Year of the Bird
- Rolando Irizarry
In this international Year of the Bird, Washington College is celebrating the 20th anniversary of Foreman’s Branch Bird Observatory, located on the River and Field Campus.
Foreman’s Branch, which banded its first bird on March 22, 1998, is the only one of its kind on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Last fall, Master Bander Jim Gruber banded the station’s 250,000th bird (a common yellowthroat). On average, the station bands about 15,000 birds of about 130 species every year. As of January this year, it holds North American age records for 10 species, including orchard oriole (11 years), American goldfinch (10 years, 11 months), hermit thrush (10 years, 10 months), and grasshopper sparrow (9 years, 1 month).
The 4,700-acre River and Field Campus offers a wonderful diversity of habitat including restored native grasslands, agricultural fields, fallow fields, brush and thicket, early successional shrub/scrub, second-growth woodlands, mature wood lots, and the open water and mud flats of Foreman’s Branch itself.
Foreman’s Branch Bird Observatory is one of the few places in the U.S. where undergraduate students can get long-term hands-on training in the technical skills needed for advanced ornithology studies. Student interns spend an entire semester (and often much more) at the station learning these skills while being closely mentored by master banders.