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James Drake

Its better to be over the hill than under the hill, is a saying my old daddy would often recite, and his little catchphrase certainly rings true to this day.

I think most folks with serious graying around the muzzle grudgingly put up with the old-age aches and pains plus the struggle to just get up from a soft, cushy sofa when we consider the alternative.

I'll admit it, Im getting to that stage myself in life now when I rise up from an easy chair or take that first step out of my truck after a long drive and I have to pause, just a short moment, to make sure all the body parts are still in working order before attempting to gain a little forward motion.

Its sometimes no fun getting old, but it still beats that other option.

Saying all this, Im going to share a little story.

Last spring, my bride saw a miniature birdbath with molded hummingbirds on each end and she just had to have it.

Its so cute, I remember her saying as she put this thing into our shopping cart.

It wasnt real expensive and I will admit it was certainly attractive enough to display in most any backyard.

We have always fed wild birds at our house. Heck, I remember when we first took up housekeeping together, we had a little apartment on the second floor of an old farmhouse. All the time we lived there, we threw birdseed out our kitchen window and fed the birds on the roof.

Now, we have our own private yard with lots of trees and open areas. Five good-size birdfeeders are out there and they keep seed available all the time for our little winged friends.

Well, this new birdbath went into a little garden area near the back deck of our home, and the birds almost immediately started using it as their preferred drinking fountain.

Weve had it several months now and it has only gained in popularity with the feathered crowd.

Chickadees, titmice, lots of little goldfinches now in their drab winter coats and even bluebirds and the occasional cardinal stop by throughout the day to take a little sip.

However, there is a small problem.

Remember me calling this birdbath miniature above? Well, it is and the birds usually completely drain it out of all the water in four or five hours.

Im really surprised, but pleased, with how popular it is with the birds, but keeping something in it to drink has quickly became the real chore.

In order for us to service it, weve got to go down a fairly long flight of pretty steep steps off our back deck. And then, to get back inside the house, youve got to go back up that same flight of steps.

My wife and I are both getting older and adding those steps, two or three times a day, into our daily routine to refill that birdbath is not my favorite assignment.

A few weeks ago, I had to replace some washers on our leaking kitchen sink. While I was buying the supplies at the hardware store, I happened to notice all the PCV pipes on a nearby display and something just clicked inside my head.

I bought the longest piece of pipe they had and also picked up a new funnel on my way out of the store.

Yep, you guessed it, I can now refill that little birdbath from the top of our deck and I dont have to go up and down those steps anymore.

Telling only the truth here, my wife was aghast that Id be so lazy. I told her it was more inspiration and imagination and I would take over solo responsibility to keep the birdbath filled.

Ive held up my end and haven't heard any more negative comments.

Since birding or bird watching is the number one outdoor pursuit of the vast majority of Americans, Im guessing other folks out there have similar stories to tell.

If you do, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology wants to hear from you. They are sponsoring a little contest about urban birds and citizen-science projects.

The basic question they're asking is: How can we make life easier for birds in our neighborhood?

The focus is on birds in urban settings and what we humans go through and do to help them. Theyre looking for your photographs, artwork, videos, stories or even a clever poem.

As part of the challenge, we want to see the creative or interesting ways in which people help wild birds, project leader Karen Purcell said. It might be as simple as setting up feeders or next boxes, providing water or planting flowers that provide seeds.

If you've got your own story to tell, email to Make sure you put your first and last name, hometown and state of residence in the subject line along with NOBIRD.

Include your full postal address in the body of email and explain any photographs and identify birds seen in those photos if you can.

If the folks at Cornell like it, you just might soon find a thank you package from them in your mailbox. Theyre giving away bird feeders, bird identification books, posters and many other prizes to the people sending in the more imaginative stories. The deadline to submit entries is Dec. 15.

Good luck and don't worry, Im not going to share my own little birdbath tale with them. Im too afraid they might agree with my wife.

Fishing update

Ken Lamb from the Tackle Box in Lexington Park reported big stripers being scrapped off the bottom with big baits and big weights now from Buoy 72 to Point Lookout. Very good trolling opportunities are waiting for you.

Lamb also said the local population of striped bass in both the lower Patuxent and Potomac rivers is excellent with both trollers and jiggers using small bucktails trimmed with a pork rind finding plenty of volunteers in the 22- to 30-inch range over oyster bars.

Some perch are also being discovered in the Patuxent near the Gov. Thomas Johnson Bridge in very deep (60 to 70 feet) water. Use little sections of bloodworm on a spinner hook for the perch.

Down at Lake Anna, the story from High Point Marina is that the stripers have finally returned to the waters around the Route 208 Bridge. Start your searches there and then work up either side until you find the better concentrations. Both live bait and Alabama rigs have been successful.

Stay in the main lake but direct most of your efforts to the waters close to shore.