Donovan Rypkema Leads Planning Discussions

Don Rypkema 2

Donovan Rypkema

On April 28, Four Rivers and the City of Annapolis hosted a roundtable discussion at the James Brice House in downtown Annapolis, with nationally-renowned speaker Donovan Rypkema of PlaceEconomics. Rypkema outlined the work that could be accomplished through a planned economic study analyzing the positive effects of historic preservation on the local economy. The roundtable group included many Four Rivers stakeholders from local non-profit organizations, the Anne Arundel County department of Planning and Zoning, the Maryland Historical Trust, and local residents. Topics discussed included input from the assembled stakeholders on questions they would like to see answered through such a study. Rypkema also spoke to a large group at the City Council Chambers in Annapolis that same evening as part of the celebration of “Preservation50,” which recognizes the 50th Anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 and is the reason we have a federally-certified historic preservation program in Annapolis. Rypkema discussed his previous PlaceEconomics studies in cities across the United States including Raleigh, NC, Pittsburgh, PA, and San Antonio, TX.

Education Committee Seeks New Members

Four Rivers has a very active Education Committee, which is seeking new members! Any and all of our colleagues involved in education-related programming are invited to join in our efforts to raise the collective level of expertise on a variety of topics. The committee meets regularly throughout the year  and past topics of discussion have included ADA Accessibility, disaster planning, ideas for innovative public programming and new educational programs, the development and implementation of surveys to gauge visitor satisfaction, collaborations with Anne Arundel County Public Schools, measurable results for education-related grant writing, sustainability for heritage programming, peer review opportunities, and more. Workshop development is also a benefit of participation in the Education Committee; past workshops have included planned giving at your organization; how to talk about slavery and race at your site; “little-known Maryland nonprofit employment laws;” and emergency preparedness. Call our office at 410-222-1805 to find out about our next meeting; all are welcome!

Let’s Talk Birds: The Bald Eagle

By Donna L. Cole

Here it is – my final, guest blog post for Four Rivers Heritage Area about migratory birds.  For the grand finale, I want to focus on my favorite bird, which in this area might not migrate at all, but we’ll get to that in a minute.  First, you should know why it’s my favorite.  This is a bird I never once, not once, saw in my youth or in most of adult years, up until around five or six years ago.  Now – today, in the year 2016, this is a bird that my daughter has seen so much, she gives them the same amount of interest as she does to squirrels.  And yes, maybe that’s a teenager for you, but this bird is seen so often by us, around this area, and the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed, they’ve become – well, kind of common.  Hard to believe. Imagine, if you will, a bird that was on the brink of extinction, one you would never see, except on money, statues and photographs, to that same bird today – which has become yes, a common sighting to those of us who look up a lot.  This is an extraordinary bird, with an even more extraordinary tale.  This is our national bird.

Let’s talk bald eagles.  How did bald eagles disappear and how did they make such a comeback?  There was habitat loss of course, but we also used a pesticide called dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and we used it liberally and frequently.  DDT adversely effected eggs of bald eagles and other birds to the point of greatly limiting or eliminating the possibility of hatching.  In 1962, a woman named Rachel Carson published a book called, Silent Spring, which warned of the dangers of DDT.  That book was the game changer, which led to the eventual ban of DDT in this country and the comeback of bald eagles (and other wildlife).    Now, you can maybe understand how for someone born in the 1960s, who wouldn’t have ever seen bald eagles, because this was the time of DDT – in fact, even for years after its use, was still the time of the lingering effects of DDT, would be so completely awe-struck at the first sighting of a bald eagle, they became her favorite bird.  And yes, I’ll always remember that first sighting – not one, but two bald eagles along the Severn River.

The bald eagle will, because of freezing temperatures and water, migrate south.  As their food, such as fish, becomes more difficult to get, the birds go to areas where it’s easier – where temperatures aren’t as extreme.   Because we happen to be in an in-between zone of sometimes freezing and sometimes not, there are bald eagles who stay here year-round.  For states south of us, the same goes.  And every year, more and more bald eagles are being seen – it’s so very cool to watch the numbers and sightings continue to go up and up.  History is changing before our very eyes.

Where can you see bald eagles?  Just look up – seriously.  There’s a pair I frequently see flying above Solomons Island Road, most often in between Lee Airport and the Annapolis Harbour Center. There are many (yes, many) near the confluence of the North and South rivers – two friends in recent history have reported seeing bald eagles doing Route 50 fly-overs where it crosses the South River.  I’ve also seen bald eagles at Quiet Waters, Sandy Point and London Town.  If you want to drive a little farther, the Eastern Shore is loaded with them.  For guaranteed sightings, head to Conowingo Dam, which is best late fall to early winter.

What can you do to help these birds continue to flourish?  If you’re a hunter and/or angler, switch to lead-free ammunition / tackle.  And for everyone, please don’t use poison baits for rodents. Bald eagles are raptors and will eat whatever they can find, including poisoned carcasses, which kills them too.

I highly recommend this video (in other words, you absolutely, positively have watch this video) –

Images: top, juvenile bald eagle; bottom, mature bald eagle. Credit: Donna L. Cole, Annapolis Creative

Juv bald eagleMature bald eagle

Let’s Talk Birds: Indigo Buntings

By Donna L. Cole

It’s another of those birds that makes me question if people are just messing with me.  They’ve seen them. They’ve shared photos of them.  They say the bird exists here – as in right here in the Four Rivers Heritage Area (during the warmer months).  In fact, I’ve even been told one of these birds frequents the campus of my daughter’s school, where I spend a lot of time  –  looking for birds.  And yet, here I am without any sightings of my own.  For the record, I’m not an indigo bunting denier.  I believe.

Let’s talk indigo buntings.  Like the other migratory birds I’ve written about, this one also spends its winters in warm climates.  And yes, once again, it’s the male that carries the colorific chromosome that gives them their stunning blue plumage.   Females, eh – not so much.  Here’s an interesting thought – according to the Raptor Resource Project, “We know that male birds conserve more sex-linked traits and pass them on to sons and daughters, but male plumage is more complicated than it appears.  Recent work published in the journal Evolution indicates that female birds were once as flashy as males. We think that sexual selection drove male color evolution (females prefer colorful males), and natural selection drove female loss of color (brighter females and young were more likely to be spotted by predators and competitors).”

Where can you see this magnificent migrant?  I sure would like to know.  According to the National Audubon Society, “Brushy pastures, bushy wood edges. For nesting favors roadsides, old fields growing up to bushes, edges of woodlands, and other edge habitats such as along rights-of-way for powerlines or railroads. Also in clearings within deciduous woods, edges of swamps. In the west, usually near streams.”

With all of those habitats, you should be able just about anywhere, right? Good luck and please do let me know when and where you have in the comments below.

Photo below: Male Indigo Bunting. Credit: National Park Service



Let’s Talk Birds: Hummingbirds

By Donna L. Cole

It happened on Tuesday – the first notification I’ve seen that hummers are back.  This one was posted on the MD Notable Bird Sightings & Discussion Group and the bird was seen in St. Mary’s County.  EBird also has reports to our south – in Virginia. Get ready, Anne Arundel!

Let’s talk hummingbirds.  They really are magical, small birds, fluttering here, there and everywhere and doing it with astounding speed and purpose.  They’re captivating, cute and colorful.  In Maryland, according to (which also has a very cool map for tracking migration), we get the Ruby-throated, Rufous and Calliope.  EBird seems to agree with that, but Rufous and Calliope are less common than Ruby-throated.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “You can attract Ruby-throated Hummingbirds to your backyard by setting up hummingbird feeders or by planting tubular flowers. Make sugar water mixtures with about one-quarter cup of sugar per cup of water. Food coloring is unnecessary; table sugar is the best choice. Change the water before it grows cloudy or discolored and remember that during hot weather, sugar water ferments rapidly to produce toxic alcohol. Be careful about where you put your hummingbird feeders, as some cats have learned to lie in wait to catch visiting hummingbirds.”

In addition to nectar, they eat insects too. There’s some fascinating information about Ruby-throated hummingbirds here –

And this video is an absolute must –

Below: Ruby-throated hummingbird.  Credit – Louise McLaughlin, National Park Service



Let’s Talk Birds: The Wood Thrush

By Donna L. Cole

This is a story of a bird – a migratory bird.  And for that matter, a teenage girl too.  Because, you know, teenage girls are so into – birds.  No, they’re not, or if they are, they’ll never admit it, or at least mine won’t, so follow along with me on how this story came to be.

It was a beautiful May afternoon last year.  I heard a loud thump – the kind of thump I despise hearing.  I knew immediately what it was – no doubt about it.  I started checking all of the windows to figure out which one it was.  And on the last window checked, I looked down at the ground.  Despair. Not one, but two birds struck at the same time.  They must have been chasing one another – different species.  One was dead, the other completely stunned.  Because my house is in a heavily wooded area and I do have barred owls, I did not want to take a chance on the owls or any other raptor, fox or whatever taking this stunned bird.  I gently moved it behind a bush and checked on it over the next hour – it wasn’t moving, but was alert.  I also called a friend – the one I always call for help identifying birds (thank you, Dan Haas – a friend to many birds and birders), because I’d never seen this type of bird before.  Dan not only told me what it was – a wood thrush, but for me to do everything I can to keep it alive, as it’s a species in decline, due to loss of habitat (woods).  Great – that’s exactly what I wanted to hear when getting dressed to go out to an event I couldn’t get out of. I knew the bird would be ok where it was and I told my teenage daughter I’d be home in a couple of hours.  Then I left.

About an hour into the party, my daughter calls and tells me she’s bringing the bird inside.  Um, what?????? I have two, big dogs that despite them not ever used for it, are actually hunting dogs, driven by — catching prey. Like, for instance, birds. No, the bird can’t come inside.  She then explained it’s getting really dark out and it looks like a storm. I came home, in the pouring rain, to find the bird, in a box, on her bed, with dogs locked out of her room. The bird and my daughter slept in the same room that night.  Next morning, we took the box outside, opened it up and off went the wood thrush, flying as if it had never hit a window.  My daughter’s actions likely saved this bird’s life.

The wood thrush is gorgeous –a beautiful bird with an equally beautiful call.   According to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “Wood Thrushes cross the Gulf of Mexico in a single night’s flight. They spend the fall and winter in Central America. They return north in spring 2 to 6 times faster on a route that’s generally somewhat farther west. Males arrive on breeding grounds several days before females.”

Where can you see them? This is a bird that likes the woods and deep forests.  Listen for them.  Quiet Waters, London Town and Truxtun all have suitable habitat.

Suggested reading  –

What can you do to help the wood thrush?  Keep the trees – don’t cut them down, plant new ones, protect wooded areas – your own and others.  Also, for what it’s worth and education is worth a lot, a few years prior to this wood thrush incident, my daughter had learned to handle birds at school, where there’s an entire curriculum for fourth graders specifically geared at educating them about the birds of this area. That education, I’m fairly certain, helped create a conservationist, albeit a teenage one who would never admit to it.

Below: two images of wood thrush, by Donna L. Cole

Wood Thrush 1Wood Thrush 2

Let’s Talk Birds:  Guess Where I Am and Identify the Birds

By Donna L. Cole

I’m on vacation this week, but I thought it’d be fun to guess where I am.  Maybe some of these birds can be found in the Four Rivers Heritage Area, but maybe not.  And all of these photos were taken by me on a previous trip to where I’ve gone this time.

In the comments below, don’t just tell me where I am, tell me what the bird is too.  At least two of these photos offer hints.

Happy Easter and/or spring break to all.

All photos below by Donna L. Cole