Naturalist’s Notes

  • The American kestrel may be one of North America’s smallest birds of prey, but they are still formidable predators. About the size of a mourning dove, kestrels are members of the genus Falco that includes merlins and peregrine falcons. Kestrels prey on grasshoppers, other insects, small rodents, and small birds. They will hunt both meadows […]

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  • Anyone who goes fishing for rockfish in the Chesapeake Bay has probably seen an American eel. On the end of a hook, and used as bait, was the first way I encountered this strange fish. However, eels are much more than just rockfish bait. Everything about the eel is unusual: it has a snake-like appearance, […]

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  • Winter is a great time to attract birds to your backyard and to observe them at a feeder. The National Audubon Society suggests that as many as 40% of Americans feed birds. This hobby can be rewarding, relaxing, and beneficial for wildlife. It also presents unexpected opportunities, such as participating in a citizen science program […]

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  • In 1608, Captain John Smith sailed up the Chesapeake Bay from Jamestown, Virginia, on a voyage of exploration. Indeed, Smith’s shallop and its 14-man crew passed close to Marshy Point as they sought land, gold, and a passage to the Pacific Ocean. Smith made it as far as the Susquehanna River, but didn’t locate a […]

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  • For those of us that live close to the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, the return of ospreys each year in March is one of our region’s most recognizable and loudest signs of Spring. Their loud, shrill calls begin as they set up territories, find mates, and build nests. Ospreys are unique among raptors (birds […]

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  • As Winter begins to give way to the mud season, the fluctuations between freezing nights and days in the 40s and 50s cause something magical to happen in the natural world. These conditions make maple sap begin to flow and trickle out of any natural or man-made hole in a maple tree. Native Americans took […]

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  • I was going to begin with writing about how anyone on a trip to a park, nature center, or natural area would encounter invasive plants. Then I realized that encounters with invasive plant species could be assured on any trip into the outdoors. In the end, however, I remembered that many of us keep invasive […]

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  • Among all life on earth, amphibians are unique in representing a bridge between aquatic and terrestrial organisms. The word amphibian itself is from the ancient Greek for “two lives.” The current thinking in biology is that amphibians were among the first animals to leave the water and live on land. However, all amphibians are tied […]

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  • February 2015 was the coldest February since 1934. The often-referenced “polar vortex” of last year doesn’t measure up to the cold of February 2015, which left most of the Chesapeake Bay north of the Bay Bridge covered in ice. Such an extent of ice on the Bay has not been seen since 1977! Marshy Point […]

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  • Marshy Point is home to a domestic turkey that wanders the area around the nature center with our chickens, but several dozen wild turkeys also roam our woods. Turkeys are native to the Americas and are one of the few animals domesticated by Native Americans in Central America and the Southern United States. Although wild […]

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