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Category Archives: Birds

Daytripping in Maryland

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Saturday morning at 10 am the free “Wonder Walk” at the Howard County Conservancy isn’t a walk at all. In the colder months the free monthly programs often are held inside, you know, just in case that foot of snow doesn’t melt out on the trails.

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The trails are still a bit messy. But, never fear, in the Nature Center Sherry Conklin and Linda Decker, two Maryland master gardeners will share with us more than 50 of their favorites – formal display gardens, arboretums, wild native places to walk and hike, and historic landscapes.

With the weather starting to change for the better, who among us doesn’t want to stop hibernating and start enjoying spring in Maryland.

You can see all the upcoming events here. You can pre-register for future events on this page. This weekend’s talk still has room and pre-registration closes Friday afternoon. Using the pre-registration email option for future free events guarantees a spot as some of our more popular ones can reach the capacity of the building. Just click on the email link to let the staff know how many people plan to attend.

Today the volunteers finally began our elementary school training to lead hikes on field trips. We were out in the snow and ice looking for signs of the various habitats, in order to lead third graders on their hikes. We found lots of things out there.

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Signs of use in one of the snags on the trail. Before the vegetation grows up in the warmth of the sun, you can get up close and personal.

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And see where the raccoons have been looking for food.

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You can even be serenaded by a very young chickadee, while you are wandering along the local trails.

Come join us Saturday and see what new places Linda and Sherry may show you. Places to put on the list for spring days ahead.

The Pre-Storm Frenzy

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Backyard bird version.

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Reminds me of the local grocery stores around here at the start of any snow event. Last minute frantic behavior. The flakes had just begun when the birds (and a few squirrels) descended upon the feeders and the ground by the bird bath.

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This was somewhat tame as it did get pretty intense up on the major feeder.

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I could almost imagine the parallels to the competition to get that last loaf of bread or gallon of milk.

It’s not like I don’t have food out there constantly. They just get so intense when a storm comes.

And, this one.

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Similar to the behavior of hovering for that choice parking spot in the store lot?

I have to admit, the birds that live here in our woods provide us with much entertainment. They know this is a source of food and water, year round. Today they were out there while I was rinsing dishes, and I had to go get the camera to record them.

I do hope this is the end of our winter storms. Enough is enough. And I’m glad we pruned the dead wood out of the tops of our shade trees. If we get a quarter inch of ice, like predicted, there will be branches breaking all around us. Crossing our fingers that Friday’s maintenance prevents any significant damage.

Stay warm and safe out there. We are almost into spring.

Making the Rounds Mt. Airy

Today we ventured out to Mt. Airy. For a few errands and a chance to try a new place for lunch. I love Main Street Mt. Airy. All the old buildings. Like the Country Store, and Concettas, where we had lunch.

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Concettas Main Street Bistro is just on the south side of Main Street, down the hill from the big parking lot. If you want cannoli shells or filling, tiramisu ladyfingers, pizzelles, Sun of Italy products or Italian made pastas, they have them. Lots of other good things too. This is a neighborhood place. People are super friendly. We went in and ordered an Italian spicy cold cut sub for him, a Concettas club made with turkey for me, a couple of San Pellegrino blood orange sodas, and sat there enjoying the day.

Followed by a trip up the street to Wagners to get some good lamb chops for Valentines Day.

Which are now happily being marinated in red wine, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

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While there we also saw a special on wild Texas Shrimp so there will be surf and turf Saturday night.

Heading back across the road, we stopped at Tractor Supply to see when they will be getting the spring vegetables in, particularly those onion sets that did so well for me last year in the garden. It is Dollar Days there, and we stocked up on suet to keep the birds happy.

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Suets are 6 for $5. You can’t find a better price for suet around here.

They also have baby ducks in the pens. The chicks don’t arrive until the end of the month. But “M R Ducks” (showing my Baltimore upbringing here). No pics allowed of the ducks or chicks.

All in all a pleasant couple of hours in one of the special old main streets in the area. Full of mom and pop stores, quaint restaurants and an outstanding butcher.

Making the Rounds

It was one of those picture perfect sunny “warmer” winter days here today. A day when you get out and do all those errands before the weekend comes. This weekend is chock full of things to do, so early preparations get me ready for Valentine’s Day. Oh yeah, and the Great Backyard Bird Count. And, the New Year program at the Conservancy.

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The feeders are all stocked and ready. I did get to Kendalls for nuggets to fill up the woodpecker feeders.

I picked up my Friends and Farms, and my Lancaster Farm Fresh CSA baskets. With a quick stop at Harris Teeter in Kings Contrivance to fill in those items for my weekly menu planning, I am all set to spend Valentine’s Day here at home. Celebrating with a dinner worth hundreds at a restaurant, and that I only spent a small amount of money to purchase.

As for those baskets.

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Friends and Farms gave us quite a bit of inspiration for cooking.

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I particularly liked those chicken breasts in the shape of a heart. How romantic.

We also got pineapple oranges from Florida. Similar to Valencia, they will become a salad or two, with those beets and a red onion from a while back.

As for those sunchokes, they herald a new partnership for F&F with one of the farmers I frequented often at the Dupont Circle market, Next Step Produce.

I am thinking a really different interpretation of colcannon, using sunchokes, kale, and parsnips, along with a few potatoes. Why not? Who needs to be stuck in traditional recipes when we have so much fresh organic produce to inspire us?

The pork roast and the apple cider. Will be dinner Friday night. Along with cole slaw. See below for my CSA basket that makes this dish possible.

Here is the Lancaster Farm Fresh Omnivore basket today.

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Green cabbage. Perfect for slaw. That fresh kale. Mushrooms for a salad with the arugula from F&F. Mega beets. I love dry roasting beets and using them in salads. That humongous celeriac is making me crave roasted root vegetables. Again, I find it motivating me to break out the cookbooks and try something new.

Who needs to fight the crowds at restaurants on Valentine’s Day. Certainly not us. We will be dining in style with minimum fuss, thanks to our local purveyors of fine foods.

Monday Morning Quarterbacking

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On a Tuesday afternoon. About that snow?

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We did get the 3+ inches predicted for our area. Even though I know the southeastern portion of the county didn’t get much at all. Maybe we need to divide the county in half in order to have two school districts. Then, those unhappy about the schools being closed because of us could not miss another day. I have to wonder though. What do they do at the end of a school year if one half the county doesn’t meet the minimum number of days? Interesting.

We got enough snow for our neighbor’s little ones to build a snowman. We even used the snowblower on the driveway today. So, the storm wasn’t a bust out here. That extra couple of hundred feet in elevation from here compared to the southeastern county makes a difference in temperature and snowfall.

In other news. They postponed the volunteer fair at the Howard County Conservancy until February 3rd. Same time. Same players. If you have the time, and want to hear more about volunteering, come join us. They need office support, event support, field trip leaders, animal feeders and more.

Finally, one more picture from this morning. I have learned how to keep the birds happy without having to go too far into the yard. I also learned to use mess free bird feed on the patio. No hulls or shells.

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The red bellied woodpecker even came up closer than normal.

Meesy Micey

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A fact of life out here in the rural communities. Field mice. This year I thought we had thwarted them. We did make it much farther into the winter before they struck.

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A brand new bag of tortilla chips. Of course, we had become complacent. Forgetting to put everything in jars of canisters in the pantry. We thought that our two resident hawks, and the neighbor’s outdoor kitty, who pops through daily to check out the bird feeders and anything else that looks interesting would take care of it.

The cooper’s hawk hunts daily in the meadow. For long stretches. On the tree. On the ground. On the tree. On the ground. I can empty the dishwasher and watch him hunt. He isn’t interested in our birds.

But, one little field mouse (hopefully just one) managed to infiltrate this past weekend. We found the evidence Tuesday. Besides the tortillas, they got into a brand new bag of rice flour I bought for a cookie recipe I found.

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This was on the second to top shelf in the pantry.

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At least the brown sugar is still intact.

We haven’t trapped him yet. He eats the peanut butter right off the trap. Three times now.

Ten years ago on my first evening coming into the house. Right after settlement. I saw my first field mouse who had squeezed up through the opening where the water line feeds the refrigerator. The laundry room and the dishwasher connections, and sometimes the downdraft vent opening under the stove. All have to be protected. We have stuffed steel wool. We have plugged holes in the crawl space. They still manage to squeeze in. At least this year we made it two months farther into winter than in the past.

I will win this battle. It may take a few more days.

Just another fun week in the country. Oh yeah, it’s going to snow and sleet again twice this weekend. I am so ready for spring to get here. How many more weeks to go?

Plus, somebody has to start doing a better job around here. They show up nicely against a snow covered landscape.

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Yes, you. Mister sharp shinned hawk. Keep those mice out of my house.

Fun for the Whole Family

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I hear the pileated woodpeckers are back. At the Howard County Conservancy, this Saturday at 10AM at the free program, Backyard Birding, you just might get to see them.

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I took this picture a few years back when I was leading a program in November. Winter is the best time to find the birds, when the leaves are off the trees.

I was visiting with the program leaders Wednesday. They tell me they have all sorts of great things lined up for this weekend. The program will be given by two Howard County Bird Club members. Additionally, one of the children’s favorite hike leaders, Caroline Kosisky will have activities for the younger attendees. Bird related activities, but geared to the preschool set.

The other attendees will get the chance to use binoculars and a couple of birding scopes to look for those elusive woodpeckers.

Most of the program will be done upstairs above the Nature Center. There, protected from the cold and wind, through the large windows, you are at tree height. Just above the feeders.

The program leaders, Robin Todd and Sue Muller have lots planned for those who want to come out and learn more about how to attract birds to your yard, and how to identify them by sounds and sight.

If we’re lucky the woodpeckers will show up, since we will be indoors. They won’t know we are behind those glass walls.

If not, you will definitely find some of our abundant local birds.

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Like the bickering blue jays trying to find the heaviest peanuts while trying not to share. You never know what you might see.

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