Posts Tagged 'Fort McHenry'

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!

Thoughtful Thursday: International Coastal Cleanup

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The International Coastal Cleanup is an annual coordinated volunteer effort to remove debris that has accumulated in our oceans and on our coasts. It is a chance for world citizens that are concerned about the health of our oceans and waterways to participate in meaningful action that will make a difference. In 2012, more than 560,000 volunteers from 97 countries picked up more the 10 million pounds of trash. This year’s efforts begin this weekend and will last throughout the coming weeks.

ft. mchenry cleanup

All types of volunteer groups will join forces over the next couple of weekends to remove and quantify the trash ending up in our waters. Because this is a coordinated effort led by the Ocean Conservancy, each volunteer will be asked to fill out a standard data sheet. This allows event coordinators to track the amount and types of trash that end up on our coasts every year and to make comparisons across the globe and through the years. Ultimately, it informs and focuses the efforts being made to change behaviors that will benefit our natural world.

The top ten list of items found on our beaches during the cleanup should come as no surprise to anyone. The list includes cigarettes, plastic bottles, plastic bags, food wrappers and straws – all single use items that we’ve come to rely on in our society of convenience. With the exception of cigarettes, the global list closely mirrors the list the National Aquarium has been tallying at Fort McHenry over the past 14 years. Of the 600,000+ items collected in this area over the years, more than 95 percent has been plastic or foamed plastic.

These items weren’t born in the ocean or the harbor, they were carelessly discarded on land and delivered to the nearest stream (often via storm sewers). From here, there are carried downstream by the tides and water flow until they end up on a shoreline somewhere.

Plastic debris at Ft. McHenry National Monument and Shrine here in Baltimore. Plastic pollution is seriously hurting the ocean and its inhabitants!

We know, if we want to make a difference, we need to stop the debris at its source – cleaning it up after the fact is not a long-term solution! We need to look at our own behaviors and determine how to eliminate the flow of debris from our homes to our streets to our waterways. We thought that if we focus on the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) we would be successful.

For many years, the emphasis has been on recycling. In truth, recycling should be our last choice. Our ultimate success will depend upon how well we can assimilate the fourth R into the equation – Refuse. This world does not have unlimited resources and we need to stop acting like it does. We need to be thoughtful in our everyday consumer decisions so that we look beyond the gratification of that warm cup of coffee or cold soda and begin to consider the real-world costs of the decisions we make. The real-world cost of using non-degradable, oil-based, disposable drink ware instead of carrying a reusable coffee mug.

In the mean time, while we are figuring out how to turn our consumer society on it’s ear, we have a big mess to clean up. In my job, I get to see much of the Chesapeake Bay. I get to travel to it’s islands and remote wetland habitats and enjoy all of the benefits our natural world has to offer. In all of those travels, I have never seen a shoreline unmarred by the sight of trash. It’s everywhere. Baltimore and the more populated areas of the watershed are admittedly more affected by debris, but there is no place that is immune. If we want to truly champion a healthy Chesapeake (healthy for humans and animals alike), we need a trash-free environment. It is possible and we can start today.

If you haven’t already, register to join us at our October 5th Fort McHenry event in Baltimore or find another International Coastal Cleanup event near you!

Blog-Header-LauraBankey

Thoughtful Thursdays: The Chesapeake Conservation Corps

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For the fourth year in a row, the National Aquarium has been chosen as a host site for a Chesapeake Conservation Corps (CCC) volunteer. This program, developed by the Chesapeake Bay Trust, matches young people (volunteers, ages 18-25) with environmental organizations throughout the region; providing leadership and career training experience for the intern and additional program capacity for the host organization. The program provides service-learning opportunities and green job training to its volunteers through hands-on environmental, leadership, and technical training opportunities for a paid, one-year term of service.

As a host organization, the Aquarium benefits by gaining an energetic volunteer whose one year commitment translates into meaningful improvements in program capacity. Because CCC is not designed to replace full-time staff, there is a real opportunity to use the time and talents of the volunteers to expand upon and improve programs already in place. Stephanie Pully, our 2012-2013 volunteer, used additional grant funds from Chesapeake Bay Trust, to enhance our Fort McHenry Wetland field station for educational programs surrounding the theme of BayScaping.

stephanie pully

Funds from CBT’s mini grant program for CCC volunteers made it possible to improve the native gardens at our field station and install different educational amenities. In addition to the installation of native plants, plant ID markers, a butterfly box and watering stations, Stephanie also lead the effort to install an outdoor white board next to the rain garden to help use the gardens as an educational station for students on field trips.

After a very successful year, I’m happy to report that Stephanie officially graduated from the CCC Program on August 13th! With a B.S. in Environmental Science from the University of Maryland under her belt, Stephanie hopes to continue developing initiatives that help to conserve and protect the Chesapeake Bay Watershed!

Applications for the 2014-2015 Chesapeake Conservation Corps Program can be found on the Chesapeake Bay Trust’s website beginning in the Spring of 2014.

Blog-Header-LauraBankey

Thoughtful Thursdays: Give a day for the Bay!

The National Aquarium has been engaging community volunteers and students in restoring a tidal marsh adjacent to Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine since 1999.  In that time, more than 4,000 citizens have planted more than 55,000 native wetland grasses and removed more than 500,000 pieces of debris! The wetland is also used as a living classroom for hundreds of local Baltimore City students each year, giving them an opportunity to see local wildlife flourishing in the middle of an urban environment and teaching them the importance of habitat conservation and clean water.

You can help continue this tradition by taking part in our upcoming Fort McHenry Field Day event!

Fort McHenry Field Day!

Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine
Saturday, October 6, 2012

Join the Aquarium Conservation Team (ACT!) for debris cleanup and garden and trail maintenance at Fort McHenry on October 6, 2012. Our fall field day is a part of National Public Lands Day and the International Coastal Cleanup.

Click here to register!

Our coastal wetlands need YOUR help!

Click here to find out more about upcoming conservation events! 

Pre-registration is required for all conservation events. Volunteers must be at least 14 years old. Please contact conserve@aqua.org if you have questions or would like additional details.

A Day at the Fort McHenry Wetland

Every spring and fall, the National Aquarium Conservation Team (ACT!) recruits volunteers to restore habitat for wildlife, remove debris, and maintain trails at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine in Baltimore.

Recently, ACT! hosted a group of Patterson High School students and their mentors as a part of Legg Mason’s Workplace Mentoring Program. At the Fort McHenry wetland, they participated in a variety of environmental education activities and a debris cleanup over the course of the day.

The students’ excitement couldn’t be damped by the light rain as they seined for fish along the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River and caught a wide variety of critters including a blue crab, marsh crabs, Atlantic silversides, a northern pipefish, comb jellies, and grass shrimp.

A student sorts through the seine to find fish.
Photo by Shan Gordon, Waterfront Partnership Baltimore

On their nature walk in the 7-acre wetland, they encountered all sorts of wildlife that call the wetland home: an osprey, a snapping turtle, a box turtle, a pileated woodpecker, a common loon, and many more birds!

The students and their mentors also helped the National Aquarium team weed and plant a butterfly garden with native perennials like goldenrod, milkweed, mountain mint, and joe pye weed.

The students and their mentors cleaned up the wetland
Photo by Shan Gordon, Waterfront Partnership Baltimore

Since the National Aquarium took over stewardship of this marsh in 1999, volunteers have helped collect nearly 600,000 pieces of debris! Click here to learn more about the National Aquarium Fort McHenry conservation initiative.


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