Eastern Neck is a 2,285-acre island at the mouth of the Chester River. The refuge boasts a bird list of over 240 bird species that are attracted by habitats ranging from open water and tidal marshes to forest and farmland. The entire island was purchased in 1962 by proceeds from the Duck Stamp.
We saw about 40 of the possible 240 birds, which was a good birding day for late January in Maryland. Highlights included Canvasback, American Black Duck, Tundra Swan, Northern Pintail, only one Kestrel and Bald Eagles galore. I also finally nailed in my head exactly what a Swamp Sparrow looks like without thumbing through Sibley's.
Eastern Neck has over 600 acres of cropland, which should have been perfect habitat for the elusive American Pipit. Here's what we found when we went looking for them:
This confirmed that the American Pipet does not actually exist. It is simply a figment of some birders imagination.
Meet one of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources biggest invasive species concerns: Phragmites
Eastern Neck National Refuge sports over 1000 acres of brackish marsh. Phragmites, AKA common reed, loves to live in brackish marsh. Phragmites is a tall, tough grass which is found worldwide, but is an introduced species to North America. Phragmites have been harvested for roofing material and used to make boats, spears, baskets and paper. The problem with Phragmites (and all invasive species) is that without the disease and predators in their native lands, invasive species spread in epic proportion and compete against native species for food, shelter and other resources. Phargmites reduce the diversity of plant species and provide little value for wildlife.
We found little to no bird activity in the large clumps of phargmites that dot the island.
All day we wondered where the snow geese were. On our way to lunch, we found a couple thousand in cornfield outside Chestertown. I'm not sure if our attempt to read the number off a banded bird scared up the flock or the Red-Tailed Hawk that loomed in a tree to the right of the field.Birds, great conversation, a beautiful winter day, a cool refuge and three cute gentlemen.
What more could a girl ask for? Thanks, guys!