about south river federation

As the winter settles within the South River watershed, you may expect to witness a quieting of the natural world. The buzz of cicadas and medley of songs by nesting birds subside for the season. However, many animals are still active and bustling about. You won’t have to travel far to hear the high-pitched chip of the cardinal or the kew of the dark-eyed junco in your neighborhood or along wooded trails.



Waterfowl like the tundra swan, otherwise known as the whistling swan, may be spotted in groups near marshes and shorelines as they return from their northern nesting grounds. Adults arrive with radiant white plumage in a chorus of whistling honks and by their side a few youth (called cygnets) still bearing immature gray feathers.  Tundra swans are not to be confused with their quieter, orange-beaked look alike, mute swans, which take up year-round residency in the Chesapeake Bay region. Mute swans are invasive, often feeding aggressively on underwater grasses, ripping plants up from the roots and sometimes foraging until entire beds disappear. Mute swans are invasive, often feeding aggressively on underwater grasses, ripping plants up from the roots and sometimes foraging until entire beds disappear. Over predation along with other factors like sediment and nutrient pollution has limited underwater grass growth, making it difficult for winter visitors, including the tundra swan, canvasback ducks, and redhead ducks, to find adequate food sources. Many have been forced to either utilize less preferable resources or to move to more southern territories. In fact, a large number of tundra swans have shifted from waterways onto farm fields to take advantage of the leftover grains.


winterbeaverJust as some of us prefer to remain indoors during cold winter days, a few mammals like the beaver seek refuge in their summer built lodges. In preparation for the winter, beavers hoard branches, twigs, and other woody material as their food supply. They will strategically pile this reserve under  the water so that they can access it once the water’s surface has frozen over and they are confined to their lodge and watery abode. If you find a beaver lodge in wetlands or flooded streams, you may be able to hear them stirring around inside.

winter otter

Otters on the other hand are extremely social creatures, preferring to play and frolic in the fluffy winter snow on riverbanks and shorelines.  You might wonder why we seem to see more otters in the winter time than in the spring or summer. During colder months, otters often have to travel farther to hunt. This, in combination with the fact that they are easier to see without the camouflage of deciduous leaves and against the white of snow, allows us to enjoy their playfulness this time of year. Whether you prefer to stay indoors like the beaver this season or romp in the snow like the otter, take a moment to relish in the habitat that our South River provides even in winter months and will continue to provide as we work towards a healthier ecosystem.