Chester River Research Station
The River and Field Campus at Washington College is the home to the Chester River Field Research Station, which is the focal point for much of the field research for the College’s faculty and students as well as the Center for Environment & Society which offers:
The observatory is the only major migratory bird banding station on the Eastern Shore and one of the most active in the Mid-Atlantic. In 2016, students and biologists banded more than 13,130 birds of 131 species. The habitats at the station include fallow fields, hedgerows, early successional shrub/scrub, second-growth woodlands, mature wood lots and the open water and mud flats of Foreman’s Branch and it’s 90-acre lake.
The Chester River Field Research Station experimentation in native grassland restoration of recently retired croplands began in 1999. Special priority was given to the restoration of the Mid-Atlantic coastal grasslands that once dominated the eastern Atlantic seaboard in pre-colonial times, but are now a virtually extinct habitat. The grass lands were an immediate success, attracting a wide variety of new flora and fauna, including several species of birds functionally gone from the area. This success and other restoration programs in agricultural fields have been exceptionally attractive to Northern Bobwhite Quail, a species in sever decline in the region. The River and Field Campus has functioned as a proving ground that has spawned more ambitious projects such as the Natural Lands Project.
Funded with a $700,000 state grant, this CES project is working with the Chester River Association, local landowners, and Tall Timbers Research Station & Land Conservancy to restore buffers and native habitat along the Chester River to help re-establish bobwhite quail and improve water quality. During the summer 2016 count, the number of summer calling males—averaging 25—was up for the seventh year in a row and was a record high. These numbers represent the highest-known concentration of bobwhite in Maryland and are a result of the quality of habitat found throughout RAFI and the management regime used to maintain it.
Recently, the Natural Lands Project was awarded a $500,000 grant from the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, to extend the Project into the mid-shore. In 5 years the Project will have created 750 acres of native warms season grasses and almost 50 acres of wetlands.