Community Outreach

Town of La Plata Applies to Be First Bird City Maryland

By Lynne Wheeler, PTRC Director, and Past President, Southern Maryland Audubon Society

After many months of work, the Town of La Plata has submitted their application to become the first Bird City Maryland. The Port Tobacco River Conservancy, the Southern Maryland Audubon Society, and the Conservancy for Charles County are partnering with the Town to help achieve this status and to promote and educate everyone about birds and bird conservation.

Bird City Maryland is a program of the Maryland Bird Conservation Partnership (MBCP). It is a science driven, partner-based initiative that was formed a few years ago to create a collaborative effort to conserve Maryland birds and their habitat.

Modeled after the North American Bird Conservation Initiative, bird conservation initiatives are coalitions of government agencies, nonprofits, and citizen stakeholders that combine efforts to ensure long-term health of native bird populations. The Partnership is supported by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources through the federal funds from the federal Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, and matched by the Maryland Ornithological Society. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service provides in-kind support by the donation of office space and resources. MBCP is led by its Director and a Steering Committee made up of individuals from government agencies and non-governmental groups.

Why is the Town of La Plata becoming a Bird City Maryland a big deal? Bird City Maryland provides highly visible public recognition to municipalities that understand that healthy communities are the sum of many parts, including birds. We support our communities in their efforts to protect and manage green space, educate their citizens, build and erect nesting structures, landscape with native plants, reduce threats to birds like collisions and outdoor cats, and generally make urban areas both friendlier for birds and places where people want to live and work.

What is the Town of La Plata committing too? What’s the plan? The application process involved multiple categories and criteria such as habitat creation, protection and monitoring, community forest management, limiting or removing threats to birds, public education, and annually recognizing World Migratory Bird Day. One really fun part of this is the town has an official bird of recognition, the Purple Martin! Many may not realize that the center of the town has two roosting sites that faithfully provide a haven for the Purple Martins that religiously arrive around April 17th. Mr. Winkler at La Plata Mill & Supply marks the date of their arrival and will be an avid promotor of the town bird. We look forward to involving the youth of La Plata in educating them about our town bird, and special events will be planned.

Native plants are also a focus, and the towns’ new Keep La Plata Beautiful committee will promote the use of native plants in home and business landscapes through information and mini-grants. They are also working towards the goal of becoming Tree City USA and Bee City USA! You just got to love this town! What else? So many things to come – but one mandatory requirement as mentioned above are that they recognize annually World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD), and recognize they already did! On October 28 the town council adopted resolution 19-21 urging all citizens to celebrate the observance of WMBD. We even jumped the gun on this one and helped the town celebrate October 13 at the Town of La Plata Fall Festival. This year’s theme was Protect Birds: Be the Solution to Plastic Pollution. Our booth was manned by Southern Maryland Audubon Society members as well as from the Port Tobacco River Conservancy. The booth was frequently visited as kids got to color various migratory birds’ templates and everyone got to learn about the hazards of plastic pollution to the avian species. Visitors also received free metal reusable straws donated by our brand new town store, Wild Birds Unlimited (WBU). They too will be a great partner in all of the fun! Thanks WBU!

Eagle Scout Project Protects Wildlife

PTRC was excited to partner with Boy Scout Troup 424 on an Eagle Scout project to install six monofilament fishing line recycling containers along the shorelines of Chapel Point State Park and Port Tobacco River Park. These containers should reduce the alarming amount of fishing line being discarded along the public beach areas of the Port Tobacco River. This will protect the many birds, fish and reptiles that either live in or seasonally pass-through the Port Tobacco River and associated wetlands. NOAA estimates that one million birds and marine animals are annually killed as a result of plastic marine debris – due to either ingestion or entanglement. Recovered fishing line from our program will be forwarded to the Berkley Fishing Institute to be recycled into beneficial fishing habitat structures.

North Point Students Study Fish Populations

This fall PTRC supported students from North Point High School’s NOAA Ocean Guardian School Team in conducting a fish seining data survey from the Port Tobacco River at Chapel Point. The team sponsor is North Point biology teacher Ms. Lolita Kiorpes. Branson Williams, Ross Williams, and Tim Groves from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Freshwater Fisheries Division, provided expert instruction on data collection and recording, how to deploy the net, and fish identification. The students collected and identified ten species of juvenile fish that bred successfully in the River this season.