Maryland wetlands

Our second and final field trip for class took us to southern Maryland to two wetlands, one salt and one fresh.

First stop was at a saltmarsh on St. George Island in St. Mary’s County. As Gary demonstrated by digging a sample, there’s no true mineral soil layer here, just an O horizon in two layers of decomposition, the upper oxygenated and the lower a bluish anoxic layer (up to 5 feet thick). As many of us found to our pain, one’s usual instincts for walking through a marsh don’t apply here. Lesson learned: if you see water, don’t step there, even if you’re wearing wellies.

saltmarshThe island is squeezed between the Potomac River to the southwest and the St. Mary’s River to the northeast. The view of this drainage inlet is from the St. Mary’s side of the island. The mats of vegetation are Saltmeadow Cordgrass (Spartina patens) and Smooth Cordgrass (S. alterniflora).

A few Osprey were in attendance. At our staging area at Piney Point, I picked up my lifer Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis) in a group of about four, in various stages of plumage transition.

kneesiesWe then crossed over the Maryland peninsula to Calvert County and the Battle Creek Cypress Swamp, site of the only stand of Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) in Maryland west of the Chesapeake Bay and the northernmost limit of this species’ natural range. This is a beautiful little preserve of only 100 acres.