Sunday, August 31, 2008

Down and Out

Last week was just nasty. I am teaching college (community college - let's be real!) for the first time since I was in grad school myself, and class started last week. In addition, I submitted two grant requests for wetland restoration funding (one for $160,000 and one for $860,000) at my "regular" job. Plus, although I really haven't gotten into this topic at all on the blog, I am really trying to lose weight before hunting season gets into high gear. To date I have lost somewhere between 17 and 19.5 lbs, out of about 50 total that I really should lose. So it has been a little ugly.

This weekend I got to come down and see Brother 1 and Brother 2 down in Virginia Beach, my old stomping grounds. We did some early scouting for duck spots, watched Virginia Tech lose to East Carolina in football (boo), watched UVA lose to Southern Cal in football (hooray), and apparently we found a nest of seed ticks in the marsh. Lucky the sister in law is a physicians assistant, because I have somewhere around 300-500 tick bites this morning.

Anyway, the marsh was beautiful as always, and holds the promise of some really fun days this winter. Since diving duck hunting has been all but eliminated from our flyway this year (0 canvasbacks and 1 scaup per day), we are really focusing on spots that will hold our other coastal "usual suspects" - black ducks, wood ducks, and greenwing teal. Enjoy the pictures.

Our new motto - "Get Drunk and Be Somebody" - hat found in an abandoned fire pit.

Friday, August 22, 2008

No, You Do Not Need that New Carbon Fiber Rod

Photo: NC Wildlife Resources Commision

(From WNCN, Raleigh)
WILKES COUNTY, N.C. — A backyard angler has bagged the state’s record channel catfish using a 2½-foot hot pink Barbie Doll rod and reel.

David Hayes caught the record-breaking fish from a private pond while fishing early this month with his granddaughter, Alyssa, 3. The 21-pound, 1-ounce catfish measured 32 inches long — 2 inches longer than the Barbie Doll fishing pole. “After catching two or three bluegill, Alyssa turns to me and says: ‘Papa, I’ve got to go to the bathroom. Hold my fishing rod,’” Hayes was quoted as saying in a news release from the state Wildlife Resources Commission.
“A few minutes later, the float went under, and I saw the water start boiling up — I knew right then that I had my hands full with that fishing rod.”
It took Hayes about 25 minutes to land the fish, which measured 22½ inches in girth. Hayes said that once he got it to the bank, he was pretty certain his channel cat would exceed the previous state record, an 18-pound, 5-ounce fish caught in August 2007.
The fish was weighed on certified scales at a nearby grocery store, and a fisheries biologist with the Wildlife Resources Commission certified that Hayes was right. — WNCN, Raleigh, N.C.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Old Timey Sunday

Jerusalem Gun Works, ca. 1771
We spent sunday afternoon at Jerusalem Mill Village, a section of Gunpowder State Park in Central Maryland. The site was colonized by tobacco-growing English folks, notably Mr. Hempstead (Hampstead, Maryland is about 25 miles to the west) in the 1680s. A few notable skirmishes occurred on the site in 1779 (British attempt to overtake the Gun Works) and 1864 (Confederate Troops looting, errr, "commanding provisions" at the General Store).

Original Jerusalem Mill Structure, ca. 1687-1722

Also pretty interesting was that we showed up on "Vintage Baseball Sunday." I previously had no idea that such a thing exists. We watched a pretty entertaining game between the Chesapeake & Potomac Baseball Club and the Elkton Eclipse, two (apparently) local vintage ball clubs. I know very little about baseball history but I was not surprised - no balls or strikes, "one bounce rule," and of baseball gloves.

The amount of base stealing was totally ridiculous, with numerous batters hitting to first, and then stealing second.....then stealing third.

Huzzah, Rhubarb steals second while Shazam looks for the ball in the weeds.

My late grandfather, a Brooklyn native, part-time sports writer, and life-long fan of the long-gone New York Giants (baseball club) and the Brooklyn Dodgers, would have been very pleased. The only thing that could have made it more perfect would to have had my grandfather there.....and possibly to have the Two Man Gentleman Band playing in the background.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Finger Lakes Amphibians

American Toad, Brown Phase. Further south, American Toads are typically much darker, earning them the misnomer "Red Toad." This guy was hanging out on a woodpile, waiting for a cricket to show up. From the looks of him, he enjoys a pretty high success rate.

Green Frog, Annihilator of Tadpoles and Salamanders. First amphibian to colonize newly restored wetlands. Voracious predator.

Young-of-year wood frog on spaghnum moss. A little more sensitive critter than the green frog.

Red-backed Salamander in a restored vernal pool. Notice the tannins from the pine woods are leaching into the water, creating a very low (but fairly natural) pH.

Friday, August 15, 2008

New York Finger Lakes Invertebrates

In my class this week, we spent a lot of time looking at recently restored and created wetlands. In areas where a lot of habitat has been lost, it is really amazing how quickly the native plants and wildlife find their way to new wetlands and meadows that are created for their use. Here are a few. Above - a Streak-Winged Red Skimmer. I had never seen one before.

It was almost too easy to find out that this critter is the "Red Legged Grasshopper. I usually don't have that type of luck when ID'ing invertebrates!

This species is the "Halloween Pennant." Seriously. He's pretty common throughout the east coast.

Had a hard time identifying this guy who was hanging out on a wool sedge. My best guess is that it's some type of meadowhawk. More critters and plants later!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Heading North and Upslope

Photo by Joe Braun

I'm headed north to the NY Finger Lakes for a 5 day course in wetland construction. Wait - before the terminology police get me - it's a course on "the delivery of restored and created wetlands using construction equipment." The notable difference is that the academics in our field reserve the term "constructed wetlands" for wetlands that are "delivered" specifically for the purpose of wastewater or runoff treatment. In order below, CONSTRUCTED wetland, RESTORED wetland, and CREATED wetland. Now you know! Test on tuesday!

Anyway, I am hoping to get a little time to hike and fish, because I do not know the area very well at all, and it is quite dissimilar from all of our coastal landscapes, just a few hundred miles to the east.

I found this amazing site with amazing photos of Finger Lakes landforms. The photographer is Joe Braun (a New Yorker himself). Enjoy & check out his website!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Paddling in the Land of Pleasant Living

In the late 1800s, Maryland was called "The Land of Pleasant Living." Now that millions of people live here, and the Chesapeake Bay is extremely polluted and overfished, that motto has been relegated to cans and 40oz bottles of National Bohemian beer. Regardless, there are still some relatively intact habitats around, partially because the state and many coastal counties passed strict....well....less laughable....wetland, forest, and shoreline protection laws in the early 1990s. On sunday, we paddled one of these spots, Dundee Creek in eastern Baltimore. The shoreline is relatively intact, and Phragmites occupies about 20% of the tidal freshwater wetland. The SAV bed shown above was pretty representative of the creek's shallows. It's amazing to think that historically, most of the shallow creeks that were not salty enough to support oysters, supported SAV beds like these. Think of the filtration!

We also found a few really nice stands of wild rice. Wild rice is a durable but sensitive plant, and it is one of nature's perfect bird foods. The tidal freshwater marshes of Maryland were covered with it 100 years ago....unfortunately one of the things it's sensitive to is cloudy, polluted water. Oops.

The marsh hibiscus can be used to treat urinary tract infections. SWEET!

The swamp princess was more interested in an even tan, than a diverse aquatic vegetation community.

Enough marsh hibiscus to go around! Both white and lavender forms were present & blooming.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

No Elderberry Wine This Year!

Black Elderberry, "You are the Quarry"
We had a gigantic storm move through overnight, and for whatever reason, it motivated the songbirds to feed like maniacs this morning. In our small yard, I counted over a dozen cardinals, a dozen catbirds, plus the other folks I rarely see in the summer - brown creeper, titmouse, and song sparrow, to name a few. About half of the entire crop of elderberries disappeared in 90 minutes, and about 2/3 of our blackberries, as well. Damnit!

Female Cardinal arrived near the end of the berry binge

Male Cardinal is on top of the situation

The catbirds have gotten so fat and lazy on berries that they are now content to pluck them off while standing on the fire pit. Why work for it?

Juvenile cardinal is pretty pleased with himself

Friday, August 1, 2008

Garden Update

Coneflowers and Common Milkweed

First cut of tobacco - lowest leaves laid out to sun dry

New England Aster. This plant struggles every year for just a few blooms.

Well, it's officially late summer. If for no other reason than the warm spring and hot early summer have forced almost everything to bloom....peppers are the stragglers this year. Beans (3 species) have flowered prolifically this year but have been very poor producers. Wonder if that's due to humidity, frequent rains blowing the blooms off the plants, or the "honeybee issue."

Hard to tell.

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