Jerry Harris, a Board member of Waterfowl Chesapeake, hosted a variety of guests at his annual “Eastern Shore Landowners’ Get Together” on Thursday, April 19th. Of the landowners, conservationists and waterfowl enthusiasts, some faces were the same from previous years and many were new; all were piqued with interest as the group toured local wetland restoration projects in Talbot and Dorchester counties.

The first stop of the day included a walkaround of impoundments created in recent years in part by Ducks Unlimited at a personal property near Cambridge, followed by a look at the new impoundments of another personal property in Trappe.Challenges the properties faced, water level monitoring practices, and other management questions led to open discussions of each project and deepened everyone’s understanding of what’s needed to create a waterfowl-friendly wetland and for its ongoing maintenance.

Waterfowl Festival’s Retriever Demonstration Chairs, Butch and Bonnie Chambers, provided the spot for the group’s lunch and a very impressive exhibition of what hunting dogs are capable of learning and understanding. Larry Hindman of Yellow Dog Retrievers sent his enthusiastic Labradors on various ‘retrieves’ across the full expanse of the farm’s wetlands. Following his whistles, voice commands and hand signals, every dog eagerly and successfully found the ‘bumper’ – a rubber training tool, even when it fell many hundreds of feet away from the starting point, and sometimes also out of the dog’s sight.

The afternoon activities turned to the science of waterfowl conservation at the Waterfowl Building, where John Coluccy, Regional Director of Conservation for Ducks Unlimited. Coluccy provided scientifically- based information on the state of the mallard population across the “flyways” (bird migration ‘highways’) with a focus on the Atlantic flyway. His primary message for waterfowlers was that weather conditions, breeding population numbers and other factors may result in an overall reduction in numbers in upcoming seasons, which could affect future bag limits.

Chris Williams, Professor of Wildlife Ecology at University of Delaware, recapped the success of the inaugural year of the “Waterfowl Hunters Experience,” a program introducing biology students to waterfowl hunting with a weekend experience of hunting safety and discussion of hunting practices with a finale of a guided hunt on Eastern Shore private properties. The goal of this immersion experience was to link one of the largest conservationist groups, hunters, with the future professionals who would soon be embarking to working administratively and in the field. The “get together” was a fantastic opportunity to learn about applied conservation not only by the program itself, but by discussion, insight and inspiration from other attendees as well.

Jerry was also featured on Waterfowl Chesapeake’s website in 2014 and is the 2018 Chesapeake Champion. Read that article here. A big thank you to Jerry!