Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage Creates Bailey’s Neck Wetland Restoration

As the Eastern Shore landscape becomes further manicured by agriculture and development every day, it is important that wildlife habitat restoration be maximized whenever the opportunity arises.  Following the donation of a 135-acre parcel to Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage (CWH) by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, wetland habitat will be restored on about 25 acres of farmland off of Bailey’s Neck Road near Easton

 

The Bailey’s Neck Farm includes 110 acres of wooded wetlands and 25 acres of farmland.  The wooded wetlands will not be disturbed by CWH as it provides great habitat for forest interior dwelling species, wild turkeys, and amphibians.  The farmland, however, will be restored to wetlands because CWH has found that the farmland is predominately hydric soils, meaning that these areas were wetlands, before being ditched and drained for agriculture.

 

Because the agricultural fields had not been tilled in a few years, the first stage of the wetland restoration was to clear the non-native pear trees that had begun to grow in the fields.  Low berms were placed around the wet fields using soils excavated from depressions created within the field area. These shallow depressions typically hold some water year round benefiting a diversity of wildlife including reptiles, amphibians, purple martins, swallows, and butterflies.  The shallow areas go somewhat dry and grow moist soil plants, such as wild millet and foxtail millet, which are eaten by migratory birds over the fall and winter. Other “weeds” like goldenrod, which fuel monarch butterflies on their journey south each fall, also grow in the moist meadows of the wetlands.

 

Careful monitoring of the wetlands for cattail growth, re-invasion of pear trees, and invasions by Canada thistle and Phragmites will be done to make sure they do not dominate the wetland flora here.

 

The water control structures on the two wetland cells at the Bailey’s Neck Farm allow about 30 percent of the water to be drained from these constructed marshes. This allows CWH to help dry out the wet meadows a bit, when needed, so that plants beneficial to a diversity of life can grow there.  All of this activity removes much of the vegetation to expose mud, which is utilized by a variety of critters. Shorebirds may be the most popular mudflat migrant; however, both Barn Swallows and, to a lesser extent, Purple Martins will use mud in their nests. Butterflies are frequently seen on mudflats sipping essential nutrients from the soils. 

 

CWH will install a variety of plants in the wetlands, including buttonbush, to add plant diversity. Native warm season grasses and wildlife-friendly shrubs will be established in buffer areas around the wetland.

 

Through the generosity of Henry and Judy Stansbury, CWH will construct an observation blind at the wetland so that guests can comfortably observe wildlife without scaring them. Human disturbance is a big factor in determining how hospitable an area is to creatures like migratory birds. While some species like shorebirds and geese will allow folks to walk pretty close before flying away, others, such as puddle ducks, will take flight at the slightest sign of human intrusion.

 

For further information about CWH’s programs or to schedule a site visit to determine the wildlife habitat potential on your property, contact CWH at 410-822-5100 or visit www.cheswildlife.org

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