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Chesapeake Bay News

Archives: February 2012

Feb
28
2012

Watershed Wednesday: Corsica River Conservancy (Centreville, Maryland)

Just over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, residents in Centreville, Md., spent Saturdays building rain gardens, installing native plants and talking to their neighbors about improving the health of the Corsica River, a tributary of the Chester River.

Corsica River display

(Image courtesy Corsica River Conservancy)

Volunteers with the Corsica River Conservancy (CRC) are seeking to remove the Corsica from the official list of impaired waterways. This goal requires major pollution reduction and habitat enhancement projects.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways for Corsica River area residents to help. All watershed residents are eligible to apply for a free rain garden valued at up to $2,000. Volunteers can also get involved with CRC’s oyster gardening and shoreline restoration projects.  Take a look at this interactive map to find a project near you.

Check out this blog post from the Chesapeake Bay Trust to learn more about the Corsica River Conservancy.

Caitlin Finnerty's avatar
About Caitlin Finnerty - Caitlin Finnerty is the Communications Staffer at the Chesapeake Research Consortium and Chesapeake Bay Program. Caitlin grew up digging for dinosaur bones and making mud pies in Harrisburg, Pa. Her fine arts degree landed her environmental field work jobs everywhere from Oregon to Maryland. Now settled in Baltimore, she is eagerly expecting her first child while creating an urban garden oasis on her cement patio.



Feb
28
2012

Maryland’s wintering waterfowl population down slightly in 2012

The number of ducks, geese and swans wintering along Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic shorelines was down slightly in 2012 compared to 2011, according to scientists with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

canvasbacks flying over the water

(Image courtesy Dominic Sherony/Flickr)

Survey teams counted 633,700 waterfowl this winter, as compared to 651,800 during the same time in 2011.

An unusually mild winter in the Mid-Atlantic region likely contributed to the lower population. Scientists counted fewer Canada geese, but more diving ducks, particularly scaup. Canvasback totals were the second lowest level ever recorded; however, more birds of this species were observed arriving after the survey was finished.

Maryland survey results are ultimately pooled with results from other states to measure the population and distribution of waterfowl up and down the Atlantic Flyway, according to Larry Hindman, DNR’s waterfowl project leader.

Visit DNR’s website for more information about the waterfowl survey, including a complete list of species and survey population figures.



Feb
27
2012

Four rare Chesapeake Bay “oddities” to learn about this leap year

For most of us, a leap year simply means adding an extra day to the schedule in February. But in other cultures, leap years are symbolic. In the British Isles, folk tradition says that women must propose marriage in leap years, whereas in Greece, it’s bad luck for couples to get married during leap years.

While Chesapeake Bay region folklore does not mention February 29, we decided to take this opportunity to mention a few Bay “oddities”: natural occurrences that only come along every so often – just like leap years.

1. Crab jubilees

crab jubilee

(Image courtesy Alpaca Farm Girl)

Like other Chesapeake Bay species, blue crabs need oxygen to survive. But when oxygen levels are too low, blue crabs come out of the water and onto land, an event known as a crab jubilee.

Despite the term “jubilee,” the event is not a celebration. Crab jubilees occur only when water quality in the Chesapeake Bay is extremely poor. Typically, a combination of hot weather, offshore winds and algae blooms fueled by nutrient runoff quickly deplete oxygen levels in the water, sending crabs and other critters running toward the shore for air.

In Mobile Bay, Alabama, a similar event known simply as the jubilee occurs regularly and has become a community celebration, renowned for an opportunity to easily catch seafood.

See more photos of a crab jubilee.

2. Bolides and impact craters

Chesapeake Bay bolide illustration

(Image courtesy Nicolle Rager-Fuller/National Science Foundation)

Thirty-five million years ago, a bolide (an asteroid-like object) crashed into what is now the lower tip of the Delmarva Peninsula, creating a 55-mile-wide crater that’s the largest known in the United States. It’s called an impact crater because the deep depression impacted the lay of the land: influencing the course of the region’s rivers and determining the eventual location of the Chesapeake Bay. As sea level rose and fell over the next few million years, the Chesapeake Bay fluctuated between dry land and a shallow coastal sea.

3. Visits from Chessie the manatee

manatees

(Image courtesy psyberartist/Flickr)

In 1994, the first Florida manatee ever was spotted in the Chesapeake Bay. This mammal, which can stay underwater for as long as 12 minutes, typically does not travel into waters below 68 degrees Fahrenheit. But this particular manatee, appropriately named Chessie, seems to occasionally prefer the cold. Chessie, which biologists recognize by distinct markings on his body, visited the Bay again in 2001 and 2011. Chessie even swam all the way to New England, the northernmost known point to ever receive a manatee visit.

Manatees are endangered because of habitat loss and harmful human activities, making a Chessie sighting all the more rare. Also, while most wild manatees live for 8 to 11 years, Chessie is at least 20 years old!

4. Humpback whale sightings

humpback whale

(Image courtesy Ken-ichi/Flickr)

North Atlantic humpback whales feed in polar waters in the summer and mate in warm waters in the winter. But each winter, a handful of humpback whales mate in the Chesapeake Bay instead of the tropics.  This year, 30 whales were counted off the coast of Virginia Beach – much higher than the average of five or six. An unusually mild winter attracted the whales to these Chesapeake waters.

Luckily, humpback whales are friendly and curious; they’re known to surface beside boats and put on a show for lucky whale watchers. Care for something even more rare? If you’re daring enough to stick your head in the water, you may be able to hear a mating song. Biologists can determine where a whale comes from by listening to its song. For example, Hawaiian humpback whales sing a different song than those from Virginia.

Caitlin Finnerty's avatar
About Caitlin Finnerty - Caitlin Finnerty is the Communications Staffer at the Chesapeake Research Consortium and Chesapeake Bay Program. Caitlin grew up digging for dinosaur bones and making mud pies in Harrisburg, Pa. Her fine arts degree landed her environmental field work jobs everywhere from Oregon to Maryland. Now settled in Baltimore, she is eagerly expecting her first child while creating an urban garden oasis on her cement patio.



Keywords: fish, blue crabs, history
Feb
22
2012

Maryland farmers plant record acreage of pollution-reducing cover crops in 2011

Maryland farmers planted nearly 430,000 acres of cover crops in fall 2011 through the state’s Cover Crop Program, the largest planting in Maryland history, according to the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA). The 2011 figure exceeds Maryland’s 2013 Chesapeake Bay pollution reduction milestone for cover crop plantings by 21 percent.

Cover crops on a field

Cover crops are widely considered one of the most cost-effective and environmentally sustainable ways to control soil erosion and reduce nutrient pollution to the Bay and its rivers in winter. Collectively, the 429,818 acres of cover crops planted in 2011 will prevent an estimated 2.58 million pounds of nitrogen (60 percent of Maryland’s total pollution reduction milestone goal) and 86,000 pounds of phosphorus from entering the state’s waterways.

Farmers plant cover crops such as rye, wheat and barley in the fall after summer crops are harvested. As they grow, cover crops recycle unused plant nutrients remaining in the soil, protect fields against wind and water erosion, and help improve the soil for next year’s crop.

To learn more about Maryland’s cover crop program, visit MDA’s website.



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