Check Out This Weeks Trips and Tips From The Chesapeake Conservancy

The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual 4-day event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are. Everyone is welcome, from beginning bird watchers to experts. Take as little as 15 minutes on one day, or count for as long as you like each day of the event. It’s free, fun, and easy…and it helps the birds! Participants tally the number of individual birds of each species they see during their count period and enter the numbers on the GBBC website. February 15-18, 8am-5pm in your backyard! For more info, visit the website.

Celebrate Presidents’ Day at George Washington’s boyhood home in Fredericksburg, VA.  Ferry Farm will be open this month for these two events only.  Visit the website for more details. General Washington will be at his birthday event to talk to visitors about his youth on the farm. There will also be games, crafts, the annual Stone Throw Challenge (weather permitting), theater performances and, of course, birthday cake!  February 16, 2013 at Ferry Farm, 10am-4pm. Fee: $5 adults, age 17 & under free. Fore more info, visit the website

Celebrate Presidents’ Day Weekend by viewing the birds of patriotic Fort McHenry!  Bring binoculars and dress for the weather.  Walks are cancelled if the weather is inclement.  February 16, 8am-12pm at Fort McHenry National Monument & Historic Shrine. Park in the Visitor Center parking lot and meet outside the Visitor Center.  FREE, but registration required. Contact: Vince Vaise (410) 962-4290. For more info, visit thewebsite.

The Leesylvania property is associated with the flight of two runaway slaves, as well as a slave who escaped in 1848. A band of escaped slaves also informed Union soldiers of Confederate activity at the property’s Freestone Point in September 1861. Learn about aspects of the park’s rich and diverse history to celebrate Black History Month. Displays will illustrate the park’s inclusion into the National Park Services Network to Freedom program. February 16, 11am-3pm at Leesylvania State Park, VA.  FREE. For more info, contact (703) 583-6904 or visit thewebsite.
This course will provide a brief introduction to the world of winter birds and how they cope with changes in habitat and food choices. It will begin Friday evening with a discussion of avian physiology, systematics, and ecology as it relates to many common winter birds. Saturday will involve a closer look at feeder birds as we observe them from the feeders and mark and release them following an assessment of health. Participants will get a close look at birds and obtain a greater appreciation of their unique adaptations. Ages 12+. February 15, 6:30-8:30pm; February 16,  9-11am at Anita Leight Estuary Center, MD.  Fee: $20.Registration required and available online.  For more info, contact (410) 612-1688 or visit the website

Enjoy a talk & book signing with renowned author, photographer & landscape consultant Rick Darke: “Balancing Natives & Exotics in the Garden.” Darke, a native plant expert, brings a breath of fresh air to the debate about the merits or pitfalls of using native or exotic plants, drawing from horticultural science, ecology, & resource management studies to describe a balanced ethic for beautiful, functional, & sustainable garden design. His popular books & presentations are enjoyed by fledgling & master gardeners, nature lovers, educators, community groups, planners and residents. Sponsored by Unity Gardens, a non-profit that provides grants to support community greening projects. March 2 at The Key Schoolin Annapolis, MD.  Registration & refreshments at 10am; presentation 11am-12:30pm. Book sales and signing 12:45- 2pm. Tickets: $55, a portion is tax-deductible and will support the work of Unity Gardens. For more info and to register, . 
Join a park ranger at Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary in Upper Marlboro, MD for a citizen scientist based bird count.  This event is great for beginners and for experts who want to share their expertise. Please wear comfortable walking shoes and warm clothing. We will be hiking the majority of the time. Binoculars are also suggested.  Free, February 21,  9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. For more information, visit the website or call Karen Jarboe 301-888-1377.

Islands of Grass in a Sea of Forest

For Pennsylvania’s Henslow’s Sparrows, Grasshopper Sparrows, and many other species, our ever-shrinking grasslands are critical for survival.  Jason Hill has worked his way around the Western Hemisphere studying birds, currently finishing his PhD at Penn State University studying the population ecology of grassland sparrows on reclaimed surface mines. Jason will share the findings of his three-year experiment that manipulated 200 acres of grasslands to monitor the effects on grassland sparrows, and he will give us a regional and national perspective on the future of grassland birds. (See the companion field trip in June!)Thursday, February 21, 2013 – 7:30pm – 8:30pm Christ Presbyterian Church, 421 Deerfield Road, Camp Hill, PA. Free, for more information, see: