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Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary is the wintering ground for several thousand Canada geese, the largest concentration on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay. The sanctuary was named after Edgar Merkle (1900-1984), an active conservationist who devoted much of his life to protecting and providing for wildlife. The geese arrive in mid-October and stay until late February or early March. About 100 geese stay year around. During the peak of the season, more than 5,000 geese may be present. Corn, millet and other crops favored by geese are grown for them, adding to the marsh and aquatic plants that flourish in the ponds along the Patuxent River, an important Chesapeake tributary.
The sanctuary also offers habitats for a variety of birds and mammals. On a visit to Merkle, one may see red fox, a groundhog, or a white-tailed deer. In the summer, ospreys nest close to the Visitor Center and the hummingbirds, finches and purple martins are abundant. In the neighboring ponds, visitors are likely to see herons and other water birds. On the trails one can see bluebirds and many different songbirds.