Get out soon to see the otters
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 exhib-
it 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 appropriate-
ly. 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] hotmail.com. 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.