To add variety to the blog and to offer a fresh perspective from our visitors, we are inviting guest bloggers to write posts describing their visits and thoughts while at the reserve. The guest blog is brought to you by Alison Rogerson, Program Manager for the DNREC’s Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program. Enjoy! (Maggie Pletta, DNERR Education Coordinator & Blog Editor)
Pardon Our Mud
Spring time in an emergent tidal wetland marks a time nestled between frozen and barren, and lush with vegetation and buzzing with life. It is during this window that we sprang into action and for three busy days installed a “living shoreline” beside the kayak ramp at the Blackbird Creek Reserve in Townsend. But how did this come about and what does it mean?
A living shoreline is a technique used to either protect or restore a shoreline from forces such as erosion. In this case, the shoreline on either side of the kayak ramp was shifting and washing away due, in part, to river currents going by. To prevent further erosion and to protect the adjacent habitat the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) put in place a series of natural materials that will help to trap suspended sediments from the river water and encourage wetland plants. These factors together will build and secure a healthy shoreline habitat that not only looks nice, but also protects the kayak ramp.
Living shorelines can be built from a variety of materials. In this case we used “logs” of natural fiber casing stuffed with shredded coconut fibers, in addition to sand, dirt and wooden stakes. The logs are staked in to make sure that ice and waves don’t wash them away, and the matting underneath keeps the logs from sliding and sinking. It’s messy, hard work for sure, you definitely want to have extra muscles on hand, but it is rewarding! We had a strong crew out there and in three days we were able to install a cell on either side of the kayak ramp. One cell already has a native wetland plant, Arrow arum (Peltandra virginica,) growing, and as mud begins to build inside the log cell the plants will slowly shift up with the new ground. The cell on the other side of the ramp was empty so we trucked in clean sand and topped it with a little soil to give us a nice high base. After things have a chance to settle in we will come back in June and plant native wetland species such as Spartina and more Peltandra.
Although it isn’t the prettiest to look at right now, just wait until this fall or next spring. As plants start to fill in the site will begin to look less muddy. In time it won’t even be noticeable, especially at high tide. We hope this will be a great example for visitors to see and learn from. Living shorelines offer a solution to preventing erosion, protecting shorelines, improving water quality, and providing habitat for fish and plants. And because of all these rewards to the habitat DNREC encourages landowners to consider one for their shoreline needs.
Next time you are in the area stop on by the Blackbird Reserve and check it out!
Alison B. Rogerson
DNREC, Division of Watershed Stewardship
Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program
To view more photos of the installation process visit out Facebook Page to check out our Blackbird Living Shoreline Installation Album!
To add variety to the blog and to offer a fresh perspective from our visitors, we are inviting guest bloggers to write posts describing their visits and thoughts while at the reserve. The guest blog and photo today are brought to you by M.L. Christmas and her thoughts on birding. Enjoy! (Maggie Pletta, DNERR Education Coordinator & Blog Editor)
Every Bird a Star
Even a seasoned newbie birdwatcher—definition: still a newbie, but with traces of jadedness settling in around the edges—gets excited by the glimpse of a new celebrity once in a while. That is why, if one is customarily a backyard birdwatcher, or an around-town birdwatcher, venturing into an unaccustomed setting can make all the difference and result in some new species being marked on one’s Life List.
On her very first visit to the St. Jones Reserve, back in 2009, an unfamiliar call from a tall, spare tree near the boardwalk drew her attention. Even without binoculars she could see the wren-shaped singer of the unusual song and made a mental note of its coloration. Upon returning home, cross-checks of The Sibley Guide to Birds and Birds of Delaware revealed the performer was none other than a Marsh Wren (or Cistothorus palustris, if you want to get technical about it).
She recently mentioned the encounter to DNERR’s new Education Coordinator, Maggie Pletta, who confirmed their presence at the St. Jones Reserve. “You can see them all over the marsh, in the taller grasses, straddling the air, with each leg on a separate piece of grass. And man, even if you don’t see them, you will hear them. They love to yell at you and let you know they are there and mean business if you come near their nest. They are one of my favorite birds because they are so sassy!”
This writer has strolled past that spot at the St. Jones Reserve three or four times since then, and each time she had the thought: “There’s that tree where I saw and heard the Marsh Wren!”
As fame and glamor and musical glory go, it’s not exactly red-carpet-at-the-Grammys, but that Marsh Wren singing its heart out, in a bare tree on the edge of the marshes, still gained one loyal fan–and a Life List check-mark for posterity.
M.L. Christmas, MSM, is a freelance writer/editor living in the Dover area. She has written dozens of articles for newsletters, newspapers, magazines, and websites. Her work has appeared in local, regional, national and international publications and other venues, and she has written in tones ranging from scholarly to humorous, depending on the audience. She is a longtime member of Delaware Press Association and the National Federation of Press Women. Her approach to nature writing, she says, is part Henry David Thoreau and part Dave Barry.