Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sunset Paddle



Amy and I are having a RETARDEDLY busy week but we finished last weekend off kind of nice with an easy paddle "somewhere in the Jones Falls," ha ha ha. The wildlife was not very exciting because it was 450 degrees outside, and 300% humidity. However, we did manage to see:

Kingfisher
Little Green Heron
Great Blue Heron
Black Crowned Night Heron
Wood Ducks
Barn Swallows

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Your Father Smelt of Elderberries

Catbird wonders if the coast is clear....

I love my elderberries. They are all cloned plants off of two originals - a black elderberry that I pulled off of Amy's parents' woodlot, and some type of black hybrid from Home Depot. Now we have about 9 mature plants or so. They were really productive this year, which was great. I was hoping to make another batch of elderberry wine (last year's is still aging)....to help promote more socially awkward quotes about elderberries.

However, the birds are stealing even more berries than they stole last year. And while the catbirds are in their starring role as culprits, mockingbirds, robins, and cardinals have joined in. Exciting - gallery of the world's most common suburban birds....
Mockingbird is pretty happy about the berry situation in our yard

At any rate, the whole reason I planted all those elderberries was to provide bird food & habitat, not wine-making supplies. So I suppose that I was successful at that effort.


Beakful of elderberries (mockingbird)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Enough with the Caffeine

Emma Obradovich
Yes this probably means that I am getting old. But here's the deal. I drive....A LOT. For work and for all my lame adventures, and for all of mine and Amy's family adventures. My job requires some odd hours (for a day job), and unfortunately most of the outdoor activities that I enjoy get started between 515 and 700 am, at least 30 minutes from my house. So....you figure, just go to bed earlier, right? Well, Amy is a night owl, and is usually busy sewing, stitching, soldering, or some other bad ass Rosie the Riveter Type activity until like 4am. What does this mean for me?

That's right. Caffeine is my salvation, and through caffeine, all things are possible. Those who know me know that I got really sick last summer, and the gastroenterologist asked me how many servings I had of caffeine per day. I replied, "I don't know, like three?" (which was a total lie anyway). He thought I was lying, or an idiot, so he made me fill out a "caffeine work sheet." Apparently I was drinking not so much 3 servings a day, more like 12 to 15. MY BAD! Then I had to leave him and get some more coffee.

Fast forward almost exactly a year, and I have really backed off the caffeine. Which is hard, given my lifestyle. I drink more tea, and more water, and never get a large espresso drink anymore. But on some days, tuesday being one of those days, it's just not enough. I stopped at a gas station looking for my favorite emergency caffeinated crack pick-me-up:


Alas, Monster Loca Moca was not in stock. It's actually not that strong, and the reason I don't buy it on a daily basis is more related to the fact that there are an awful lot of useless calories in there, and I am trying to be a little more grown up about that type of crap. BUT the other afternoon I was crashing and needed something (and I HATE red bull), so I went with what appeared to be a logical choice: Rock Star Zero Carb.

Now, when your friendly neighborhood Swamp Thing picked it up out of the refrigerator case, I was SURE that the label said, "50% more caffeine than regular coffee." For me, at that moment, that was a great selling point. I drank the whole 16 oz can (like 2.5 servings) in about 15 minutes, and all of a sudden I got REAL cracked out and re-read the label. That's right, "50% more caffeine than REGULAR ROCK STAR." Not "than coffee." Plus all the guarine, tuarine, goji berries or whatever else crap is in there, windex, etc..

Dammit. I proceeded to act methed out around my boss and coworkers for the next 3 hours. I got "not enough" work accomplished and couldn't even keep my eyes focused on one thing, let alone keeping my brain focused. I went home, crashed AGAIN when the "Zero Carb" finally burned out, and did not go to the gym, or do anything useful at home that whole night. WTF.

So I am re-upping my commitment to behave myself with the caffeine (I swear it's easier with alcohol than caffeine) and keep it to 2 or 3 "real servings" a day. Now I need to go make some coffee before I head out to work....

Drinkin' black coffee, drinkin' black coffee, STARE AT THE WALL.








Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Surfing Leftovers

Ocean City at dawn (my pic).
This Pic by Mike Becker

Swell - 2.5-3.2' ESE @ 13sec
Wind - 0-5kt SW
Tide - Low incoming
Water - 67 or so
Air - 88, climbing to 96

Had a morning meeting down by the beach, so I took the opportunity to get out there a little early and play in the surf. The leftover swell from TS Cristobal was still around but getting weaker and more disorganized by the hour. The forecast held true - 2.5 - 3.2 feet at 13 seconds, from the ESE. Unfortunately, a cross-current - 1' SSE @ 3sec, chopped up the surface a little bit.

The groundswell - on the east coast, we call anything over 9 seconds "groundswell" - was fading fast, so Maryland or New Jersey were the call. I decided to surf in Ocean City, Maryland, which has a general ESE exposure and decent sandbars. Delaware, sandwiched between MD and NJ, used to have great sandbars, but these have been repeatedly destroyed by frequent "beach replenishment" projects. Delaware's ENE aspect means that any south swells must be strong enough to wrap into the coast.

By 6 am, about 20 people were out at an area called "The Castle", trying to jump into thigh-waist thumpers with pretty minimal shoulders. It was probably the best mannered crowd (of that size) that I have ever surfed with in OCMD or Delaware, ever....people were all relaxed and enjoying themselves.

The waves rarely stopped, and there were endless opportunities to pull into mini-barrels (guilty as charged!). The water was a little shallow (2-4' deep inside), but certainly not as shallow as it gets here. Only real frustrations were:

1) a rip current right near the sandbar I was targeting for awhile, and

2) the fact that the shoulders on the set waves seemed to disappear as you were taking your last stroke into the wave. At least twice I dropped into the mini-pit, thinking I had a nice shoulder to work with, and watched the wave close out on me (left and right), as I dropped in....

Enjoyed some lulls and some really fun drops and tuck-ins....out by 9am and back to work.

Anyway, great conditions "tropical leftovers."

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Batter up!


Apparently tropical season is starting. I've been running & going to the gym for about a month so hopefully I'm physically ready to hit some real surf.....stay tuned!
Update - forecast
2.4' - 3.2' sets @ 13sec from ESE, light SW winds predicted....not a home run but looking fun.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Somebody's Slacking

Whitey catches the weekend's biggest bass - 2 or 3 lbs. Check out the humidity!
Summer is FULL ON down here. 80% humidity and temperatures in the 90's every single day. But the brothers came up this weekend and we caught a few fish. Whitey's big fish was bigger than it looks like in the picture, and the phenomenal thing is that it was caught on one of these:
Yes, a yellow crappie jig! We threw everything at them - poppers, spooks, plastic grubs, tubes, worms, and craws, panfish lures, rapalas...you name it, we used it. My favorite new choice didn't catch a DAMN thing - Rapala X-Rap Glass. It looked pretty cool in the water...I guess.

I was really slack and let T take all the pictures, so I have no good pictures of our fishing, our attendance at the DC United game vs. FC Guadalajara, or Amy's excellent shrimp boil, which put us all to sleep sunday night.


Long night at RFK stadium!


Old reservoir near our house. Fishing an abandoned bridge on a reservoir maintenance road from the 1930s. The air and lake water was extremely warm but the water from this spring was freezing cold. We caught a few sunfish....they were pretty unremarkable. Nice to get in the shade, though!

Most of the good fishing is done for our area until the temperatures drop, so I'll have to find some other way to keep entertained now!

The Three Merry Retards

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

How Friggin Cool!

Picture hijacked from ©2000 - 2004 Butterbrodt/Joyce


I've been hearing about the Hebior Mammoth for quite awhile now...and I heard today that it is finally on display. A relic of a Wisconsin project to drain a wetland to grow corn (outstanding, right?), the Hebior Mammoth was accidentally dug up....he died around 12,800 BC. What's interesting is that there are blade marks all over his bones...regardless of how he died, he was butchered for food by very early Americans (Clovis or even earlier!).
During the last ice age, which ended around 10,000 years ago, North America was not only once filled with mammoths and mastodons, but gigantic herds of grazing herbivores of all shapes and sizes. In North America, these were primarily critters related to elephants, rhinoceros, and pigs.
That's right - no cows, horses, or even bison. The "Pleistocene Megafauana" lived on the edge of the giant ice sheets, and at least as far south as North Carolina. Only after the full retreat of the last ice age, did eastern North America become overrun with bison, elk and to a lesser extent, white-tailed deer. The grazing patterns established by the mammoths were later utilized by the bison, and later utilized by the Native Americans, and later used by European pioneers, and have now become interstate highways, I-95 being a prime example. These grazing patterns also caused the expansion of a pretty inauspicious critter:





The bog turtle! Bog turtles are thought to have extremely rare prior to the Pleistocene era, and are still considered a Mid-Atlantic species. They live exclusively in sedge meadows with clean, spring-fed water and lots of sunshine. They do not like trees, bushes, stagnant water, or dry soil. The habitat I just described sounds like a wet, muddy pasture! In fact, their habitats can almost exclusively only be managed through working livestock in wetlands (which few people do anymore due to livestock disease and water quality concerns).

Bog turtles enjoy a huge range of human-listed status, "Endangered" being the one most commonly used from state to state. One of the problems is that these guys do not like to be found, so we (wetland biologists) actually have no idea how many bog turtles there are. All we can do is calculate how many bog turtles we expect to live in high quality habitat, and multiply that times the amount of high quality habitat, and I guess that's how many turtles we have? Sound scientific? It's not! But it's the best we can do with these secluded guys.

So, as the continent warmed, humans expanded our range. The mammoths all died, either through hunting or as a result of climate change. By the 1800s, all the elk and bison had been removed from the east coast as well. Leaving a few deer, and lots of cattle. Bog turtles continued to do well through the mid-1900s thanks to poor grazing practices (allowing cattle to graze in wetlands), and once we stopped that, an interesting thing happened. The wetlands turned into different types of wetlands..........wetlands that cannot support bog turtles.

Now, Maryland DNR, Pennsylvania DEP, NYDEC, and other agencies are paying landowners to cut trees in wetlands, spray herbicide in wetlands, and even graze goats in wetlands, all to support the few remaining healthy populations of bog turtles.

It's a good thing....but it kinda makes you wish we hadn't killed all the bison. A debate for another time...........were our bison a separate species (extinct 1825), or plains bison. I want to see a Nerd Cage Match over that.

Just kidding.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Barely Legal on the Chesapeake


I took advantage of an opportunity to get a night trip out in the open Chesapeake Bay this weekend, and I rarely fish on charter boats, so why not? We went out on the 46' Compensation under Captain Mike Harris and had a pretty productive trip.

The wind was up a bit much, and the fish were pretty spread out. Striped bass, our target, are anadromous fish and spawn every spring in the Chesapeake Bay. Scientific opinion is a little divided over the primary force that drives the bass up into coastal bays - either warmer water temperatures or large schools of anadromous baitfish, like herring, who are following the exact same route, to many of the same rivers and creeks. By early July, spawning has concluded and the largest fish have already left the Bay for the open ocean, in search of larger prey and cooler, better-oxygenated water. However, smaller fish remain in the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays in large schools, and often have a voracious appetite from July until October.

We had trouble getting on top of the fish, so we went to the lowest common denominator - trolling with calcutta swim baits on umbrella rigs.




Trolling.......snore....




Justin's first-ever rockfish is a nice one!



We eventually limited out on fish that were barely legal (18"), with no fish over 24", and switched up our tackle to bottom rig fishing, to mess around with some croaker that hang out on the rock piles on the bottom of the Bay. One of the guys on the boat caught this nice 19.5" gold croaker. We landed the boat around midnight with over 100 fish in the cooler for 8 anglers.

The Boss Hogg Croaker - Citation Eligible at 19.5"

Not a bad night out...hard to beat for early July I guess!