Banner photo: Laura McDonald
By Tom Wood
On the weekend of August 17 – 18, sixteen ASNV members headed east to Calvert County Maryland for a fun summer weekend. Only an hour and a half from Northern Virginia, our first stop was the Battle Creek Cypress Swamp, where we were greeted with the call of a Piliated Woodpecker, as we walked under the canopy of majestic cypress. A gently flowing stream under a boardwalk revealed fresh deer and raccoon tracks while blooming cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) provided bright red color to the serene setting. Mid-August is a relatively quiet time for passerines. Post-nesting Prothonotary Warblers and Summer Tanagers were no longer vocalizing as they quietly prepared for migration, allowing the drone of the cicadas’ chorus to mute out all other sound. As we emerged from the cool understory, mid-day summer heat greeted us in the sanctuary’s restored meadow. Here, we found abundant Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies before enjoying lunch and heading south to the Calvert Marine Museum.
On Saturday afternoon, we were guests on one of the last skipjacks on the Chesapeake. The Dee of Saint Mary’s was built as a working oyster boat and converted for education by Captain Jackie Russell, who like many watermen, is working to restore the bay’s ecosystem. The Dee is now owned by the Calvert Marine Museum and operated by an excellent crew, knowledgeable about the skipjack, oysters, and blue crabs. We had a fun afternoon, hoisting the massive main sail and enjoying the solitude of sailing in the bay. We were treated to Double Crested Cormorants, all age classes of Bald Eagles, Osprey families, and both Herring and Laughing Gulls. Back at the museum, we enjoyed the paleontology (shark teeth!) and bay exhibits, with river otters being among our favorites.
After an exhilarating day, we checked into a comfortable hotel and re-assembled for a fun dinner overlooking the Patuxent river. We were treated to a beautiful sunset, fine seafood, and nice wine.
On Sunday morning, we visited one of my favorite out-of-the way beach spots. Matoaka Beach Cabins is a rustic retreat that takes you back in time, where you can see the famous Calvert Cliff Formations and find Miocene fossils. We saw Bald Eagles and fishing Osprey and enjoyed the water on what was a summer day to remember.