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Resources abound online and in nature to help you sharpen your birding skills. Here’s a short list, organized by key questions Who?     Find tips on birding basics plus how to identify birds by song and plumage at All About Birds: www.allaboutbirds.org.     Watch Blackwater Refuge’s eagle cam. The bald eagle lays its eggs in January: www.friendsofblackwater.org/ camcentral.html.     Become a Citizen Scientist with Project FeederWatch...

When there aren’t 24 hours in a day

The full moon rises at sunset Friday and sets at daybreak Saturday morning. Look for it less than about two degrees from Aldebaran, the heart of Taurus the bull. December’s full moon is known as the Cold Moon, the Long Night Moon and the Moon Before Yule. And as we approach winter solstice, these are the longest nights of the year.     In fact, Sunday marks a turning point in the tug between light and dark, with the earliest sunset of the year at 4:45. Why, you may ask, is...

Decking your halls, from trees to poinsettias

Buy a Fresh, Safe Christmas Tree     For the freshest Christmas trees, buy locally from a Christmas tree grower’s lot or cut your own. Otherwise, you could be buying an imported tree cut in late October or early November.     Fresh-cut Douglas fir, Scots pine and blue spruce are the most fire-safe Christmas tree species, ranked by the State Fire Marshal based on research conducted by the Bay Gardener in cooperation with the Maryland Christmas Tree Growers...

I’m dreaming of Florida fishing

Rockfish season ends December 15, just days away. That is also the end, at least for the next few months, of the focus of my sporting life. Since last April, my schedule has been planned largely around the hunt for stripers and related marine forecasts, the timing of proper tides, desired wind direction, the 10-day outlook, the maintenance of my skiff and for the last few weeks, favorable temperatures. All of that will be over soon.     But wintertime fishing is not hopeless....

A home on the range ain’t all it’s cracked up to be

Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank: Mary and Martha) is a better man than most. Tending a homestead by herself in the harsh Nebraska territory, she’s made her plot a success. But it’s a hard, solitary life. She longs for a family, but the men of the territory revile her self-sufficiency.     Cuddy’s world is unforgiving. Wind whips the dead earth across the flat expanses of dry brown, treeless land. It’s an easy place to die, especially for a woman. Harsh...

Local civic groups help make the world a better place

Drive into most any town in America, and you’ll see pretty nearly the same billboard. Lions, Moose, Elks, Rotary and Zonta welcome you, displaying their logos, contact numbers and often meeting times. You’ll learn that Kiwanis, another of the fellowships, meets Wednesdays at noon at Loews Annapolis Hotel. Rotary Thursday noon at Annapolis Yacht Club.     What Kiwanis, Civitan — or, more obscurely still, G.W.F.C. — mean and what they do remain the mystery...

Add lifesaving gear to your holiday giving

Bob Kight has almost as much to do this season as Santa Claus. The organizer of the annual Help the Homeless Drive in Anne Arundel County, Baltimore and Washington D.C., is on the same schedule as Santa, but his mission is a bit different.     On Christmas, Kight makes deliveries of warm clothing and loaded backpacks to 6,000 homeless people in two dozen shelters, on street corners and in camps.     First, though, he has to gather the clothes and fill the...

Tundra swans return to Chesapeake Country

“The first tundra swans of the season have arrived in Columbia Cove, Shady Side.” Randy Kiser‎ posted the news on Bay Weekly’s Facebook page on Thursday, Dec. 13, documenting their arrival with this photo.     Two mornings later I saw the snow-white birds at Fairhaven marsh pond, three on Saturday, then eight on Sunday.     Swanfall is Bay chronicler Tom Horton’s word for this moment in time, coined for his 1991 book with photographer...

Good for laughs but not much else

Here’s my short list of useless gadgetry to avoid as you shop for the gardeners on your holiday list. I found them in the gardening catalogues now arriving in the mail.     Bulb planters are a gadget I find useless. Instructions with such tools recommend that tulip, narcissus and hyacinth bulbs be planted six inches deep. Most topsoil layers are often less that six inches thick, which means that by following such instructions you are planting bulbs on subsoil. ...

That’s what all these Odd Fellows are up to

There are worse things to keep bumping into, like the doorframe that bruises your toe. The good works of civic organizations were my run-in. They cornered me at every turn, surrounding me, until I had no alternative. This week’s feature story — Get Involved: Local Civic Groups Help Make the World a Better Place — is the result of those confrontations.     Lions, Moose and Elks: What are all these Odd Fellows up to? That was my question.     Odd...