed to train BLocal interns through our on-the-water Baltimore Harbor Education Program. Interns will be exposed to a hands-on estuarine science curriculum on board our 46-foot bay workboat, the Snow Goose.

CBF's widely acclaimed education program was recognized by President George H.W. Bush with the nation's highest environmental honor—the 1992 Presidential Medal for Environmental Excellence.

The Baltimore Harbor program, one of 15 across the region, was launched in 1979 at the request of the late Mayor William Donald Schaefer.

For 49 years, over a million students have received training at one of our environmental education centers. Now, BLocal interns will have the opportunity to study the remarkable array of creatures that live in the harbor, conduct water quality tests, and discuss the challenges of an urban environment. It is a great investment in Baltimore's future.

—William C. Baker, CBF President