Friday, July 31, 2009

Thanks to Seacrets for a Fun and Profitable Night!

Thanks to Seacrets for donatnig all cover charges collected between 5 and 9 pm to the Coastal Bays Program! We raised nearly $4,000 last night that will go toward protecting and enhancing our watershed.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Reminder - Join us at Seacrets Tonight!

Join us at Seacrets in Ocean City tonight from 5 - 9 pm.

The cover charge is just $5 and all money collected during that time will be donated to the Maryland Coastal Bays Program!

Help fund efforts to improve the health of our bays and enjoy a fun night at Seacrets at the same time!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Coastal Bays night at Seacrets this Thursday!

Join us at Seacrets in Ocean City Thursday, July 30 from 5 - 9 pm. All cover charges collected during that time will be donated to the Maryland Coastal Bays Program!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Royal Tern Bird Banding Experience

As an international student from Honduras, interning for Maryland Coastal Bays Program has presented several opportunities to further my knowledge of the area’s abundant wildlife. A few weeks ago under a clear blue sky at 9:15 or so, I boarded one of two boats headed from the West Ocean City Marina to a small Island near the Route 90- bridge in Ocean City with the goal to band juvenile Royal Terns that inhabit the island.
About a dozen people from the Maryland Coastal Bays Program and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as several volunteers, traveled to the small island. As the boats approached the island, colored in shades of white and black feathers, hundreds Laughing gulls and Royal Terns, as well as a single Sandwich Tern, took wing above.
Banding is an indispensable technique for studying movement, survival and behavior of birds. It consists of placing a uniquely numbered metal band around the bird’s leg then releasing it. The bander records where and when each bird is banded along with any other information (age, sex) and sends the data to the Bird Banding Laboratory at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Maryland. The Laboratory is jointly administered by the US Department of the Interior and the Canadian Wildlife Service and issues permits that allow people and organizations to band birds and maintains the data collected by the banders.
Royal Terns are gull-like, mostly white birds which often also have some black on the tips of their wings. They have slender orange beaks and short forked tails with black feathers on the back of the head that if I didn’t know better looked a lot like human hair. They can be readily seen during summer flying over water with their bills pointing down as they plunge into the water to catch fish.
They can be found along shorelines in North, Central and South America. Nesting occurs on the ground of low-lying islands in colder area during summer - from the coast of North Carolina to New England in North America and the coast of Argentina in South America. . They spend their winters in the warmer climates from North Carolina and California southward to the Caribbean and Brazil. They prefer saltwater habitats such as coastal areas, beaches, bays and don’t usually travel inland.
It is believed that their population is generally stable. However, since their only known nesting area in Maryland is in the coastal bays, scientists are concerned about their status.
Human interference could affect the breeding birds in the coastal bays. Jet skiers are often seen riding by the island near the young birds. In order to avoid any interference with the Royal Tern’s breeding cycle it is important to minimize disturbances. As amazing as it sounds, chicks may leave the nest one day after hatching, but it is important not to disturb adults sitting on eggs, or young birds before they are able to fly.
Placing the bands on these tiny creatures, I could feel their heart pounding through their thin coat of feathers while they pecked constantly trying to free themselves from my unfamiliar hands. Their parents hovered above closely watching what we were doing, chirping constantly. It was priceless to see the moment when the young ones were released and they made their way back to their nests.

Renee Marie Laffite is a summer intern with the Maryland Coastal Bays Program. She is from the Caribbean Coast of Honduras and will start her junior year at Loyola University in the fall.

Friday, July 24, 2009

New Informative Panel at Macky's Bayside Bar & Grill

Roman Jesien, science coordinator Maryland Coastal Bays Program, stands beside a new informative panel describing the living shoreline at Macky’s Bayside Bar and Grill in Ocean City. The living shoreline was installed to protect the shoreline and stop migrating sand threatening a valuable tidal pool that houses terrapin, horseshoe crabs, terns and other wildlife. The project was designed by Spencer Rowe, Inc of Ocean City with Joe Kincaid, MD Department of Environment. Planting began in April 2006. The sign was funded by Macky’s owner, Macky Stansell, and is an example of how businesses can enhance natural habitat for the betterment of both. Come to the restaurant, check out the poster, but tread lightly, marshes are fragile.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Coastal Stewards Program in Full Swing

Eleven area high school and college students are learning how to be Coastal Stewards as part of a new program that trains youth to conduct education, outreach, & stewardship activities. Coastal Stewards is managed by the Maryland Coastal Bays Program and Delmarva Low-Impact Tourism Experiences, partnered with the Lower Shore Workforce Alliance, Assateague Island National Seashore, and Assateague State Park. Additional partners include area museums, tourism offices, parks, and conservation groups. This program is funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the National Park Service, and the Ocean City-Berlin Optimist Club.

Monday, July 20, 2009

History and Future of the Coastal Bays found in Shifting Sands Book

While many are aware of the environmental challenges that the Coastal Bays watershed currently faces, the remarkable history of the area is not as often examined. Shifting Sands - Environmental and Coastal Change in Maryland's Coastal Bays not only covers in depth the obstacles that stand in the way of the health of the bays, but also provides intriguing insight into the area’s past and also its future direction. This look over time provides a unique socio-cultural perspective and rare local history which complements the scientific analysis to create a comprehensive view of the state of the watershed.
Shifting Sands begins its chronological examination in the depths of prehistory, at the close of the last ice age when the Delmarva peninsula finished its formation after being carved by glaciers. The Coastal Bays followed around 4,500 years ago when the rising sea inundated the area, and the barrier islands were formed when a subsequent fall in sea level occurred. Just as these islands and bays owe their geological origin to the sea, they owe their continued existence to it as well. Tides, sediment texture, and shoreline sediment transportation are responsible for much of both the islands’ change and constancy, though this natural process is often interrupted by modern human involvement. The early natural history of the bays is just one instance where the book combines historical and scientific information to provide a look at the relationship between the past and the promise of a healthy future.
The book moves on to cover the initial human interaction with the landscape which is now the Coastal Bays watershed. The area was first utilized as an intermittent hunting ground by Native Americans around 10,000 years ago, with permanent settlement beginning around AD 900 when maize agriculture gained prevalence. Native American tribes built small villages along the bays’ tributaries where they caught fish and gathered shellfish along the shore. Their presence is still seen in names like Assateague Island and Assawoman bay, and many artifacts have been found or remain to be found by archeological excavation. Europeans first came in contact with the area through the explorations of seafarers like Giovanni da Verrazzano and Henry Norwood, while later infamous pirates would find it a haven and asset to their exploits. The text describes how early colonists found themselves in a wilderness teeming with a great abundance of animals, from black bear and bison to wolves and cougars. This early human settlement left very little impact on the surrounding land, a trend which would be gradually reversed throughout the next centuries.
Also covered in Shifting Sands are aspects of Assateague and Ocean City that reveal the developing character and culture of the area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including information on the many new inlets that formed frequently and on the once thriving Oyster industry. With increasing development due to rapid population growth the health of the area saw much decline which would not be addressed until the early environmental initiative in the wake of the Clean Water Act. Due to efforts local and national, the Coastal Bays were able to recover from harmful algal blooms and support a rebound in seagrass growth, making great headway with the ban on DDT and the bays’ membership in the National Estuary Program. The book chronicles this struggle to improve the bays which began more than thirty years ago and is still an ongoing and crucial endeavor.
Through its utilization of detailed yet clear scientific analysis and historical insight the text provides a comprehensive perspective in which to view the past and future of our relationship with the Coastal Bays watershed. Going beyond just objective and highly edifying science, the book also explores the character of the area and its noteworthy past. Shifting Sands is the quintessential guide to these once-forgotten bays and a fascinating look at their natural and cultural identity.

The above was written by Peter Andes, an intern at the Maryland Coastal Bays Program and a 2009 graduate of Stephen Decatur High School, class of 2009. He will be attending the University of Maryland Baltimore County in the fall.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Clotheslines Making a Comeback

Have you heard about the solar clothes dryer? It harnesses the heat of the sun to dry your clothes. But that’s not all. It can remove bacteria from fabric, while also leaving your clothes smelling fresh and clean. Its available today at no cost to you.
No, this is not an advertisement for a new solar powered clothes dryer but a simple reminder that hanging clothes on a line to dry naturally from the warmth of the sun is a cost and energy saving alternative.
Electric and gas dryers are second only to refrigerators and air conditioners as the top energy consumers in most homes. In fact, dryers use ten to fifteen percent of domestic energy in the United States, and you’d be hard pressed to find any home without one.
Clotheslines were once commonplace, dotting lawns in suburbia and rural areas and hanging from windows and balconies in cities nationwide. Over time, however, clotheslines are often considered unsightly signs of poverty that devalue property. Nationwide, about 60 million people live in about 300,000 community associations, most of which restrict or prohibit outdoor laundry hanging.
Despite restrictive covenants and outdated thinking, clothesline are making a comeback, thanks in part to grassroots organizations such as Project Laundry List (, a non-profit group that promotes sun drying (or indoor air-drying) as an “acceptable, desirable, simple and effective” way to save energy.
According to Project Laundry List, legislation in Colorado was passed last year allowing thousands of families to use clothesline in communities where they were formerly banned. So far this year clothesline legislation has been debated in several states, including Maryland, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, Nebraska, Oregon, Virginia, and Vermont.
To further that effort, has launched a viral petition drive to encourage America’s First Family to hang their laundry on the White House lawn for just one day. The idea is to create a photo op to promote line drying as a “symbol of patriotism and intelligence and environmental activism, rescuing it from the symbol of poverty and despair it seems to represent today.”
With an estimated savings of about 15 percent on your energy bill, money and energy conservation are compelling reasons to limit clothes dryer use, but there are other benefits as well. Line drying helps clothes stay newer longer because they aren’t tumbling against the inside walls of a dryer – check the lint filter for proof of such damage. Being exposed to fresh air and sunshine adds a natural fragrance without the use of chemicals. The rays of the sun act as a natural disinfect for clothes, also without chemicals. Reducing dryer use also has safety benefits, since dryer fires account for several deaths, hundreds of injuries and millions in property damage each year. One added bonus – youngsters will learn a “new” meaning for the word clothesline that has nothing to do with professional wrestling.
For most people eliminating dryer use entirely would be difficult. Certainly there are those who may not want to hang their unmentionables on the line for all the neighbors to see and rain and humidity can make outside drying impossible. However, the less you run your dryer, the more money and energy you save, so every little bit helps. It may take a bit more effort, but this is one of those small steps that nearly everyone can take to help our planet be healthier, one t-shirt, bathing suit, washcloth and several clothes pins at a time.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Shifting Sands now for sale!

To purchase a copy call the MCBP office at 410-213-BAYS. Books are $20 plus tax.

Coastal Bays Report Card C+ Average Grade

Click here to read the Report Card