We’ve made it to the end of another work week and the next few days will be filled with holiday cheer.
My Christmas shopping is all done and I’m looking forward to spending time with family and friends, maybe kissing under the mistletoe and opening presents on the big day. I hope you’ll be doing the same.
And I also hope you’ve set aside a little time to enjoy the outdoors, too. I’m still praying for some snow, but looking at the forecast, I don’t think there will be a White Christmas this year, once again.
Winter officially begins this Sunday, and with the reasonable temperatures Southern Maryland has experienced so far this December, there’s no reason not to spend some time outside over the holidays.
Remember to dress in layers, bundle up and tuck some hot hands in your pockets and maybe in your shoes, and you’ll be comfortable outside no matter what Mother Nature brings your way.
Count birds over the holidays
This year marks the 120th anniversary of the Christmas Bird Count.
A tradition that began on Christmas Day in 1900, the CBC was founded as a conservation effort to encourage people to count wild birds instead of hunt them during the holidays. Experienced and non-experienced birders alike are invited to help out with the effort.
Last year’s bird count set a record for most count circles. The data collected from the CBC along with information from other bird counts paints a picture for scientists of how bird populations are changing over the long term.
Earlier this year, a scientific study that used CBC data revealed a startling and dismal trend that North America has lost nearly three billion wild birds since 1970.
Unlike other bird counts, volunteers work together in predetermined locations to count the number of birds they see. An official CBC compiler will submit all data to the Audubon database.
There are two birding groups counting birds in our local area over the holidays.
First up is a bird count that will take place on Sunday at Point Lookout State Park. Volunteers are needed in all capacities. Contact coordinator Bob Boxwell at 410-610-5124 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and to be assigned a team. Point Lookout is always an excellent destination for birdwatching and is especially beautiful during the winter months.
The second effort will span both St. Mary’s and Calvert counties. There’s a lot of ground to cover, so this count circle needs all the participants it can get, both people familiar with the area as well as feeder watchers.
The tally rally will meet in Solomons at a local restaurant that annually makes space for all the volunteers to meet. Volunteers typically meet for dinner there around 5:30 p.m. The date of this bird count is Dec. 29.
If interested, email Andy Brown at email@example.com.
Fishing is still going on
This mild weather, when it’s not too windy out, is also ideal for partaking in some late fall/early winter fishing.
As the season comes to a close, Capt. Dennis Fleming of Fishamajig Guide Service (240-538-1260) reports that striped bass have aggregated in the lower Potomac River and triangle area of the Chesapeake Bay with a sporadic bite.
The keeper fish average 22 to 25 inches with lots of undersized fish. Anglers bump into a few 30-inch or bigger fish, but it’s been a far cry from years past when 30 to 40 inches was the norm for this fishery. Perhaps better days are ahead with new conservation efforts to bolster the stock.
The striped bass season closed this week in the Maryland sector of the Chesapeake Bay and Patuxent River, but remains open in the Potomac River until Dec. 31.
Anglers wishing to fish through the winter should concentrate their efforts locally at the warm water discharges in the area.
The ramp at Aqualand Marina will be closing indefinitely after the first of the year due to bridge construction making access to the Morgantown Power Plant difficult at best. Calvert Cliffs and Blue Plains remain open in the interim.
Yellow perch fishermen may happen upon a few fish in the deep holes of the Patuxent and Nanjemoy/Mattawoman watersheds, but once again their numbers are far fewer than in years past and tend to historically mirror striped bass populations enjoying dominant year classes when spawning conditions are ideal.
One sure bet is blue catfish. They are abound in the Potomac River with the Fort Washington sector serving as the epicenter for catfishing.
Finding bait can be a challenge and fish markets that carry mullet, carp or shad are a great source. Each catfish that is creeled by anglers is an ecological benefit to the ecosystem as these invasive critters have exploded in numbers.
Lastly, cold water kills. Use common sense, observe all boating safety precautions with diligence, and wear your life jacket.