Audubon Mid-Atlantic
August 2021 News | Upcoming Events
Black Skimmer
Protecting Critical Coastlines and Waters
“Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.”  --Samuel Coleridge

In Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, the titular narrator tells a tale of woe stemming from his killing of an albatross that was guiding a ship at sea.

I have thought of this quote often during this summer of torrential rainfalls, heavy winds and flooding in the Mid-Atlantic. There is no denying that climate change is wreaking havoc on our planet. And while severe and irreparable environmental damage might seem to be happening far from our regional home, our local waters have also changed significantly in recent years. This is why so much of Audubon’s local work focuses on climate change mitigation, adaptation and resiliency efforts, driven by a sense of urgency given the steep declines in bird populations.

As you will read below, our regional staff manages both coastal adaptation and watershed restoration work. In Maryland’s Coastal Bays, where nesting islands have all but disappeared into the rising seas, Audubon helped lead an artificial island project that has created the largest colony of nesting terns in the bay this year.  Elsewhere in the region, Audubon’s Delaware River Watershed work includes restoring streambeds with plants and trees to reduce erosion and encourage cooler waters. In the Strawberry Mansion Reservoir at the Discovery Center, we grow seed mussels to maturity. Once grown, staff move the mussels, which filter pollutants from fresh water, to local streams and rivers throughout the watershed.

But there is so much for Audubon staff and supporters like you to do to protect birds and help them thrive. Thank you for your guidance and strong support of our work and for your own efforts on behalf of birds.

Suzanne Biemiller
Executive Director, Audubon Mid-Atlantic
Vice President, National Audubon Society
Black Skimmer. Photo: Trudy Walden/Audubon Photography Awards
Common Tern chick on nesting raft.
Nesting "Islands" for Iconic Waterbird Species
Maryland’s Coastal Bays, located behind Ocean City and Assateague Island on the Atlantic coast, is home for iconic waterbirds such as the Common Tern, Royal Tern, and Black Skimmer. However, nesting islands that once dotted the bays have been disappearing over the years due to erosion from sea level rise. This loss of suitable habitat has resulted in an alarming population decrease among these species, with their numbers dropping by more than 90% since the 1980s. These terns and skimmers are in danger of being completely wiped out unless we are able to protect and rebuild these nesting sites.

In partnership with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Maryland Coastal Bays Program, Audubon Mid-Atlantic has created an innovative project to build artificial islands placed on rafts that recreate nesting beachfront for these birds. Platforms loaded with crushed clams shells were towed and anchored in the bays, and chick shelters and decoys were added to the rafts, thanks to the help of local community groups. Since the island was launched in late spring, 23 tern nests have been spotted on the island along with signs of chicks hatching.
Common Tern chick on nesting raft. Photo: David Curson
Mussels at The Discovery Center
The “Mussel” Behind the Delaware River Watershed’s Clean Water
The Discovery Center sits on a 37-acre Strawberry Mansion Reservoir that provides clean water and robust habitat for more than 200 bird species throughout the year. The freshwater and controlled conditions of the reservoir also make it a perfect home to grow a key building block in a healthy ecosystem – native freshwater mussels. While these bivalve mollusks can be a food source for some shorebirds, the freshwater mussels keep the aquatic life thriving and will eventually make their way to rivers, streams, and waterways to filter water for birds and communities throughout the Delaware River Watershed. Unfortunately, freshwater mussels are facing a population decline due to pollution, loss of habitat, and loss of suitable fish to act as hosts and incubators.

In 2018, a freshwater mussel propagation program kicked off between partners across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware to combat this decline by propagating new mussels and rebuild the population in the watershed, which has grown to be known as the Aquatic Research and Restoration Center (ARRC). The Discovery Center is one of the nursery sites where we host about 700 freshwater mussels of two native species (alewife floater and eastern elliptio) in their second-to-the-last stage of the propagation.
Mussels at The Discovery Center
Saltmarsh Sparrow
Raising the Bar for Salt Marshes on Deal Island
Salt marshes in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed are rapidly deteriorating due to sea level rise, and Audubon is leading the way to develop innovative projects to protect and restore these vital habitats for marsh birds such as the Black Rail and Saltmarsh Sparrow. The Deal Island peninsula on Maryland’s Eastern Shore has experienced significant erosion as well as land subsidence that is resulting in high marsh grasses eroding into tidal mud. In addition to supporting bird populations, these marshes offer protection to four historic coastal communities that are at significant risk of destruction from sea level rise.

Building on our previous salt marsh restoration projects in the region, we are working with federal, state, and local agencies to restore 75 acres of land on Deal Island by using dredge material from the nearby Wicomico River to raise the salt marsh elevation.
Saltmarsh Sparrow. Photo: Frank Lehman/Audubon Photography Awards
Evening View of Strawberry Mansion Reservoir
The Discovery Center Event Series Taps into the Connection of the “Birds & Brews” of the Delaware River Watershed
From the Catskill Mountains to the Schuylkill Highlands and Fairmount Park, birds of the Delaware River Watershed ranging from the Wood Thrush to the Louisiana Waterthrush depend on a reliable flow of quality water to survive and thrive. They aren’t alone. The success of communities and local small businesses, such as Brewers for the Delaware River, are just as connected to the health of the watershed.

To highlight the importance of water quality, Audubon Mid-Atlantic hosted a panel of experts, business owners, and city leaders at the first in a series of “Birds & Brews” events at The Discovery Center to discuss the biggest issues facing the Delaware River Watershed and how these issues impact birds, businesses, and communities alike.

The July event drew in dozens of Philadelphia and local residents who joined to learn more about the importance of investing in regional efforts to protect our water now and into future, while enjoying the taste of local, craft beer brewed with quality water from the watershed.
Evening view of Strawberry Mansion Reservoir. Photo: Elizabeth Brown
Upcoming Opportunities
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
River Days Planting Party at the John James Audubon Center
River Days are here! Join us at the John James Audubon Center on September 25th for a River Days “Planting Party” to celebrate the birds we love by giving them the native plants they need!

Grab a snack and enjoy some tunes, while planting native plants for birds and getting to know your fellow community members. Party plantings will help keep our watershed healthy and expand shared spaces for birds and people at Mill Grove. Learn more and RSVP
Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Photo: Gary Robinette/Audubon Photography Awards
Birders
Join Us for Baltimore Birding Weekend!
Baltimore Birding Weekend is happening September 24-26! Connect with the city’s waterfront and green spaces while discovering the incredible wildlife diversity. Explore local parks, paddle the Patapsco River, or take a boat ride to the successful restoration project on Hart-Miller Island. Have fun birdwatching in Charm City! Learn more and register
Birding during Audubon's Baltimore Birding Weekend 2020. Photo: Camilla Cerea
Brewers of the Delaware River Growler. Photo: Fox N Hare
Birds & Brews
Our Birds & Brews series featuring Brewers for the Delaware River and community partners continues through the fall. Join us at The Discovery Center in Philadelphia to learn more about the connection between water, beer and birds! Learn more and RSVP
Brewers of the Delaware River Growler. Photo: Fox N Hare
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Upcoming Programs and Events
Fall plantings, bird walks, happy hours, and more! Don’t miss these exciting events and activities happening across our Centers and programs throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.  Learn more and RSVP
Red-bellied Woodpecker. Photo: Lucy Franco/Audubon Photography Awards
Red-winged Blackbird
In the News
Outlet: CBS Baltimore
Headline: Maryland Partnership Launches Nesting Platform Initiative For Endangered Waterbirds
Excerpt: “As suitable habitat for these birds dwindles from effects of a changing climate like shoreline erosion and sea-level rise, it’s more important than ever to do what we can to keep them as part of the coastal ecosystem.” – Dr. David Curson, Audubon Mid-Atlantic Director of Bird Conservation

Outlet: Baltimore Style
Headline: Meet Susie Creamer, Director, Patterson Park Audubon Center - Baltimore Style
Excerpt: “Each of us has the opportunity to take action to restore and cultivate Baltimore’s landscape with plants that contribute food, shelter and nesting materials for birds and other wildlife. That means backyard habitat as well as front and side yards!”

Outlet: Philadelphia Inquirer
Headline: A field guide to bird watching in Philly, without even leaving the city.
Excerpt: Ornithology’s roots run deep here, thanks to renowned bird scientists like John James Audubon, John Bartram, and Alexander Wilson, who did much of their early work in the region, says Keith Russell, program manager of Urban Conservation at Audubon Mid-Atlantic. “This has been an activity that’s been practiced in and around Philadelphia for a very long time,” Russell says. “We have one of the most vibrant birding communities anywhere in the United States.” The Discovery Center is highlighted as one of the birding hot spots in the article.
 

Outlet: StateImpact Pennsylvania
Headline: DCNR’s 25-year plan for state parks stresses need to address effects of climate change
Excerpt: “Those native plants will help us provide connectivity across the ridge so that wildlife moving from a preserved parcel can go through a more-developed area and still find sustenance,” Jeanne Ortiz said.
Red-winged Blackbird. Photo: Charles Wheeler/Audubon Photography Awards
Audubon Mid-Atlantic Offices
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1201 Pawlings Road
Audubon, PA 19403
(610) 666-5593 ex. 101​ | pa.audubon.org
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Baltimore, MD 21224
(410) 558-2473 | md.audubon.org
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(610) 990-3431 | audubon.org

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