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Things have been a bit dicey

Jamie Drake

Outdoors columnist Jamie Drake

While most of us are wondering what’s next as the coronavirus situation continues to evolve, there’s one segment of the population that’s enjoying every second of it: Dogs.

With more owners teleworking and kids home from school, I’ve seen more dogs out on walks in my neighborhood than ever. I’ve seen dogs I’ve never seen before getting walked at lunchtime.

Just yesterday, I saw kids I’ve never seen before walking dogs I’ve never seen before right down the same street I walk and drive on many times every day. And I recently met one particularly friendly pitbull/American bulldog mix that barreled out of the woods near my house, giving me a good scare and my heart a good pounding.

Once I found her house and owners, I realized that I had no previous inkling that a dog even lived there. Yes, the dogs have got it pretty good right now.

For the rest of us however, things have been a bit dicey.

This situation brings to mind that famous quote from former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld about known knowns, known unknowns, and then those troubling “unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

There seems to be a lot of those kind of unknowns in that last category when it comes to this virus and what we should expect over the next few weeks. And, of course, uncertainty tends to make folks uneasy.

Even with the newest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization for keeping safe and stopping the spread of coronavirus, the outdoors is not off limits for most of us. In fact, spending time outside is still a good idea. It’s a proven way to de-stress, which is something we could all benefit from these days.

Exercise is good for you and can provide a boost to your immune system, plus folks who spend time outside report that overall they are happier and have a more positive mindset. Just remember, keep a 6-foot distance from other folks while you’re outside recreating.

Luckily, there’s plenty of space for everyone to keep their distance and still enjoy the outdoors. Of course, if you are over the age of 60 or at high-risk from this virus, the best advice is to stay home.

As you are well aware if you read this column regularly, birdwatching is one of my favorite hobbies. It brings joy to my heart to hear the birds singing and watch them flitting among the trees in my yard.

There’s a reason birdwatching is so popular, and I invite you to give it a try if you’re stuck at home and want something else to do besides looking at your phone.

I highly recommend getting a feeder and some sunflower seeds. Those two things can provide hours of entertainment for you and any children you might have at home. As it becomes increasingly likely kids will be home and mostly indoors for an extended period of time, birdwatching can provide a much-needed diversion and a connection to nature.

With stores closing left and right for the foreseeable future, it’s nice to know you can support small businesses in our community by purchasing your bird feeding supplies at Wild Birds Unlimited.

You can buy online and get full-service curbside delivery. In fact, lots of small businesses are making this an option during these uncertain times.

Consider shopping small and locally if you can. I’ve already bought books, bird feeding supplies and chocolates this way.

What more could I need to survive a pandemic? Perhaps a bottle of wine.

More events postponed, canceled

I’ve got several cancellations and postponements to announce. I’ll keep you posted as things change.

The 2020 Potomac River Watershed Cleanup that was scheduled for April 18 has been canceled. The Alice Ferguson Foundation is following CDC and WHO recommendations to suspend public gatherings. The cleanup may be rescheduled for this summer.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has announced that following Gov. Larry Hogan’s emergency actions to protect health during the COVID-19 pandemic, spring trout stocking has been halted until further notice.

The Pope and Young Club announced its 2020 convention scheduled for March 26 to 28 in Chantilly, Virginia has been canceled.

FLW announced that “out of an abundance of caution and the uncertainty of venue availability amid rapidly evolving restrictions,” all tournaments scheduled through April 5 have been postponed and will be rescheduled.

Ducks Unlimited has postponed all scheduled events and gatherings of 50 or more people through May 10, including the Maryland State Convention and Annual Awards scheduled for March 21. A new date has not been announced yet.

The Eastern Civilian Marksmanship Program has canceled all upcoming events, including the Eastern CMP Games and CMP Highpower Rifle Matches scheduled for April 24 to May 3 in North Carolina.

Also, Maryland Day on March 25 has been canceled, but a Facebook Live announcement is planned for that day at 2 p.m. at St. Clements Island State Park.

St. Clements Island Museum and Piney Point Lighthouse Museum are closed until further notice. While the museum buildings themselves are closed, the museum grounds remain open.

Free boating course offered

If you’ve got some time on your hands, now would be a good time to brush up on your boating safety knowledge so that by the time this coronavirus abates, you’ll be ready to enjoy summer to its fullest.

Earlier this year, I shared that you can take the required boating safety class and exam (for Maryland boaters born on or after July 1, 1972) online through the DNR website for $34.95.

Many thanks to reader Bruce Henry, who splits his time between Alexandria, Virginia and St. Mary’s County and still finds time to read this column, for sending me an email about another opportunity to take the course — and this time for free. You can find the free BoatUS Foundation’s course online at https://www.boatus.org/maryland/.

$34.95 isn’t too much to spend to ensure you follow the law and stay safe on the water, but taking the class for free is even better.

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