Maryland’s migratory game bird stamp program celebrated a big milestone this weekend at the Waterfowl Festival in Easton. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced the winner of the 50th Annual Migratory Game Bird Stamp Design Contest. It is the state’s last annual contest.
The winning image is stunning. It depicts a pair of American black ducks flying over the marsh, titled “May They Always Fly.” The artist, Jim Taylor from Towson, Maryland, won the contest for his sixth time dating back to 1982.
“American Black Ducks are an iconic Maryland waterfowl,” Taylor tells Chesapeake Bay Magazine, and I chose a background scene depicting an Eastern Shore marsh in golden morning light with dramatic blue-grey clouds to compliment the rich deep burnt umber colors of the Black duck feathers and their iridescent blue violet speculum on their wings.”
A native of Kent County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Taylor studied art at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) and has a passion for painting waterfowl and other wildlife.
His winning painting took about 80 hours to complete. Its full title, “May They Always Fly—Thank You Maryland” is intended as a salute to the hunters, stamp collectors, DNR professionals and bird watchers who support the conservation mission.
The migratory game bird stamp program began in 1974, requiring hunters to buy a physical stamp if they targeted any migratory game birds. The proceeds from the stamp sales pay for migratory game bird research and improving habitat on state public lands, and so far have raised more than $7 million.
Nowadays, instead of carrying a physical stamp, migratory game bird hunters must have a printed receipt showing proof of purchase.
Because the physical stamp is no longer required or produced, DNR made the decision to make this 50th year of the contest its last. The agency says it will produce a limited run of 50th anniversary commemorative decals in 2024 showing Taylor’s artwork.
“Congratulations to Mr. Taylor and all participants who took part in this years contest,” DNR Wildlife and Heritage Service Director Karina Stonesifer said. “Artists from all over the country entered our final contest and we want to express our great appreciation and gratitude to all of the artists through the 50 years of this contest for their participation and support.”
Taylor says the legacy of the stamp program will live on: “Although there will no longer be a Maryland duck stamp, there will be Black ducks and other waterfowl thriving and flying and returning each fall.”
What will he do next? The part-time painter has a goal to win the federal duck stamp design competition one year. He’s been close before, ranking in the top 20 several times and even being a top five finalist.
-Meg Walburn Viviano