This Week’s Creature Feature ... Can You Draw a Duck?

Bird artists flock to 2012 competition

Jim Taylor’s Canada geese won the 2011-’12 Maryland Migratory Game Bird Stamp Contest.

Duck stamps have been preserving marsh and wetlands for waterfowl since the Great Depression, when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the federal Duck Stamp program to support the purchase of land for national wildlife refuges.
    Maryland adopted that good idea in 1974. In 38 years, our state Migratory Game Bird Stamp Design program has earned around $5 million from the sale of the stamps to hunters and collectors. This year’s $9 fee buys hunters the right to shoot waterfowl and all migratory game birds, including doves, rails, coots, snipe and woodcock.
    All those shotgun reports you’ve been hearing from water and wetlands are made by stamped hunters. Hunting season for most ducks and geese continues until the end of the month.
    The hunters and collectors, in turn, support waterfowl by funding research and the improvement of habitat on Maryland’s public lands. 2011 projects controlled hundreds of acres of invasive phragmites; supported surveys and banding in Canada and the Atlantic Flyway; planted sunflowers for doves; and managed forest habitat for woodcock.
    All that good work begins with an artist. In the tradition of James Audubon, Louis Agassiz Fuertes, Roger Tory Peterson and our own John Taylor, of Mayo, the artist must capture the image and attitude of the bird in paint, pen, pencil or pastel. The art much be original, based on life or the artist’s own sketches or photos.
    “Winning is a wonderful tribute to an artist’s skill,” says Taylor, two-time Maryland winner with mallards and wood ducks.
    Canada geese, hooded mergansers, buffleheads, American widgeons and ruddy ducks have also won stamps. Twenty-six birds are eligible subjects for artists this year.
    Maryland artists have until 4pm Friday, March 16, to compete in this year’s contest. Entries are judged at noon on Sunday, March 25, at the 23rd Annual Patuxent Wildlife Art Show at the National Wildlife Visitors Center in Laurel.
    Contest details: Patricia Allen: pallen@dnr.state.md.us; 410-260-8537. Or dnr.maryland.gov/wildlife/StampContests/DuckStamp/ContestBrochure.pdf.