Posts Tagged 'bird watching'

An Urban Oasis for Wildlife in Winter

In the winter, most people see very little wildlife in our area, especially in Baltimore City.  However, wildlife isn’t so hard to find even in the coldest of temperatures, if you know where to look.

Wendy Alexander, who leads bird walks in the wetland adjacent to Fort McHenry National Monument & Historic Shrine, knows just where to look to find that wonderful winter wildlife.  She writes here about her time spent this winter at the Fort McHenry Wetland:

The City of Baltimore is home to one of the most active ports in the United States, but it is also home to a thriving urban wetlands area adjacent to Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine. Along with barges, tugs, and massive cruise ships, a large variety of water fowl and other birds thrive because of the successful cooperation and hard work of staff and volunteers of the National Aquarium, the National Park Conservation Association, National Park Service, Maryland Port Administration, and Steinweg Baltimore.

wildlife at fort mchenry

Photo is property of Wendy Alexander.

The Fort McHenry grounds and Wetlands ranks #2 among all time birding hotspots* in the Baltimore area (Hart Miller Island is #1) with 260 species identified by observers.  Despite the recent cold weather and snow, this winter has brought some interesting varieties of birds to the location including a very rare snowy owl, rare white-winged scoters and red-necked grebes, along with other ducks.  As of 3/8/2014, 64 species have been seen including a healthy population of bald eagles. This is a great indicator of a good supply of food such as mollusks, crustaceans, and a variety of fish.

**All photos are property of Wendy Alexander.

The number of possible bird species will certainly increase with Spring migration and the best way to enjoy this urban oasis is to join one of the scheduled bird walks that cover both the grounds and  the normally restricted Wetlands area adjacent to the grounds. These walks are led by members of the Baltimore Bird Club, which is a chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Association.  Also consider lending a hand with the National Aquairum’s Fort McHenry Field Day in April.  In a time when wetland areas along the Atlantic coast are in rapid decline, maintenance and protection of this urban wetlands area is critical to its long-run sustainability!

Join Us for the Great Backyard Bird Count This Weekend!

This weekend  marks the 16th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC)! This four-day event from February 15 to 18 engages communities across the country in bird watching and also provides researchers with valuable snapshots of how different populations are doing. 

Why counting birds is important
Scientists and bird enthusiasts can learn a lot by knowing where birds are. Bird populations are dynamic and constantly in flux. This makes it very difficult for a single scientist or team to document and understand the behaviors and migrations of the many species that live in the United States.

Researchers can use information collected during the GBBC to better understand how environmental changes are impacting bird populations.

According to national organizer the Audubon Society, participants turned in more than 104,000 online checklists last year, creating the continent’s largest instantaneous snapshot of bird populations ever recorded! Let’s DOUBLE that number this year!

How YOU can participate
Everyone is welcome (from first-time watchers to experts) to participate over the weekend. Birding is an easy way to spend time as a family and connect with nature in a way that “counts”! Participating in this weekend’s count is as easy as creating an account on GBBC’s website and counting birds in your backyard for at least 15 minutes.

To help make the most of this experience, National Aquarium will be offering bird count activities throughout the weekend to get visitors of all ages interested in birding! 

Highlights of activities happening at our Baltimore venue this weekend include:

  • Bird Watching 101 Station: Stop by the Overlook to learn how to use binoculars, spotting scopes and bird field guides! After learning how to use these tools, guests will have the opportunity to identify different birds in the Inner Harbor. We’ll be handing out ID guides and checklists so you can participate in the count after your visit. 
  • Birding in Animal Planet Australia and the Upland Tropical Rain Forest: Guests will be given ID guides for the species of birds living in both exhibits. After you’ve tried your hand at birding, stick around for presentations from staff in both exhibits on the many species we have in our living collections!

    Keep your eyes peeled while walking through our Australia exhibit for our tawny frogmouth! He's a camouflage expert!

    Keep your eyes peeled while walking through our Australia exhibit for our tawny frogmouth! He’s a camouflage expert!

  • Bird-Themed Animal Encounters: Now that you can spot them like a pro, get up close and personal with some of our bird residents and learn even more about the different species and what can be done to save these amazing creatures!

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and start counting!

Do you have a favorite species of bird you’re hoping to spot this weekend? Tell us in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter using #GBBC!  


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