Maryland Outdoor Club
Sat, May 6 2006 - Jug Bay Surf & Turf (View Original Event Details)

Event Organizer(s): Beverly Hoeftman
Participants:Chuck Hildenbrand, Cynthia Hildenbrand, John Fogle, charles lewis, Anne-Claire Tejtel, Jessica Bolz, Ian Preuss, Ian Wright, Beverly Hoeftman, Alison Stevens, Tom Reichelderfer, Kimberly Engle, Patrick Haas

Write Up:
Many of us in the MOC frequently walk through the woods or paddle through water with little knowledge of the life surrounding us. It's a bit like going to a party without actually meeting anyone by name. You have a good time, but would've gotten much more from the experience by getting more closely acquainted. With that in mind, our group gathered at Patuxent River Park for a naturalist-interpreted boat ride and hike.

The wildlife sightings started early. We had only just begun our introductions when a five-lined skink joined us outside the Park Office. Our guide for the day - Mary Kilbourne, who had become a park naturalist after years of teaching biology - informed us that his bright orange jaws indicated his readiness for the breeding season. He obligingly paused for photographs before departing to resume his duties.

Introductions and lizard-watching completed, we boarded one of the Park's pontoon boats for the first half of our trip. Shortly after we cast off from the pier, a Great Blue Heron was spotted perched on a tree that had fallen from the shore. Along both banks of the river, we saw quite a few male Red-winged Blackbirds perching on tall reeds, defining and defending their territories. A red-tailed hawk circled over our heads for a short time, possibly considering MOC members as prey. Admittedly, it was more likely choosing the tastiest of the blackbirds.

We also had many chances to check out one of the park's unique features - a network of nesting platforms for osprey. Their population had depleted dramatically after the introduction of DDT, and for a time they were in danger of extinction. The chemical, absorbed through their food, caused their eggshells to be too thin for incubation. Today, habitat loss is one of their biggest hurdles, and all of the park's platforms are consistently occupied. The osprey in Jug Bay are currently incubating their eggs, which are expected to hatch in late May or early June.

Several relics of human activity were also around. Two historic mansions are visible from the river: Mount Calvert and the Billingsley House Museum. Mount Calvert is the last remaining structure from Charles Town, which served as the Prince Georges county seat until 1721. Built in 1740, Billingsley is one of the County's oldest historic homes. Learning that both are available for tours, many of us made plans to came back in the future. With any luck, we can catch some of Mount Calvert's hands-on archaeological research in progress.

Elsewhere in the river, the remainders of wooden pilings and a concrete abutment are the last traces of the Chesapeake Beach Railway. For the first half of the 20th Century, the Railway carried vacationers and day-trippers to the town of Chesapeake Beach, which featured open shoreline, an amusement park, and a saltwater swimming pool.

Eventually, it was time to move on the land-based portion of the trip. After disembarking from the boat, we got a close up view of the woods & marshland that surround Jug Bay. Before we even set foot on the trail, we were greeting by the calls of green tree frogs. We even managed to spot quite a few - no small feat, since they're small and protectively colored to blend into their surroundings.

Much of the hike used the park's system of boardwalks and viewing platforms. Many of the areas we particularly enjoyed would have been inaccessible without them. As we walked, Mary taught us how to identify quite a few trees by the shape and placement of the leaves, and the color and texture of the bark. We also learned to identify jewel-weed. When its stem is snapped, this very handy plant yields a liquid known to neutralize exposure to poison ivy. It also reportedly relieves pain from bee or wasp stings. <

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