Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Waterfront Festival 2012!

Check out this video of the Waterfront festival! Filmed by Brian Palmer and Eric Broussard of Washington College. Students, staff, faculty, and community members turned out on Saturday for a beautiful day of fun on the Chester River. This year featured:
Free boat rides on the Callinectes
Sailing and kayaking on the Chester River
Model Boat Building
Pony Rides
Scales & Tails
the "Fishmobile"
and many more wonderful activities for the whole family!
Of course, the highlight of the day was the Cardboard Boat Regatta. We had many brave competitors this year, but sleek design and excellent construction brought Captain Brian Palmer of "Chessie Racing" the Cape Horn award for first around the course. Our own "Chesapeake Semester" boat Captained by Mike Hardesty, made it around the course for second place. "No Place like Home" followed closely behind for third place. The coveted People's Choice Award also went to "No Place like Home." There was no surprise that the Cutty Sark Award for best design went to "Chessie Racing," and it was also no surprise that "No Place like Home" won Best Theme & Costumes! For their innovative method of swimming their boat around the course and their exceptional team spirit, "Chariots of Fire" took home the Linda Greenlaw Award. The final award of the day went to "Dance to your own Tune" who, in a heart-wrenching display of teamwork, dragged their boat around the course after it sank on the starting line. All of our competitors were wonderful, and we look forward to seeing YOU on the water next year at the 2013 Waterfront Festival and Cardboard Boat Race!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Working Landscapes

This past Saturday, fellow CES staffer Dan Small and I attended a grassland and shrubland bird symposium sponsored by Virginia Working Landscapes and held at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia.  VWL is a consortium of groups interested in, among other things, establishing demonstration sites to showcase best practices for various land uses on working farms and creating a network for landowners to exchange information and ideas.

Bobolink in fall plumage.

We knew it was going to be a good day when the first item on the agenda was a bird walk and tour of a nearby farm.  The group of 25 or so landowners and managers admired and discussed the grass buffers, their species composition and what problems or challenges they had faced in their own efforts to create and maintain grasslands.  As we ambled through Big Bluestem and Indian Grass we heard the constant calls of Bobolinks moving between the grass stand and the adjacent alfalfa field.   Other grassland birds detected included Grasshopper Sparrows and a Dickcissel.  It was almost as though Dan had planted the birds as a primer for his talk about the CRFRS grasslands (he highlighted all three species).

Male Dickcissel.  Photo by Bill Hubick

Back at the lecture hall, speakers covered such topics as bird-friendly haying practices on Vermont dairy farms, maximizing bird habitat on public lands and identifying suitable habitat for Golden-winged Warblers.  Dan Small, representing CRFRS and CES, described the establishment and management of the warm season grasslands on Chino Farms/ Chester River Field Research Station and the birds that have colonized the site.

CES Field Ecologist Dan Small discussing the Chino grasslands.

Mike Wilson, of William and Mary’s Center for Conservation Biology, spoke about determining the appropriate use of land based on the size of the area.  Many grassland birds require larger spaces for breeding habitat than other species.  This means that you could install a perfect looking five acre grassland, but those five acres are probably not enough to sustain any grassland birds.  If you only have five acres of property, he suggests managing it as a shrubland instead.  Many species of birds requiring second-growth scrub/shrub habitats are in decline.  Birds such as Golden-winged Warblers, Yellow-breasted Chats, Dickcissels and Northern Bobwhites are facing great challenges due to habitat loss and could greatly benefit from managing lands for them.

Shrub/scrub habitat may look messy to humans, but looks safe and inviting to birds and other wildlife.

We met many enthusiastic landowners who wanted to provide the great bird habitat that was also compatible with other land uses such as haying, farming and hunting.  It was exciting to see so many like-minded folks and to hear about some of the compromises available to landowners.  Several expressed interest in seeing CRFRS firsthand and learning more about what we have accomplished on Chino.

Information on Virginia Working Landscapes can be found on  their website. Though geared toward Virginians, much of the information is relevant to Marylanders.  Many land restoration projects can be supported through grants from the NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service).   Thanks to Bill Hubick for the use of his Dickcissel photo.

Maren Gimpel is a field ecologist at the Chester River Field Research Station.  Photos and stories about the goings on of CRFRS can be found at www.facebook.com/crfrc or at www.washcoll.edu/ces/chesterriverfieldresearchcenter

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Northern Bobwhite

Many landowners on Maryland’s Eastern Shore lament the loss of Northern Bobwhite (quail) on their property. The fact that quail have been disappearing from their former habitats is nothing new, concerned citizens and wildlife biologists have been worried about this game bird’s future in Maryland for some time now. But all is not lost; with a little dedication and help from private landowners the negative population trend can be reversed. The Center for Environment & Society has teamed up with Tall Timbers Research Station to form The Northern Bobwhite Quail Restoration Initiative. One of the goals of the project is to form a regional network of private landowners who are interested in restoring the habitat necessary for Bobwhite to make a comeback.

Adult Male Northern Bobwhite. Photo by Bill Hubick.
Habitat loss is often cited as the leading cause of population declines for quail. In Maryland they have declined at a rate of 5.1% per year since 1966 and at an accelerated 7.3% per year since 1980 (Ellison 2010). Restoring quail will involve increasing habitat surrounding farm fields, including grasslands or overgrown fields, shrub-scrub, woodland edges and hedgerows between farm fields. Chino Farms in northern Queen Anne’s County is leading efforts in the area to provide the mix of ideal habitats that quail need. Creating and maintaining early successional habitat is a work in progress, but with persistent dedication, time and the guidance from Tall Timbers the farm is becoming a model and resource for other interested landowners.

A small part of the restored warm season grasslands on Chino Farm.
With the rapid advancements in modern farming technologies, the way we practice farming has changed a lot in just a short period of time. In the past quail could rely on fence rows, hedgerows and fallow fields, but with larger equipment came larger fields and these critical habitats were lost. Back then landowners and managers didn’t have to manage their properties specifically for quail, the farming practices simply were good for quail. Today’s quail live in a completely different environment.  Nowadays, land managers have to actively manage the land to support quail. Another goal of the Intiative is to bring together landowners to share experiences on what works and what doesn’t, everyone has ideas and input and sharing them with the group will benefit everyone involved.

This recently fledged Northern Bobwhite was caught in a mist net during daily banding operations in the restored grasslands on Chino. This individual along with 10 other birds from a family group were too small to band and were quickly released.
If you are interested in creating quail habitat or know someone who may be interested, please keep an eye out here or at the CES facebook page for more information about a quail forum this fall. The unmistakeable whistle call of the male Northern Bobwhite belongs in the rural landscape and with your help we can all work together to make sure they are around for generations to come.

Information can also be found here, http://www.washcoll.edu/ces/chesterriverfieldresearchcenter/quailrestoration.php.

Thanks to Bill Hubick for allowing use of his photographs. www.billhubick.com

Dan Small is a field ecologist at the Chester River Field Research Station. Please visit our Facebook page www.facebook.com/crfrc or find additional information here www.washcoll.edu/ces/chesterriverfieldresearchcenter