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Birding in the Basin

greenheronAs this year’s northern bird migration comes to a close, it’s a great time to get outside and discover our avian friends. Although at times it is hard to believe that there are other birds besides the ubiquitous pigeons and Canadian geese in the Potomac River basin, in fact there is a wide variety of beautiful bird species throughout the area.

Right outside of the District and smack dab in the middle of the Potomac River is Theodore Roosevelt Island. In this oasis outside the city you will see species that are commonly found in swampy and marshy areas, such as green herons and wood ducks. Bald eagles have also been known to nest on the island. For those fans of the movie “The Big Year”, the National Park Service provides a brochure to keep track of your finds.

The Audubon Society of Central Maryland maintains two large wildlife sanctuaries in eastern Frederick County, Maryland. The organization holds monthly hikes throughout the year or you can explore the flora and fauna on your own. The Society’s next walk is scheduled for June 18 and is entitled “Summer Birds”.

At an unexpected haven in the southeast area of Fairfax County, Va., known as Huntley Meadows Park, you will find such striking birds as Eastern Bluebirds, Common Yellowthroats, and the Northern Flicker. The land, which was once owned by Mr. George Mason IV, is now a 1,500 acre park with trails and watch towers for you bird-watching pleasure. This park is known for being a prime birdwatching location. There is a Monday Morning Birdwalk that has been held, rain or shine, for the past 30 years.

With as many as 430 bird species in the area, there are plenty of opportunities for birding. Other local areas known for excellent birding include the Antietam Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Maryland, Yankauer Nature Preserve along the Potomac River in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, and Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge in Lorton, Virginia.

Can’t get out to see birds this weekend? Check out our write-up on bird cameras in the Potomac River basin.

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Staying Safe on the Potomac

Many ICPRB staff spend as much time as we can on the water, and we encourage you to do the same through maps and information that helps you to enjoy our precious resource. A recent rash of drownings and accidents along the river serves as an unfortunate reminder on the importance of safety during water recreation. We have put together some tips on staying safe while cooling down in the Potomac River.paddlersinthemarsh-Large

Prepare for on-water activities by checking the weather and water levels just before venturing out. Call the National Weather Service at (703) 996-2200, check them out online, or download one of the many apps that will provide real-time data on gauge height, discharge, and temperature. Let a family member or friend know your plans, where you will be, and when you expect to be back. Always wear a life vest. And finally, never go out on the river alone.

Whether you are out with your reel, kayak, or inner tube, remembering these simple tips will help ensure a safe and fun day on the river. Enjoy!

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The Potomac Fishing Report

Stocked trout streams in the Shenandoah basin are fishable, with the mountain streams full and clearing. The mainstem is still muddy according to reports. The North Branch Potomac also is stained, but closer to an average flow.

In the upper Potomac, water temperatures are in the mid 70s, with some stained water. The river levels are keeping fish spread out and anglers should target deeper areas with eddies, or seems where stained and clearer water meet. Good reports have come from the area between Lander and Knoxville. Mayfly hatches have been occurring, and fly anglers will be trying to match the hatch.

In the metropolitan Potomac, water is stained and about 78 degrees. Reports of largemouth bass at the Kennedy Center wall, the wall in Washington Channel, and bridge pilings are good bets. Catfish are spawning and can also be taken at bridge pilings.

Further downstream, anglers are having luck in the grass beds at the mouths of tidal creeks and on the mainstem. Largemouth bass fishing has been productive, and the spawning catfish are common.

Near the river’s mouth, anglers are chumming for striped bass, as well as the channel edges around St. George’s Island. Reports of some croaker and a few flatfish round out the catch. Crabbing continues to improve with the warming water.

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Beaching Potomac

Looking to dip your toes in the sand this weekend but can’t stomach the thought of sitting in the Bay Bridge traffic with 500,000 of your closest friends? Switch up your waterfront routine by enjoying one of the many beach-esque options along the Potomac River instead. Listed below are a few of the possibilities along our beautiful Nation’s River.

Aquia Landing Park

Aquia Landing Park

You will find Colonial Beach, Va. Just a quick 1.5 hour drive south of the District. The town is not only an historical gem (don’t you want to visit the birthplace of George Washington?!), but the entire city is spanned by a calm, sandy beach.

Just north of Accokeek Creek lies Aquia Landing Park in Stafford, Va. This family-friendly park features fishing, picnic pavilions, and even sand volleyball courts. It is a quiet beach that is excellent for bird-watching and collecting seashells.

Another sandy spot seeped in American history is the Point Lookout State Park in Scotland, Md. Located at the mouth of the Potomac River, this park held more than 50,000 Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. Boasting both a museum and a nature center, the park can fill up fast on the weekends so make sure to get there early!

The following beaches are not along the Potomac River but are on this side of this Bay. Flag Ponds Nature Park in Calvert County, Md. is an ideal area for kids of all ages to snag fossils from the Miocene era right out of the sand. Don’t forget your digging gear! A small and little-known beach, Beverly Triton Beach Park, is located outside of Edgewater, Md. It is a great place for both you and your dog to cool off during the sizzling summer heat.

Make sure to tag ICPRB when you are out enjoying the many amenities that the Potomac watershed has to offer!

Photo Credit: Aquia Landing Park by Instragrammer @buddysecor

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Water Supply Outlook – June, 2016

After the majority of the Mid-Atlantic area received higher-than-average rainfall during the month of May, there is a below normal probability of releases from the Washington metropolitan area reservoirs for the upcoming season. Read more in the Water Supply Outlook.

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The Potomac Fishing Report

Water levels have spiked again in the upper Potomac and its larger tributaries. River levels are quite high from Cumberland, Md., to Paw Paw, W.Va., from localized storms, and this water will travel downriver as the weekend progresses. Please be very cautious around the river this weekend. No flooding is predicted, but elevated water levels demand a high level of caution. The tidal Potomac may experience some shoreline flooding in a few areas, depending on tide and wind.

Please be very careful around the river and streams this weekend. Water levels had dropped from last week, but are again on the rise. The upper Potomac River will likely be hazardous for boating in some areas. River levels in May were something of a roller coaster, and it seems as if the river rises and becomes clouded after just a day or two of clearing conditions. For the upper river, shoreline fishing will be a good bet as fish will avoid the swollen current in the middle of the river. Look for current seams and eddies along the bank to entice a smallmouth bass or sunfish to take the bait. Some successful smallmouth action has been reported at White’s Ferry and lander, but conditions are changing rapidly for the worse. The Shenandoah system is elevated and a little stained as well. But is in better shape for fishing than the Potomac.

The metropolitan area Potomac has suffered from the rain as well. River levels are close to normal at Little Falls gage, but the water remains somewhat cloudy. Anglers at Fletcher’s Cove are catching some catfish and a few striped bass. In the District, bridge pilings are a good place to fish near the bottom for catfish and largemouth bass.

The Washington Channel holds some good grass beds, with some largemouth and striped bass. On the tidal Potomac downstream, the major embayments on both sides of the river have some good grass growth worth targeting, although the possible storms this weekend could make conditions even more challenging. A Maryland record northern snakehead was taken from the tidal Potomac by a bow hunter. Use of compound bows to take fish has really increased along with boats sporting banks of intense lights that attract snakeheads and blue catfish. A local fishmonger noted that a boat with two crew can harvest 200-300 pounds of snakehead in an evening, which are sold to restaurants and fish markets.

Near the river’s mouth, anglers are reporting catches of croaker. Striped bass are being taken by anglers trolling the navigation channel edges, and off of Point Lookout. Crabbing has not been great, but should be later as a very good year for crabbing has been predicted based on spring surveys.

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Quarterly Business Meeting Announcement

The ICPRB quarterly business meeting on June 6 and 7 will be held in Colonial Beach, Virginia. Hosted by theBusiness Meeting Potomac River Fisheries Commission, the Monday portion of the meeting will focus on groundwater resources in Virginia’s coastal plain. Groundwater is the primary drinking water source, and the Commonwealth is working to quantify the resource, which is under increasing demand. The following day includes the quarterly ICPRB business meeting, with reviews of ongoing projects. The meeting is open to the public, but space is limited. Please RSVP if you would like to attend.

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Residential Oil Tanks: What you Need to Know

Image courtesy of David Bonta on Flickr.

Image courtesy of David Bonta on Flickr.

Without proper care, old and rusted heating oil tanks can cause costly leaks and spills. Underground tanks are especially problematic because they can leak for years without notice. Large toxic spills may get all the media-fueled attention, but these silent, slow leaks add up to one major environmental problem for the Potomac River basin and its residents. Read more…

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There’s an app for that!

Do you have a favorite stream that you paddle, fish, or walk along? Have you found areas where stringy green algae seems to always grow? How about new stands of plants, or areas where the water always seems green with algae? Would you share your observations with us?

In ICPRB’s  5th year studying the prevalence and ecological impact of algae and plants in freshwater systems, our biologists hope to expand the project’s range and scope to include more rivers and streams affected by dense plant blooms. Logistically, this task is daunting without the help of volunteers. For this project, we are asking volunteers in different organizations throughout the Potomac basin to report bloom areas that they regularly visit. Ideally ICPRB biologists hope to identify more hot spots within the basin to later target more exhaustive localized research efforts.

The reporting network will be made up of volunteers and researchers found throughout Potomac waters. Using a newly developed smartphone APP we hope to get snapshots of these sites throughout the basin. This work can be done by watershed or other groups, or interested individuals. Read more…