Saturday, February 24, 2007

Non-Bird Notes from the Eastern Shore

Trapping is still practiced near the Blackwater NWR. A local hunter traps muskrats on the refuge during the winter season. Their fur goes to the garment industry, musk glands are sold for perfumes, and the meat is sold by local grocery stores. The practice may sound cruel to modern ears, but it does play a role in refuge management. Trapping helps keep the muskrat population in check and prevents muskrats from overrunning the refuge and destroying the aquatic vegetation that migrant waterfowl need. Blackwater only recently eradicated its population of invasive nutria, which had stripped much of the marshes bare of their grasses.

Historic Highways

Many Washington-area birders travel to Delaware Refuges such as Bombay Hook and Prime Hook to view their concentrations of waterbirds and shorebirds in fall and spring. Many of the rural roads we travel to reach these refuges are also rich in history. Northern Delaware was an important corridor for the Underground Railroad. A portion of that network may be designated as a scenic and historic highway.

Travelers who make the journey from the Choptank River in Maryland to the Pennsylvania border will follow routes 10, 15, 9 and 299, passing more than 20 sites connected to the Underground Railroad. The landmarks include houses, churches, fields and vacant lots.

"We are not pointing out one particular Underground Railroad route, but using contemporary roadways to touch on as many sites as we can to give people a sense of the passage from west to north and from the south to the north," said Debra Martin, preservation planner for the city of Wilmington.

One of my sisters has been working on this project and researching some of the sites for the past year.