Get out soon to see the ot­ters

The Calvert Recorder - - Sports - Jamie Drake jamiedrake­out­doors @out­

Re­cently I took the kids to the Calvert Marine Mu­seum in Solomons.

We’ve been mem­bers for over a decade now, and it’s a fa­vorite place for us to head on days off from school or when we need to get out of the house for a while. It’s one of the first des­ti­na­tions where we take out-of-town guests, to work up an ap­petite right be­fore we stop at Stoney’s for a crab cake.

On this par­tic­u­lar day, we just hap­pened to be near the ot­ter ex­hibit when it was feed­ing time.

Those ot­ters didn’t need a clock to know what time it was.

Their bel­lies could tell time just fine. Ev­ery few sec­onds one of them would check the door that leads into the room where they are fed, just to make sure it wasn’t open yet. When the door fi­nally opened, all three ot­ters were al­ready lined up out­side ready to come in for their meals.

Two vol­un­teers care­fully mea­sured por­tions of fish to make sure each ot­ter would get ex­actly the right amount of calo­ries based on its par­tic­u­lar needs. Ap­par­ently one of the ot­ters is a lit­tle hefty by ot­ter stan­dards and is on a spe­cial diet.

There’s a plex­i­glass par­ti­tion be­tween the ot­ters and the vol­un­teers, with small holes for feed­ing. After weigh­ing the fish, the vol­un­teers started pass­ing fish through the hole di­rectly into the ot­ters’ mouths.

The ot­ters gob­bled up the fish, barely tak­ing time to chew or sa­vor the taste. Once the fish were gone, the ot­ters lost no time bed­ding down for a nap. They nosed around some tow­els to find a comfy spot and snug­gled up for a siesta.

While we were watch­ing the ot­ters, a vol­un­teer an­swered ques­tions and shared some in­ter­est­ing sto­ries about the ot­ters.

If you’ve been to the ex­hibit be­fore, you might have no­ticed a shelf filled with dif­fer­ent McCormick food fla­vors and ex­tracts. Those bot­tles aren’t used to make the food more palat­able; no, the fish are tasty on their own. The scents are put on the ot­ters’ toys and bed­ding to stim­u­late their senses in cap­tiv­ity, much like they’d be us­ing their noses in the wild.

Once, be­fore the mu­seum opened for the day, a staff mem­ber no­ticed muddy ot­ter foot­prints on the deck right out­side the en­clo­sure. Panic en­sued, but all the ot­ters were present and ac­counted for.

Upon fur­ther in­spec­tion, it was noted the foot­prints were pointed in the di­rec­tion of the en­clo­sure and must have be­longed to some wild river ot­ters who came to pay a visit to their brethren be­hind the glass. River ot­ters are na­tive to Mary­land and live mostly in tidal ar­eas. Since they are most ac­tive at night, peo­ple don’t tend to see them of­ten, but they are out there.

The mu­seum will be closed for all of Jan­uary and Fe­bru­ary, which means if you want to see Chessie-Grace and her friends eat lunch, you’ll need to visit the mu­seum be­fore the

end of De­cem­ber. The mu­seum is un­der­go­ing ren­o­va­tions to the sec­ond level of the ex­hi­bi­tion build­ing to make more space avail­able for classes and of­fices.

Ac­cord­ing to Sher­rod Stur­rock, director of the mu­seum, the ren­o­va­tions are sched­uled to be com­pleted by May.

You won’t have to wait that long to wish the ot­ters a Happy New Year, how­ever. The mu­seum will re­open once the heavy de­mo­li­tion is fin­ished, which should be some­time in March.

You still have plenty of time left in De­cem­ber to make one last visit to the mu­seum be­fore it closes. The mu­seum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will close early on Christmas Eve at 2 p.m. and will be closed on Christmas Day. The mu­seum is open for mem­bers only on New Year’s Eve and will close at 2 p.m.

I highly rec­om­mend plan­ning your trip to co­in­cide with one of the ot­ter’s meal­times. You’ll want to be back by the ot­ter ex­hibit at one of the sched­uled feed­ings which take place each day around 9:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3:45 p.m.

Audubon so­ci­ety to hold owl prowl event

The weather out­side hasn’t been par­tic­u­larly fright­ful just yet. In fact, on Mon­day it was quite de­light­ful and I didn’t even need a jacket when I was putting up the Christmas dec­o­ra­tions.

I’m sure there are some cold days on the hori­zon, though. Maybe even some snow.

If you don’t mind go­ing out in the cold, you might want to RSVP to this next event now and put it on your cal­en­dar. The South­ern Mary­land Audubon So­ci­ety is hold­ing its an­nual “Owl Prowl at the Elms” at 7 p.m. Jan. 18.

Join lead­ers Bob Boxwell and Mar­garita Ro­chow to call out the owls. This is an event where it’s per­fectly ac­cept­able, even en­cour­aged, to bring along your kids.

The only caveat: Make sure to dress ap­pro­pri­ately. You’ll want to dress for the weather, but avoid any noisy clothing like snow pants, snow suits or coats that make swishy sounds when you walk. Owls have very good hear­ing, so good they can hear a mouse crawl­ing in a field, and you don’t want to spook them be­fore you even get a chance to see or hear one.

The event is weather de­pen­dent. RSVP to Bob Boxwell at Bob­[email protected]­ Meet at the Elms En­vi­ron­men­tal Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­ter in the hunter’s dirt park­ing lot on the right 100 yards be­fore the gate. Do not drive past the gate.

Stripers still be­ing caught

Ken Lamb at the Tackle Box in Lex­ing­ton Park (301-863-8151) passed on that stripers from the ocean have shown up at Smith Point.

Big stripers with vis­i­ble sea lice in the 40- to 45-inch, 35- to 40-pound size range were caught by fish­er­men trolling the Vir­ginia-Mary­land line last week­end. The catch is only a hand­ful so far.

In the mean­time, you can find plenty of do­mes­tic rock­fish in the bay from Point No Point to the Tar­gets, at Buoy 72, at the Tri­an­gle, and in the mouth of the Po­tomac River from Ragged Point to Vero Beach.

The av­er­age keeper is about 20 inches, with a mix of fish rang­ing up to 32 inches. You’ll find big­ger fish in the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay, while the Po­tomac has more un­der­sized fish that don’t quite mea­sure up to the min­i­mum size.

Rock­fish sea­son closes in Mary­land wa­ters, where the size limit is 19 inches, on Dec. 15. The reg­u­la­tions are a lit­tle dif­fer­ent in the Po­tomac River and Vir­ginia wa­ters where the size limit is 20 inches and the sea­son doesn’t close un­til Dec. 31st.

The At­lantic Ocean and its coastal bays and trib­u­taries re­main open to recre­ational striped bass fish­ing with a two per-day limit year-round.

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