Bald eagles are nesting in Baltimore’s restored Masonville Cove

March 27, 2019

Bay Journal – by Timothy B. Wheeler – Who loves Baltimore these days? Bald eagles, that’s who. A white-headed adult pair has set up housekeeping at Masonville Cove, a restored wetland and natural area on South Baltimore’s otherwise industrial waterfront.

Officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Maryland Environmental Service announced Tuesday that the distinctive looking raptors had been discovered nesting in a tree on the 52-acre property, which includes the Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center.

Eagles have been spotted at the cover off and on over the years, but these are the first known to nest there since at least 2007, when the Maryland Port Administration began cleaning up contamination and debris at the former dump and shipbreaking site on the Patapsco River. It opened to the public in 2012.

Eagles can be skittish around people, so public access to the grounds will be limited during breeding season to a small area east of the education center. Restrictions will be eased gradually toward the end of breeding season, around mid-May, and access will be fully restored once any young eagles fledge, or mature enough to fly. That usually occurs by the end of May.

During this time, events scheduled inside the education center will go on, but activities outside will be limited or suspended. The eagles’ nest can be seen from the education center’s balcony, though visitors are urged to bring binoculars for better viewing.

Lots of other birds can also be seen at Masonville Cove. Birders have recorded sightings of nearly 250 species there since 2007, ranking it third best on the Baltimore ebird list of birdwatching hotspots in the metropolitan area.

The cove was cleaned up and restored by the port administration as mitigation for use of adjoining shoreline to deposit material dredged from the harbor’s shipping channels. More than 61,000 tons of trash and debris were removed, including some from the 1904 fire that destroyed much of downtown Baltimore.

Today, the site features walking trails and a fishing pier, as well as the environmental education center. The Living Classrooms Foundation and National Aquarium provide programs there, which are attended by about 2,000 students annually.

The cove is also home to “Captain Trash Wheel,” a solar-operated interceptor of stormwater-borne litter. Since its installation last June, the wheel has prevented nearly 9 tons of trash from getting into the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River.

Over the years, Masonville Cove’s flora and fauna have grown and diversified. During a BioBlitz in June 2018, specialists and volunteers reported seeing 222 plant and animal species there, the highest in the five years of recorded observations. Since August, birders have spotted 10 species not previously seen there, according to Tim Carney, a senior environmental specialist with the Maryland Environmental Service.

In 2013, the Fish and Wildlife Service designated Masonville Cove as the nation’s first Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership, part of an effort by the service to encourage conservation among urban residents, especially youth.

Masonville Cove, at 1000 Frankfurst Ave., is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. It’s closed on Sundays. Extended hours are being offered this year on the first Thursday of the month until 8 p.m. For up-to-date information, call the education center at 410-246-0669.