Get­ting through the weather changes

Maryland Independent - - Sports - Jamie Drake jamiedrake­out­doors@out­look.com

The weather this past week­end was per­fect for spend­ing some time out­side.

Af­ter the rain on Fri­day, the skies cleared and the breeze had the slight­est hint of warmth to it. An en­joy­able spring week­end, in­deed. We should en­joy those kinds of days while we can.

Around here, the tem­per­a­tures can go from cold to hot al­most in­stantly, with­out stop­ping very long in the pleas­ant range. We’ll be need­ing the air con­di­tioner soon enough.

The blue­berry bushes in our front yard started to get flower buds on them in Fe­bru­ary. I was a lit­tle wor­ried when that cold snap with the hard freeze was in the fore­cast, but they’re hardy plants that can with­stand cold tem­per­a­tures hand­ily.

My grand­mother had a few grow­ing at the far end of her yard in Penn­syl­va­nia, be­yond a long, nar­row veg­etable gar­den planted chock full of pole beans and toma­toes, with a few marigolds and zin­nias in­ter­spersed for good mea­sure. The win­ters there were much harsher, and the summers a bit shorter, and her blue­ber­ries al­ways fared just fine.

When my sis­ter and I would stay with her in the sum­mer, she al­ways had enough berries to make a pie for dessert and put up a cou­ple jars of jam. But even with twice as many bushes grow­ing in our yard, we never seem to have a sur­plus.

I net­ted those blue­ber­ries last sum­mer to keep the birds from eat­ing them, but even that didn’t make a dif­fer­ence. It turned out the real per­pe­tra­tors were my kids, who were help­ing them­selves to hand­fuls when­ever the mood struck, which was ba­si­cally ev­ery time one of them spied a berry ripe enough for pick­ing. That didn’t leave much left over for other uses.

Based on the pro­lif­er­a­tion of blos­soms that started open­ing last week­end, the snack fore­cast is good. Al­ready bees are buzzing around the flow­ers, along with some other winged in­sects do­ing their part to pol­li­nate them.

The first swal­low­tail of the year came through my yard on Sun­day, and the rhubarb in the gar­den is well over a foot tall al­ready. My hus­band and daugh­ter built a cold frame a few weeks ago, and dozens of basil sprouts have started to take off. I can al­most taste the first Cap­rese salad of the sea­son.

Some­thing else I’m look­ing for­ward to are the first crabs of the sum­mer. Seems a lit­tle early, doesn’t it? But the recre­ational sea­son is al­ready open in the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay and its tidal trib­u­taries and in the At­lantic Ocean, coastal bays and their trib­u­taries. Bet­ter get pre­pared and put ap­ple cider vine­gar and Old Bay on the gro­cery list.

Most recre­ational crab­bers prob­a­bly won’t need to pur­chase a li­cense. But if you plan to use a trot­line, col­lapsi­ble crab traps, net rings, seines or

eel pots, you’ll need one. And you’ll also need one if you want to har­vest more than two dozen hard crabs (with a limit of 1 bushel) or more than 1 dozen soft crabs or male peel­ers (with a limit of 2 dozen).

All recre­ational crab­bers are pro­hib­ited from sell­ing crabs, but you can al­ways share them with your neigh­bor, which is a sure­fire way to get on his good side. It’s il­le­gal to pos­sess a sponge crab or any fe­male hard or peeler crab. Keep the ladies out of the cook­ing pot and put them back in the water where they can pro­duce about two mil­lion eggs at a time.

Those who live on the water can use up to two crab pots with­out a li­cense. Crab pots must be fit­ted with a by­catch re­duc­tion or tur­tle ex­cluder de­vice at ev­ery en­try and be marked with the owner’s name and ad­dress. No li­cense is needed to crab in the At­lantic Ocean, coastal bays and their trib­u­taries. More robins this spring

I re­ceived a ques­tion from a lady in St. Mary’s County who was won­der­ing if there have been more robins around this spring than usual.

I have to con­cur. I’ve ob­served some down­right huge flocks of robins feed­ing in the farm fields that I pass by on my morn­ing com­mute, some­thing I don’t re­mem­ber from years past. Just last week there was a robin on our bird­feeder, pre­sum­ably help­ing it­self to some meal­worms, a sight I’ve never seen in my 13 years liv­ing here. There cer­tainly seem to be more, and hun­grier, robins this spring.

I knew I’d need a pro­fes­sional’s as­sis­tance to help me an­swer this ques­tion, so I turned to Tyler Bell, a true avian ex­pert who sits on the board of direc­tors for the South­ern Mary­land Audubon So­ci­ety. Bell af­firms that there does seem to be, anec­do­tally, more robins in South­ern Mar yland this spring. He says it’s a “squeegee ef­fect” that has caused so many robins to pile up here.

The birds have been gath­er­ing on their north­ward move­ment, trav­el­ing along in the warm tem­per­a­tures. But when they en­coun­tered the colder weather and snow, they stopped mov­ing north.

Bell said: “Wher­ever that hap­pens to be along the sweep north, there are tons of robins. We just hap­pened to be lo­cated where they stopped. This oc­curs oc­ca­sion­ally with dif­fer­ent species. A cou­ple of years ago it was fox spar­rows and last spring, rose-breasted gros­beaks.”

It helps, too, that robins are eas­ily-iden­ti­fi­able birds we take note of in the spring.

Bell said: “Robins are con­spic­u­ous be­cause they’re gre­gar­i­ous birds that aren’t tremen­dously afraid of peo­ple and can eas­ily be seen on road edges or lawns.” Fu­ture is pos­i­tive

My old­est daugh­ter suc­cess­fully com­pleted the Mary­land Hunter Safety Course this past week­end.

We of­ten hear about how kids to­day are on an un­healthy tra­jec­tory, not get­ting enough phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity or learn­ing ba­sic so­cial skills be­cause they spend too much time in front of tele­vi­sion and com­puter screens. Well that’s not true of the kids who were in this class. They were all phys­i­cally fit, re­spect­ful of their el­ders and en­thu­si­as­tic about spend­ing time out­side.

The fu­ture is pos­i­tive with this next gen­er­a­tion of Mary­land hunters. I sus­pect a lot of them will be out hunt­ing turkey later this month. Ex­pe­ri­enced hunters, be ex­tra care­ful out there and keep an eye out for th­ese young­sters.

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