Biologists are finding innovative ways to use Christmas trees to provide shelter and nesting areas for much of the Chesapeake's wildlife. After the holiday season, about 250 trees were hauled on boats to Poplar Island, a 1,140-acre reconstructed island in the Chesapeake Bay, about a mile east of Tilghman Island.
Strategically placed Christmas trees will provide both cover and nesting sites for colonial waterbirds such as common terns (Sterna hirundo) and least terns (Sterna antillarum). Debris piles placed in the newly created wetlands will hopefully be utilized by other bird, mammal and amphibian species. In addition, trees screwed into recently placed driftwood stumps will help provide the structure that snowy egrets (Egretta thula), cattle egrets (Bubulcus ibis) and other heron species need for nesting.
A target species for the project is the American black duck (Anas rubripes). The black duck is one of North America’s wariest waterfowl. Small islands and isolated marshes are the last stronghold for American black ducks nesting in Chesapeake Bay. Only a few, small, nesting islands remain.
Free tours of Poplar Island are offered by the Maryland Department of Environment. Visitors can see how the island is being rebuilt as well as hear about the history of Poplar and its future use. To arrange a tour, call MDE’s Chrissy Albanese, environmental specialist and tour coordinator for Poplar Island at 410-770-6503.