Monday, July 23, 2018

Episode 430 (7-23-18): What Calls from a Marsh?

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (3:44)

Transcript of audio, notes on the audio, images, and additional information follow below.

All Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 7-20-18.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of July 23, 2018.

MUSIC – ~14 sec

This week, that excerpt of “Great Blue Heron,” composed by Phil Skeens and performed by Timothy Seaman of Williamsburg, Va., opens an episode on birds found in Virginia’s marshes.  Have a listen for about 30 seconds to some sounds you might hear while visiting a Tidewater area marsh.

SOUNDS - 31 sec

You heard a Great Blue Heron, a Wood Duck, a Northern Harrier (formerly known as Marsh Hawk), a Least Bittern, a Common Moorhen, and a Marsh Wren.  Those species represent some of the different groups of birds that inhabit freshwater or saltwater marshes in Virginia’s Coastal Plain, either as summer breeders, winter residents, or migrants.

Many birds occurring in Tidewater’s marshes also occur in other kinds of wetlands in other parts of Virginia.  Marshes and other wetlands provide birds with key habitat features, particularly food from plants and many kinds of vertebrate and invertebrate animals; shelter and nesting areas within vegetation; and a watery buffer against land-based predators.  These habitat values lead to use by a large variety of birds; for example, well over 200 species have been observed in Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, a 485-acre tidal freshwater wetland along the Potomac River in Fairfax County.

For wading herons, dabbling or diving ducks, preying hawks, perching wrens, and many other feathered actors, Virginia’s marshes and other wetlands are essential natural stages.

Thanks to Lang Elliott for permission to use this week’s sounds, from the Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs.  Thanks also to Timothy Seaman for permission to use this week’s music.  And we let a Marsh Wren have the closing notes.

SOUND - ~ 4 sec


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  Thanks to Ben Cosgrove for his version of “Shenandoah” to open and close the show.   In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


This episode is the second of two in July 2018 on marshes.  The first of the series is Episode 429, 7-16-18.

“Great Blue Heron,” from the 2004 album “Virginia Wildlife,” is copyright by Timothy Seaman, Phil Skeens, and Pine Wind Music, used with permission.  Mr. Seaman’s Web site is

The sounds of Great Blue Heron, Wood Duck, Northern Harrier, Least Bittern, Common Moorhen, and Marsh Wren were taken from the Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs-Eastern Region CD set, by Lang Elliott with Donald and Lillian Stokes (Time Warner Audio Books, copyright 1997), used with permission of Lang Elliott, whose work is available online at the “Music of Nature” Web site,

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (2 min./22 sec.) of the “Shenandoah” arrangement/performance by Ben Cosgrove that opens and closes this episode.  More information about Mr. Cosgrove is available online at


A Great Blue Heron and other birds in a marsh at Wachapreague, Va. (Accomack County), October 5, 2007.

Marsh Wren painting originally published between 1827 and 1838 by John James Audubon in Birds of America (Plate 100), as reprinted in 1985 by Abbeville Press, New York.  Photo taken July 23, 2018, from the reprint copy (no. 6 of 350 copies printed in 1985) owned by Special Collections of Virginia Tech Libraries.  Virginia Water Radio thanks Special Collections for permission to photograph their copy and for their assistance.   Information about Birds of America is available from the National Audubon Society, online at


Used for Audio

Cornell University Lab of Ornithology, “All About Birds,” online at

Friends of Dyke Marsh, “Birds of Dyke Marsh,” online at

Alice Jane Lippson and Robert L. Lippson, Life in the Chesapeake Bay-3rd Edition, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Md., 2006. See particularly Chapter 7, “Wetlands,” p. 201, including “Birds of the Wetlands,” p. 227; and “Birds—Species List and Seasonal Occurrence,” p. 307.

Chandler S. Robbins et al., A Guide to Field Identification of Birds of North America, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2001.

Robert E. Stewart, “Technical Aspects of Wetlands—Wetlands as Bird Habitat,” U.S. Geological Survey Water Supply Paper 2425, online at

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, “Fish and Wildlife Information Service,” online at  The following hyperlinks go to information on the species mentioned in this episode: Great Blue Heron; Wood Duck; Northern Harrier; Least Bittern; Common Moorhen; Marsh Wren.

For More Information about Marshes or Other Wetlands

Chesapeake Bay Program, “Wetlands,” online at

L. M. Cowardin, et al. Classification of Wetlands and Deepwater Habitats of the United States, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1979, online at

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Section 404 of the Clean Water Act: How Wetlands are Defined and Identified,” online at; “Wetlands Protection and Restoration,” online at; and “Wetlands Classification and Types,” online at (this site’s information on marshes is at

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, “National Wetlands Inventory,” online at

U.S. Geological Survey, “Water Science School/Why are wetlands and aquatic habitats important?” online at

Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, “The Natural Communities of Virginia—Classification of Ecological Community Groups,” online at

Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, “Wetland and Stream Protection,” online at

Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), Virginia Wetlands Report, online at

For More Information about Birds

Cornell University Lab of Ornithology, “Merlin Photo ID.”  The application for mobile devices allows users to submit a bird photograph to get identification of the bird. Information is available online at

Cornell University Lab of Ornithology and American Ornithologists’ Union, “Birds of North America Online” online at (subscription required).

Cornell University Lab of Ornithology and the Audubon Society, “eBird,” online at  Here you can find locations of species observations made by contributors, and you can sign up to contribute your own observations.

National Audubon Society, online at

Virginia Society of Ornithology: online at  The Society is non-profit organization dedicated to the study, conservation, and enjoyment of birds in the Commonwealth.

Xeno-canto Foundation Web site at  The site provides bird songs from around the world.


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (  See particularly the “Birds” and the “Rivers, Streams, and Other Surface Water” subject categories.

Following are links to some other episodes on wetlands.
Episode 269, 6/8/15 – What Are the “Waters of the United States?”
Episode 327, 8/1/16 – A Wetland Walk on a Midsummer Morning.
Episode 380, 8/7/17 – Natural Gas Pipelines, Water Resources, and the Clean Water Act.
Episode 429, 7/16/18 – A Marsh Introduction, Featuring “The Prettiest Marsh” by Teresa Whitaker


The episode may help with Virginia 2013 Music SOLs at various grade levels that call for “examining the relationship of music to the other fine arts and other fields of knowledge.”

This episode may also help with the following Virginia 2010 Science SOLs.

Grades K-6 Scientific Investigation, Reasoning, and Logic Theme
2.1, 3.1, 4.1, 5.1, and 6.1 – All include “Current applications to reinforce science concepts.”

Grades K-6 Earth Resources Theme
4.9 - Va. natural resources, including watersheds, water resources, and organisms.

Grades K-6 Living Systems Theme
2.5 - living things as part of a system, including habitats.
3.6 - ecosystems, communities, populations, shared resources.
6.7 - natural processes and human interactions that affect watershed systems; Va. watersheds, water bodies, and wetlands; health and safety issues; and water monitoring.

Life Science Course
LS.1 – understanding of scientific reasoning, logic, and the nature of science, including current applications to reinforce science concepts.
LS.8 - community and population interactions, including food webs, niches, symbiotic relationships.
LS.9 - adaptations for particular ecosystems’ biotic and abiotic factors, including characteristics of land, marine, and freshwater environments.

Earth Science Course
ES.10 – ocean processes, interactions, and policies affecting coastal zones, including Chesapeake Bay.

Biology Course
BIO.1 – current applications to reinforce science concepts.
BIO.8 - dynamic equilibria and interactions within populations, communities, and ecosystems; including nutrient cycling, succession, effects of natural events and human activities, and analysis of the flora, fauna, and microorganisms of Virginia ecosystems.

The episode may also help with the following Virginia 2015 Social Studies SOLs.

Virginia Studies Course
VS.10 – knowledge of government, geography, and economics in present-day Virginia.

World Geography Course
WG.4 - types and significance of natural, human, and capital resources.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at

Following are links to Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.

Episode 250 (1-26-15) – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 255 (3-2-15) – on density, for 5th and 6th grade.
Episode 282 (9-21-15) – on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten.
Episode 309 (3-28-16) – on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Episode 332 (9-12-16) – on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
Episode 403 (1-15-18) – on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 404 (1-22-18) – on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade.
Episode 406 (2-5-18) – on ice on rivers, for middle school.
Episode 407 (2-12-19) – on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.