WC Students Shadow Environmental Educators at Shore Organizations in New Collaboration

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Few sixth-graders can resist the opportunity to go mudlarking in a marsh, but what about when they get stuck? Or fall in?

Then it’s up to the teacher to help—or, in this case, Abby Frey, who is shadowing the teacher, because Devin Herlihy, a seasonal educator at Pickering Creek Audubon Center just outside of Easton, has her hands pretty full with the rest of the class that’s happily wading through the wetland in search of frogs, tadpoles, crayfish, dragonfly larvae, and myriad other wonders of springtime.

Helping a youngster up from the mud is all part of the experience of shadowing environmental educators, which Frey, along with about ten other Washington College students, are doing this spring throughout the upper Eastern Shore. It’s part of a one-credit course that helps them get a feel for what being an environmental educator might be like as a career.

Abby Frey oversees students in a marsh at Pickering Creek Audubon Center while educator Devin Herlihy (right) points directions to a student.

“It’s opened my eyes to the different ways environmental education works,” says Frey, an environmental studies major with a minor in public health. She has shadowed school groups in various settings, participated in public outreach events including public paddles (her first time in a canoe) and the center’s annual plant-and-seed swap, and even gotten a feel for the kind of office organization needed to operate a place like Pickering Creek, a 400-acre waterfront property whose owners donated it to Chesapeake Audubon Society in 1982. “It’s been interesting to see the different age groups. These are sixth-graders today. The last time it was high-schoolers, and the vibe was different.

“Some of the people at the canoe event were older and had no experience in canoes,” she says. “So the whole thing changes with the age group, which makes it interesting.”

This spring is the second semester for this new class, which came about when Brian Scott and Leslie Sherman, co-chairs of the Department of Environmental Science and Studies, approached Erin Counihan, coordinator of the College’s secondary education program and a National Geographic Certified Educator, with an idea. Many of their graduates were landing jobs involving educating the public, and they wondered if there was a way to collaborate with the Department of Education to help prepare students for what sorts of opportunities are out there.

Counihan said that such a course already existed in the secondary education program, in which students logged 20 hours during the semester observing teachers in the classroom, then journaled and reflected on what they’d learned. She simply had to tailor it to environmental education.

She contacted several local environmental education organizations, including the Sultana Education Foundation, Echo Hill Outdoor School, Pickering Creek, Adkins Arboretum, Sassafras Environmental Education Center, Shore Rivers, and Tuckahoe State Park. All were excited to participate.

“If I find out a student has a passion for trees and wants to be a botanist, I will try to get them to go to Adkins Arboretum. Or if one has a broad passion to teach kids about the environment, I might send them to Sassafras or Echo Hill,” Counihan says. “They are asked to complete 20 hours, but once they get to their site they can determine what that looks like.” Some of them will shadow for a few Saturdays, while others go during the week when there might be an interesting opportunity, for instance when Shore Rivers goes to Talbot County schools.

Abby Frey pours water from her boots after wading in to help a student.

Emily Rugg, a double major in international studies and French studies, spent the spring shadowing the rangers at Tuckahoe State Park. Watching them interact with the public has completely changed her thinking about environmental education. A great example, she says, was shadowing the ranger one evening as she walked through the campground with one of the park’s barred owls. Everyone was captivated by the owl, and at each site, the ranger told the story of how this owl was blinded after being hit by a car. It had swooped down to catch a mouse that was eating an apple core someone had tossed from a car window.

“The way she was able to integrate that into every conversation we had with people who ranged from children and families and young adults and then older people, it was totally diverse, and everybody had the same reaction,” Rugg says. “One of the last people that we spoke to was a dad and his young son, he must have been four or five years old, and after we did this he literally turns to him and says, ‘All right! No more throwing banana peels out the window!’ ’’

Shadowing the rangers at Tuckahoe has shown her that environmental education happens in far more diverse places and ways than in a traditional classroom.

“This course has also made me realize any field I go into there’s going to be people willing to learn and people who need to learn, and I’m going to be in a positon of an educator, especially talking about environmental policy,” Rugg says. “I think that’s what’s so cool about this course, you’ve got such a diversity of host institutions and groups … it reinforces that idea that being able to be a successful educator, especially in the field of environmental science, will be beneficial no matter what career path you end up taking.”

Wow – A Rare Northern Shrike Visits Pickering Creek

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Northern Shrike at Pickering Creek as photographed by Wayne Bell

Birders have been flocking to Pickering Creek Audubon Center over the last couple of weeks to spot a rare bird. A first year Northern Shrike was first spotted by Dr. Wayne Bell on January 29.

Bell, an experienced birder, first observed the Northern Shrike while conducting periodic monitoring of bird species at Pickering Creek. As he scanned the area with his spotting scope from one of the wetland observation platforms, he got his first look at the bird perched in saplings before it flew across the recently restored wetlands. After returning to the parking lot, he located the bird again and observed it on and off again for a half hour – alternating between perching on exposed branches and diving into the underbrush. At this time, he was able to take a picture of the bird through his spotting scope.

The Northern Shrike is rarely found on the Eastern Shore. The bird breeds in the far northern reaches of Canada and northern Alaska. During the winter months, it migrates into the northern parts of the United States. However, it is rare to find it south of the New York-Pennsylvania state line.

The Shrike is a mostly gray songbird with a narrow black mask, black tail with white outer feathers, and black wings with a small white patch. It’s most notable feature, however, is the sharply hooked tip on its stout bill. They use this hawk-like bill to capture and snap the neck of prey, consisting largely of small mammals or other birds. Since they lack talons, the Northern Shrike will then impale the captured prey on a thorn to hold it in place while feeding.

After spotting the bird, Dr. Bell shared his sighting with other birders in the area through the Talbot County Bird Club rare bird hotline. He also reported it using eBird, a national database developed by Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology to capture bird sightings used by birders throughout the world. Once reported through eBird, the sighting was identified as a state rarity on reports shared with these birders.

By the next day, birders throughout the state were visiting Pickering Creek to see this unique bird. Most were rewarded with views of the bird as it perched high on exposed branches of sweet gums, sometimes near the parking lot, other times between the two wetland observation platforms. A review of eBird reports shows that over 70 birders added the Northern Shrike to their bird list. One birder came as far as Frostburg, MD, and another made the trip from North Carolina.

According to eBird, a Northern Shrike was last sighted at Pickering Creek in 2005, when it showed up in mid-February and stayed around for about a month. The closely related Loggerhead Shrike can be found throughout the southern half of the United States. While its range does not extend to the Eastern Shore, it sometimes makes a rare appearance. It was last seen at Pickering Creek in 2011, where it generated similar interest from birders throughout the region. The Loggerhead Shrike can be distinguished from the Northern Shrike by its thicker black mask, whiter breast, and smaller size.

Pickering Creek Audubon Center is open for the public to enjoy nature daily from dawn to dusk. There is no admission to enjoy the Center’s trails this February. There is no admission from March to December either. To learn more about Pickering Creek Audubon Center, visit its website at http://pickering.audubon.org. To learn more about the Talbot County Bird Club or subscribe to the rare bird hotline, send an email to talbotbirdclub@gmail.com.

Maryland General Assembly Recognizes 2018 as Year of the Bird

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The Maryland General Assembly has presented Audubon with an official citation recognizing 2018 as the Year of the Bird in Maryland. The declaration celebrates native and migratory birds making their way through Maryland annually and the state’s many creeks, rivers, ponds, woods, meadows and wetlands that support them.  The citation was delivered by Delegate Johnny Mautz on December 3rd with the Center’s full staff and board of trustees in attendance. “As 2018 draws to a close the General Assembly’s citation reminds us again how integral birds are in Maryland’s landscape.  We are honored to have the Maryland General Assembly and Delegate Mautz recognize the importance of birds in our local landscape and recognizes 2018 as the Year of the Bird”, said Mark Scallion, Director of Pickering Creek Audubon Center.  “We are also proud of Pickering Creek Audubon Center’s role as an anchor of bird habitat in Talbot County and an important place for people, especially school aged students, to learn about birds, habitat and the Chesapeake Bay.”

Audubon works with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Maryland State Department of Education on Governor Hogan’s Project Green Classrooms as well as with a host of local, state and federal agencies on important bird area protection, environmental literacy and sea level rise adaptation.

Delegate Johnny Mautz, Pickering Creek Board President Cheryl Tritt, President Elect Dirck Bartlett and Director Mark Scallion with the Year of the Bird Citation.

Home to 42 Important Bird Areas and more than 400 observed species, the citation recognizes that Maryland and the Eastern Shore’s natural resources provide important habitat for birds. Within Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay watershed serves as an important breeding and stopover area for millions of migratory birds each year.

People around the world are celebrating 2018 as Year of the Bird. This year marks the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, one of the oldest wildlife protection laws in the United States. In honor of this milestone, National Geographic, Audubon, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, BirdLife International, and dozens of other partners around the world joined forces to celebrate 2018 as the Year of the Bird.

“Year of the Bird is an easy way people can take small everyday actions to help birds along their journeys,” said David Yarnold, president and CEO for National Audubon Society. “Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay provides wintering grounds for approximately one-third of the Atlantic coast’s migratory population including iconic waterfowl species like the Tundra Swan, Canada Goose, Northern Pintail and Green-winged Teal for centuries.”

Many conservation organizations, agencies, businesses and academics have been instrumental in protecting birds and the places they need in Maryland. In celebrating 2018 as the Year of the Bird, there is great appreciation for the efforts of many organizations, including local Audubon chapters and centers, the Maryland Ornithological Society, the Department of Natural Resources, waterfowl associations and duck clubs, and many others. For more about Year of the Bird visit www.birdyourworld.org.

Contact: Mark Scallion, National Audubon Society, mscallion@audubon.org, 410-822-4903

Mid-Shore Teachers Complete Environmental Literacy Training with Pickering Creek

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For nine weeks, a cohort of mid-shore teachers gathered with staff of Pickering Creek Audubon Center on Wednesday evenings and two Saturdays to immerse themselves in Maryland’s Environmental Literacy (E-Lit) Standards. Established in 2011, Maryland’s Environmental Literacy Standards require all students to participate in multi-disciplinary environmental programs to build students’ understanding of the inextricable links between humans and the natural world. Hailing from Talbot, Kent and Wicomico counties, the eight teachers had experience in a range of grade levels and content disciplines.

Lynn Alemon, a 4th grade teacher at Easton Elementary School releases a newly banded thrush.

Focusing on one standard each week, the teachers were invited to explore environmental concepts by investigating Pickering Creek’s forest, meadow and wetland habitats, modeling activities, and engaging in discussions. These programs were led by Pickering Creek’s knowledgeable staff, which works with Eastern Shore school systems to help them meet Maryland’s Environmental Literacy Standards.  One Wednesday evening, teachers immersed themselves in a restored freshwater wetland by pulling on chest waders and seining in the waters before considering how human activities influence the availability of habitats. Another week teachers canoed on Pickering Creek, taking water quality samples while discussing the influence of the environment on human health. Before colder days set in, the group spent an evening sweeping butterfly nets through the meadows and looking for monarch butterflies and other insects while considering limiting factors on populations, communities and ecosystems.

“This reminds us that we need to be outside, and to be mindful of that with our students,” remarked Charlotte Compton, a first grade teacher at Easton Elementary School. “They need it too.”

Supported through a Chesapeake Bay Trust mini-grant, teachers had an opportunity to earn up to two continuing education credits if they attended both the nine weekday evening sessions as well as two Saturday field trips. On a Saturday in late September, the teachers traveled to Washington College’s Chester River Field Research Station, where they shadowed field ecologist, Maren Gimple, and learned about banding of migratory birds. Teachers watched as Gimple deftly removed Common Yellowthroats, Ovenbirds and other migratory birds from the station’s mist nets, took measurements of each bird, and attached a small metal bracelet to each bird’s leg. The teachers learned how data collected at the station in Chestertown is used to enhance our understanding of spring and fall seasonal bird migration along the Atlantic Flyway.

Pictured L-R (Top row): Lynn Alemon (Easton Elementary), Hayley Hartman (Pickering Creek), Danielle Devonport (Pickering Creek), Devin Herlihy (Pickering Creek), Donna Simmons (Kent School), Katelin Cep (Chapel District Elementary), Kathy Kelly (Chapel District Elementary), Jaime Bunting (Pickering Creek); (Bottom row) Jaime Eakin (Wicomico Middle), Charlotte Compton (Easton Elementary), Jeff Eutsler (White Marsh Elementary). Not pictured: Julia Berg (Bennet Middle).

In October, teachers spent a Saturday at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge where they heard from Refuge Wildlife Biologist Matt Whitbeck and Director of Science at the Nature Conservancy MD-DC, Dr. Arian Sutton-Grier, to learn about climate change, sea level rise, and the importance of protecting salt marsh habitats for wildlife and preserving the habitat’s ability to absorb and store carbon from the atmosphere. Julia Berg, a Social Studies teacher from James Bennett Middle School in Salisbury reflected, “I was fascinated to learn about blue carbon and the importance of wetlands in mitigating the effects of climate change. The E-Lit Camp has been really eye-opening and is giving me lots of ideas for working with the science teachers in my school.”

In November it was time for the teachers to synthesize what they had learned and develop activities and lessons that incorporate Environmental Literacy Standards. Jeff Eustler, a Physical Education teacher at White Marsh Elementary shared his idea of creating a fast-moving “Environmental Helpers” game during gym class that can emphasize the influence of individual and group actions on the environment. Lynn Aleman, a 4th grade Language Arts teacher at Easton Elementary School thought about how to enhance a current shark-focused reading project to include her students researching cultural and economic influences on the sharks’ populations and habitat. “I am excited to share these lessons and what I have learned with my students, in an effort to better engage them in science content during my reading block,” remarked Aleman.

Environmental literacy in the real world does not exist exclusively in the sciences; rather, it is woven throughout the many content disciplines taught in school and in all areas of our lives. But beyond the academics, the experiential aspect was what stuck for teachers. Jamie Eakin, a 6th grade science teacher from Wicomico Middle School summed it up: “E-Lit Camp is like teaching therapy for me. I get to be a student and feel the joy of learning again.”

Contact: Mary Helen Gillen, National Audubon Society, mgillen@audubon.org, 410-822-4903

New Trustees Welcomed to the Pickering Creek Audubon Team

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At Pickering Creek Audubon Center’s recent Board of Trustees meeting Esther Fleischmann, Dorothy Whitcomb and Andrew Smith joined the Pickering Creek Audubon Center Board of Trustees as new members, elected to a three year term.  They join recent addition Ron Ketter and current trustees Dirck Bartlett, Dave Bent, Tom Kimbis, Cemmy Peterson, Tom Sanders, Stuart Strahl, Carol Thompson and Cheryl Tritt.

Esther Fleischmann has been teaching Human Anatomy and Physiology at UMBC for over 20 years where she has been privileged to work with curious and highly motivated students.  Her academic roots stem from time living on Guam where she learned to scuba dive and decided to become a marine biologist.

Esther only started birding seriously in the last five years and can only imagine what her life lists would look like if they included Guam and other places she has traveled.  Birding and an invitation from long-time colleague, Bryan Mackay, led to her serving on the board of the Chesapeake Audubon Society for the last two years.  It is all she can do to get to work on time during the spring migration, wiping off her muddy boots on the way into the classroom.  Esther is committed to being an educator and a life-long learner herself.

Top: Esther Fleischmann and Dorothy Whitcomb. Bottom: Andrew Smith and Ron Ketter

Dorothy Whitcomb worked in the home furnishings industry for over 30 years.  As a contributing editor and freelance journalist, she covered business and design trends, as well as a diverse range of products. In addition to her work in the home furnishings industry, she is the owner and president of Quarter Cove Associates, a consulting firm that provides communications and business strategy services to small businesses and non-profit organizations.

In 1997, Whitcomb began living part time the Eastern Shore. Two years later, she and her husband, Don Whitcomb, moved full time to a home they built on Presquile Point, just down the road past Pickering Creek. They lived there for seventeen years before moving in 2017 to the town of Easton.

Andrew Smith’s family moved to Easton when he was 14. He grew up on the Miles River where he developed a love for the outdoors. He met his future wife, Sally, in high school, and together they have raised three beautiful children and five wonderful grandchildren.

Before moving back to Easton, Andy spent from 1970-1980 at a family lumber business in Baltimore. He retired four years ago from a twenty-eight year career with O.N.Andrew and Son, a local roofing contractor. Andy has been on the board of the Chesapeake Center, and delights in seeing the accomplishments of the clients there!

Andy enjoys being involved with the wood duck monitoring program at Pickering Creek for several years. It is truly a treat to have seen Pickering Creek develop into an educational asset for the community for young and old.

Ron Ketter and his wife, Janet, moved to the Eastern Shore in 2016, where they live just outside of Easton and enjoy birdwatching, gardening, camping and hiking. Ron has a lifelong interest in nature and conservation, both in his personal and professional life. He retired from the U.S. Forest Service in 2016, where he served in the national office in Washington DC as Director of Strategic Planning, Acting Budget Director, and Chief of Staff to the Chief Financial Officer. He also spent over four years in California as Deputy Regional Forester for the Pacific Southwest Region. In addition to volunteering at Pickering Creek, Ron’s other volunteer activities include assisting with biological surveys and monitoring at Blackwater National Refuge, serving on the Board of the Friends of Blackwater as their Treasurer, monitoring the Tred Avon River quality for ShoreRivers, and serving as a mentor with Talbot Mentors.

A key part of the National Audubon Society network, Pickering Creek Audubon Center funds its budget through contributions and fees secured by the Pickering staff and board. This local funding directly supports science and environmental education programs for students and residents in Talbot, Dorchester, Caroline and Wicomico counties.

Enjoy a Personally Led Experience in Nature with Pickering Creek

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Beginning this September, Pickering Creek Audubon Center in Easton, MD will offer a monthly in depth exploration of nature through its newly launched Exploring the Seasons-A Year in Nature. From September through May participants will get a unique look at the seasonal specialties of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem.  With a group limited to ten people, participants will have plenty of time to interact directly with program leaders and an opportunity to ask all the questions they can think of.  Together the group will explore the Chesapeake and Delmarva’s bounty through a monthly event highlighting the seasonal grandeur of living on Delmarva.  As the year progresses the program will be customized to meet each participant’s interests.  Participants will see Pickering throughout the seasons as well as explore a number of other public and private sites across the peninsula. They will learn about and experience waterfowl migration, fireflies at night Woodcock mating displays, spring flowering ephemerals fall butterflies and pollinator plants. Dates determined by the group.

Monarch butterflies hanging from aster flowers.

“This is a great opportunity for a small group of folks to deeply explore the lifecycle and highlights of the Chesapeake Bay and Delmarva over the course of a year” said the programs leader Mark Scallion.  “In addition to our organized explorations we’ll pay attention to each participants interests in the natural world and spend time learning about what they are interested in.  You’ll feel like a kid again as you learn more about fireflies, Woodcock mating displays, spring flowering ephemerals, bird migration, butterflies and more.”

The program is led by Mark Scallion, Director of Pickering Creek Audubon Center.  Mark has over 20 years experience in exploring Delmarva and sharing it with residents.  Mark manages all staff and day-to-day of Pickering Creek Audubon Center including education programs, land management, and farming operations. He holds a BS in Forest Engineering from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in conjunction with Syracuse University. While at SUNY-ESF he served as a Teaching Assistant for dendrology (taxonomic identification of trees and plants). Mark is a past President of the Talbot Bird Club of the Maryland Ornithological Society and given numerous presentations at regional, national and international conferences.  For more information about signing up for Exploring the Seasons: A Year in Nature contact Mark at the Center 410 822 4903.

Pickering Creek Offers Environmental Literacy Workshops for Teachers this Fall

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Pickering Creek Audubon Center is excited to announce their new workshop series this fall designed for K-12 teachers in the mid-Shore region – E-Lit Camp for Teachers.  The series is available at no cost to teachers, and is supported through a Chesapeake Bay Trust mini-grant.

The nine-week E-Lit Camp for Teachers program provides an opportunity for any K-12 teacher of any subject to learn more about the Maryland Environmental Literacy Standards; increase their own environmental literacy through hands-on activities, outdoor explorations, and lively discussions with colleagues; and brainstorm and develop plans to incorporate environmental topics into the classroom in multi-disciplinary ways.

The Maryland Environmental Literacy Standards, a state regulation passed in 2011, requires all students in the state of Maryland to participate in multi-disciplinary environmental programs to build environmental literacy.  It often falls to science teachers to meet these standards, but environmental literacy can be encouraged and supported in any classroom.

“We wanted to provide a training opportunity open to any K-12 teacher in the mid-Shore region from any discipline or school system.  We view this as a chance for teachers interested in science and environmental education to learn ways to incorporate these topics into their classrooms in hands-on, interdisciplinary ways, whether they are science teachers or not,” said Jaime Bunting, Education Coordinator at Pickering Creek Audubon Center

Teachers participating in Pickering Creek’s E-Lit Camp for Teachers this fall will experience bird banding up close.

The workshop series begins on September 12 and runs every Wednesday evening (with the exception of Halloween, in which case that week’s session will be the following evening) from 5:00-7:00pm through November 7, with all sessions meeting at Pickering Creek.  Each week will follow one of the eight MD E-Lit standards as its guiding theme, which will serve as a launch pad to investigate that topic in depth using Pickering Creek, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, and local wildlife and restoration examples as local context here on the Eastern Shore.  Participating teachers can expect to get muddy and wet, hike through diverse habitats, play interactive games, and collaborate with peers to incorporate the E-Lit standards and environmental education into their classrooms.  Teachers attending all weeknight sessions will be eligible for one MSDE continuing professional development credit.

In addition to the weeknight sessions, two optional Saturday sessions are available.  The Saturday sessions will take teachers further afield to explore environmental topics on the Eastern Shore.  Participants will travel to Washington College’s bird banding station to witness bird banding up close by observing Field Ecologist Maren Gimpel check mist nets and record bird data; teachers will have the chance to hold and release some of the banded birds.  During the second Saturday session, participants will head south to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, where they’ll hear more about the Refuge’s research and adaptation strategies for rising seas, and the impact sea-level rise has on the birds and wildlife depending on local salt marshes.  Teachers will tour the research sites and hear from Refuge biologist Matt Whitbeck and Dr. Ariana Sutton-Grier, Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Maryland and DC.   Participants who complete all of the weeknight sessions and the two Saturday sessions will be eligible for two MSDE continuing professional development credits.

“To earn one MSDE credit requires fifteen hours of instruction, so for teachers needing credits this is a great opportunity to earn up to two of them.  It’s a time commitment, for sure, but it will be a very engaging and fun way to earn those credits at no financial cost to the teachers,” says Bunting.

And what if teachers want to participate in some of the sessions, but don’t need the credits or can’t make each weekly session? Bunting is adamant that any interested teacher is still welcome to join the program.  “Register anyway!  We really encourage any teacher that wants to participate in some way, even if they can’t make every session, to reach out to us and discuss joining us for the days they can make it.  We’re just really excited about sharing this opportunity to build environmental literacy, and any teacher that wants to be a part of this journey in whatever capacity they can will be welcomed.”

Registration for E-Lit Camp for Teachers is currently open.  Space is limited, and interested teachers are encouraged to submit registrations by September 1.  For more information about the E-Lit Camp for Teachers program, or to request a registration form, contact Jaime Bunting at 410-822-4903 or jbunting@audubon.org.

Tour, Toast and Taste Promises Rare Glimpse Inside Lombardy Estate

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On June 9th, Pickering Creek Audubon Center’s Tour, Toast & Taste will be held at Joe and Missy Walsh’s Lombardy in Unionville. The event will afford guests a rare look inside Lombardy and a great opportunity to socialize and add culinary adventures to their social calendars for the next year. We’ll also be celebrating the Year of the Bird. 2018 marks the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the most powerful and important bird-protection law ever passed. In honor of this milestone, nature lovers around the world are joining forces to celebrate the “Year of the Bird” and commit to protecting birds today and for the next hundred years.

Just around the corner from the 400-acre wildlife sanctuary and nature education center, in Unionville, Lombardy is a perfect fit for this year’s Tour, Toast and Taste event to benefit the education programs of Pickering Creek Audubon Center, the Shore’s premiere environmental center connecting people with birds, habitat and the Chesapeake Bay.

There are two noteworthy buildings at Lombardy. The larger, five part house, known as Lombardy, is a beautiful three story, colonial revival structure of the 1930s with a Mt. Vernon porch.  Immediately adjacent is an early nineteenth century, one and a half story, three bay brick house that was constructed around 1830.  Today’s Lombardy was built and inhabited by the great grandfather of Pickering Creek Audubon Center Board of Trustees member Dirck Bartlett. The father of another recent Pickering Trustee, Colin Walsh, also owned it before being purchased by its current owners, Joe and Missy Walsh, who are not related to the previous Walshs. Joe and Missy Walsh have conducted significant renovations to the buildings and made impressive improvements to the outdoor amenities as well.

The oldest existing building on the site, dating from the early nineteenth century.

The evening begins with a leisurely drive down a long, beautiful tree lined drive. Upon arrival, guests tour seven first floor rooms beautifully decorated by Mrs. Walsh.  The rooms feature significant original woodwork and other detail features as well as artwork that has remained with the house over the course of several owners.  Mrs. Walsh has tastefully decorated each of the rooms, retaining the overall flavor of the house while adding many attractive embellishments.  In addition to seeing seven first floor rooms guests will have an opportunity to view both of the second floor wings from the second floor landing.  Several generations of owners will be on hand to share the history of the house as well as how it got to its present state of perfection.

After the house tour guests will adjourn to a pleasantly breezy riverfront tent overlooking the Miles for cocktails, delicious hors d’ouevres, and light entertainment from Justin Ryan. At the sound of the bell, guests will have the opportunity to purchase a wide variety of intriguing dinners, unique events and auction items offered by strong supporters of the community-based education programs of Pickering Creek Audubon Center. In the spirit of the Year of the Bird this year’s live auction includes a wonderful trip to view migrating Sandhill Cranes in Nebraska, where every March, over 600,000 Sandhill Cranes converge on the Platte River valley in central Nebraska to fuel up before continuing north to their nesting grounds.

The evening concludes with a special presentation of live raptors of Maryland by naturalist and friend of the Center, Mike Callahan.  Callahan is an expert on barn owls and raptors and introduces the public to them through his work with the Southern Maryland Audubon Society and Charles County Public Schools.  Guests will have an opportunity to learn about the birds and see them up close.

A view of the main estate house from the Miles River.

The Tour, Toast & Taste committee consists of a group of loyal Pickering supporters including Jo Storey, Bill Griffin, Tom Sanders, Dave Bent, Cheryl Tritt, Dirck Bartlett, Debra Rich, Carol Thompson, and Colin Walsh. This year’s Tour, Toast & Taste is generously sponsored by the Bill Davenport and Bruce Wiltsie, Out of the Fire Restaurant, Capital Blackbook, William and Mary Griffin, the Tilghman Family, Bartlett, Griffin and Vermilye, Wye Gardens, LLC, the Dock Street Foundation, the Chesapeake Audubon Society, The Hill Group at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, the Wilford Group at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, Phil and Charlotte Sechler, Tidewater Physical Therapy, Avon Dixon Insurance, Wye Financial & Trust, Shore United Bank, Shorebancshares, Cheryl Tritt and Phil Walker, Colin Walsh and Carolyn Williams, Courtney and Scott Pastrick, Clay Railey and Don Wooters, the Star Democrat, Rick Scobey and Bruce Ragsdale, Ewing Dietz Fountain and Kaludis, Jo Storey and many more.

For over 30 years, Pickering Creek Audubon Center has provided environmental education opportunities to students of the Eastern Shore, moving them from awareness of their watershed and birds to conservation action in their communities.  Since establishing a well-reputed elementary education program in partnership with Talbot County Public Schools 25 years ago, Audubon has added meaningful watershed experiences for middle and high school students to our continuum of education along with community outreach education about our regions unique saltmarshes. Pickering Creek reaches the people of the Eastern Shore throughout their academic careers outdoor learning experiences that encourage them to continue interacting with the outdoors frequently.

Tickets and more information are available online at www.pcacevents.org.  For more information call the Center at 410-822-4903.

Pickering Creek EcoCamp: Winter Edition Sign Up Opens

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Summertime is months away and, it seems even further away when you are stuck inside escaping the cold. Help your stir-crazy young ones by sending them to Pickering Creek Audubon Center during a school vacation day.

This winter, Pickering Creek will be offering two single day camps during Talbot County Public School no school days. Survivor Village on Friday, January 26th is for 5th to 7th graders and Animal Olympics on Monday, February 19th (President’s Day) for 2nd to 4th graders. Both days will focus on outdoor exploration and teambuilding.

Pickering Creek will be offering single day camps (modeled from their popular summer camp) during school vacation days this winter.

During Survivor Village, campers will learn how to explore nature during the cold outside temperatures. They will be building winter shelters, learning to track animals, and practice orienteering. The day will end with a large group scavenger hunt for survival supplies and a lesson and practice on safe camp fire building.

Animal Olympics in February will be celebrating our local animal athletes. While records are breaking during the Winter Olympics, we’ll be outside learning about the extreme skills of the animal world. Campers will see who can build the warmest shelter, find and collect the most food, and quickly move their “flock” to safety.

Both days are from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm, $60 per camper, at Pickering Creek Audubon Center. Limited transportation from Easton to Pickering Creek will be available at 8:00 am with drop-off at 6:00 pm. Space is limited and you must sign up in advance. Call the office at 410-822-4903 for more information and to sign up.

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