An Urban Oasis for Wildlife in Winter

Published March 19, 2014

In the winter, most people see very little wildlife in our area, especially in Baltimore City.  However, wildlife isn’t so hard to find even in the coldest of temperatures, if you know where to look.

Wendy Alexander, who leads bird walks in the wetland adjacent to Fort McHenry National Monument & Historic Shrine, knows just where to look to find that wonderful winter wildlife.  She writes here about her time spent this winter at the Fort McHenry Wetland:

The City of Baltimore is home to one of the most active ports in the United States, but it is also home to a thriving urban wetlands area adjacent to Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine. Along with barges, tugs, and massive cruise ships, a large variety of water fowl and other birds thrive because of the successful cooperation and hard work of staff and volunteers of the National Aquarium, the National Park Conservation Association, National Park Service, Maryland Port Administration, and Steinweg Baltimore.

wildlife at fort mchenry

Photo is property of Wendy Alexander.

The Fort McHenry grounds and Wetlands ranks #2 among all time birding hotspots* in the Baltimore area (Hart Miller Island is #1) with 260 species identified by observers.  Despite the recent cold weather and snow, this winter has brought some interesting varieties of birds to the location including a very rare snowy owl, rare white-winged scoters and red-necked grebes, along with other ducks.  As of 3/8/2014, 64 species have been seen including a healthy population of bald eagles. This is a great indicator of a good supply of food such as mollusks, crustaceans, and a variety of fish.

**All photos are property of Wendy Alexander.

The number of possible bird species will certainly increase with Spring migration and the best way to enjoy this urban oasis is to join one of the scheduled bird walks that cover both the grounds and  the normally restricted Wetlands area adjacent to the grounds. These walks are led by members of the Baltimore Bird Club, which is a chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Association.  Also consider lending a hand with the National Aquarium’s Fort McHenry Field Day in April.  In a time when wetland areas along the Atlantic coast are in rapid decline, maintenance and protection of this urban wetlands area is critical to its long-run sustainability!

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