Protecting Delaware’s highway for birds [video]

     (Andrea Gibbs/WHYY)

    (Andrea Gibbs/WHYY)

    Birdwatchers can delight at the increasing varieties of bird species in the First State.

    “Delaware is very well known for our shore bird migration,” said Kate Hackett, executive director of Delaware Wild Lands.

    “We’re located along something that is called a flyway, and basically, that is an interstate highway for birds.”

    The appearance of new bird species signifies that DWL is doing something right. The non-profit works to foster the health of birds and other wildlife in Delaware.

    “We have all types of bird life that depend on us,” Hackett said. “We have waterfowl, we have shore birds that are starting to come here, which is really fun for us.”

    Locations like the 1250 acre Roberts Farm in Taylors Bridge in southern New Castle County are ideal attractions for birds that make their way to Delaware during migration. “We acquired this property a year and a half ago and it was a home run for us, because this property was originally slated for about 400 homes,” Hackett said.

    Since 1961, the DWL has worked strategically with state and private entities to purchase land so it’s not destroyed by industry, commercialization or pollution.

    “We worked with the Conservation Fund and Mt. Cuba Center to be able to protect this land, and this land connects with property we own and with property that’s owned by the state of Delaware to form a continuous 10,500 acres of U.S. protected land in New Castle County, which is one of our rapidly developing parts of Delaware.”

    Protecting Delaware’s natural resources is a two-fold mission. It benefits wildlife, and also helps protect development, Hackett said.

    “There are two reasons this type of habitat is particularly important. This type of habitat provides a food source for our bird life, both waterfowl and migratory birds, and if we don’t provide that food source we won’t see that type of wildlife anymore. We won’t see those birds, they won’t come around,” she said.

    “But the other piece is, these marshes and freshwater wetlands do the same thing—they’re actually like the kidney of the landscape. They are a resource that purifies our water, and also provides some level of storm protection. So, if we have another Hurricane Sandy that comes to Delaware and hits us, [the marsh] is what it’s going to hit, instead of the houses that are nearby. And so, we will be able to isolate and buffer some of that development with the marshlands that can store that storm water and protect us. So those two pieces together are really critical to make sure we protect those marshlands now, and also into the future.”

    Hackett says you don’t have to be a conservationist to help protect Delaware’s natural resources. Simply supporting your local farmer will do. In the meantime, the DWL is working to acquire more land and restore what’s being lost. 

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