Spring brings plenty of firsts

Maryland Independent - - Sports B - Jamie Drake

Spring is a sea­son of firsts and the color yel­low, from the first daf­fodil to bloom, the first goldfinch to cast off his dull brown coat of win­ter and the first ear of sweet corn grown down south to hit the shelves of the gro­cery store.

My fa­vorite yel­low first of spring is per­haps the for­sythia. Its cheerful blooms brighten the drab, col­or­less land­scape just be­fore the trees grow leaves and ev­ery­thing turns green. Now the for­sythia flow­ers are fad­ing and aza­leas are tak­ing over as the her­ald of spring, and the color yel­low is tak­ing a back­seat to the showier shades of pink, pur­ple and red, which is just as good, be­cause my fa­vorite birds (that hap­pen to like red flow­ers) are back.

We had another first in our yard last week: the first hum­ming­bird of the sea­son.

Ev­ery year around Fe­bru­ary I start get­ting weary of win­ter and ready for spring. The log­i­cal part of my brain knows it’s way too early to put them out, but I take down the box of hum­ming­bird feeders from the shelf in the garage any­way and bring them in­side to take stock of my sup­plies. One hum­ming­bird feeder is just not enough. They sit around in the liv­ing room ready to be hung up at the first hint of warm weather.

My game plan ev­ery year is to have my feeders up be­fore ev­ery­one else and have more than ev­ery­one else, so that I can at­tract more hum­ming­birds to my yard and keep them from leav­ing. It may seem self­ish, but these lit­tle birds re­ally are my fa­vorite to watch as they zip back and forth.

My dad had a cou­ple of hum­ming­bird feeders when I was grow­ing up in Dentsville. So many hum­ming­birds drank from those feeders that he would have to re­fill them be­cause they were empty, not be­cause the nec­tar got spoiled from hot weather. As he would hang them back up, hum­ming­birds would buzz around him, hov­er­ing for a chance to be the first at the re­plen­ished feeder.

That’s a far cry from to­day. One hand is enough to count the num­ber of hum­ming­birds fre­quent­ing my yard ev­ery sum­mer. I’m hop­ing this year will be dif­fer­ent.

Mother’s Day is next month and a hum­ming­bird feeder would make a great gift. Feeders to­day come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, from or­nate vin­tage bot­tles to ones you can hang on a win­dow for a closer view. My fa­vorite ones are the kind with wide bot­tle­necks that you can put di­rectly in the dish­washer when they need to be cleaned.

The nec­tar is sim­ple and in­ex­pen­sive to make. You don’t need any­thing but reg­u­lar white su­gar and water. Heat four parts water on the stove, add one part su­gar and stir un­til the su­gar is com­pletely dis­solved, then let the pot sit un­til the nec­tar cools.

Don’t add any red food color­ing to the nec­tar. It’s not nec­es­sary and it might be harm­ful. And, ac­tu­ally, hum­ming­birds don’t drink exclusively from red flow­ers only. They like what­ever color flow­ers have the most nec­tar, and on the day we saw that first hum­ming­bird, we also saw him vis­it­ing the for­sythia blooms in our side yard for a few sips of nec­tar — another first.

Spring cer­tainly is a sea­son of firsts. My youngest daugh­ter turned 1 this past Satur­day. Happy first birth­day, Naomi.

Ev­ery Kid in a Park

Do you have a fourth grader at home? My old­est daugh­ter is in the fourth grade at the Ch­e­sa­peake Char­ter School in Lexington Park. Between new sneak­ers and gymnastics lessons and ev­ery­thing else it takes to raise a healthy, happy kid, it seems like more money is al­ways go­ing out than com­ing in.

Sure, April 15 means a tax break for par­ents, but that’s a drop in the bucket com­pared to the $300,000 ex­perts es­ti­mate it takes to raise a child from birth to age 18.

But if you’re the par­ent of a fourth grader, you can thank your child for sav­ing you some money when you visit any of the state parks in Mary­land this sum­mer.

The Mary­land Park Ser­vice will ac­cept the Na­tional Park Ser­vice’s Ev­ery Kid in a Park pass now through Aug. 31 at all 72 state parks. The pur­pose of the pro­gram is to in­crease ac­ces­si­bil­ity to public lands and waters for chil­dren — pri­mar­ily 9 to 10 years old — and their fam­i­lies. The pass

will pro­vide free ad­mis­sion to Mary­land state parks but will not cover ad­di­tional ameni­ties, such as camp­ing, boat ren­tals or staff-led tours.

In South­ern Mary­land, some of the parks that will take the Ev­ery Kid in a Park pass in­clude Point Look­out State Park, Green­well State Park, Chap­man State Park, Small­wood State Park, and Calvert Cliffs State Park.

My daugh­ter filled out the ap­pli­ca­tion on­line, which took about a minute. You’ll need to be able to print the pass from your de­vice as elec­tronic copies are not ac­cepted. For more in­for­ma­tion, go to www.ev­erykid­i­na­park.gov.

jamiedrake­out­doors@out­look.com

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