Jan 30, 2012

Hannah in the Snow

Just a few photos of my Lab Hannah out enjoying the snow a few weeks ago. 

Jan 27, 2012

GBBC - 2012 Great Backyard Bird Count

My Backyard Friend
This  past Saturday I woke up to the third snowstorm of the week and with nowhere to go I took my usual weekend morning place in the bay window of my kitchen where I sat watching the birds around my feeder and enjoying a nice warm cup of Joe.  I enjoyed the usual visit from our resident Cardinal Family, the black capped chickadees and of course the juncos.  One of the Juncos that visits regularly has a white head and I have affectionately named her whitey.  I know, not very creative and I'm not even sure it is a she, but I gave her the same name we gave to a white faced Doe that we used to encounter during our bowhunts back in the 80s along the Delaware Water Gap in NJ.  This is the second winter that Whitey has visited my back yard and I am always excited to see her.  I have yet to get a good picture of her but I will continue to try.  My family doesn't miss an opportunity to tease me about taking better care of my birds then I do them, which isn't true, but without my back yards birds winter would be a real downer for sure.  Their beautiful colors and sweet sounds make the short days and long dark nights that much more tolerable.

So What is the GBBC?

According to the GBBC website:
The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual four-day event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are across the continent. Anyone can participate, from beginning bird watchers to experts. It takes as little as 15 minutes on one day, or you can count for as long as you like each day of the event. It’s free, fun, and easy—and it helps the birds. 

Participants count birds anywhere for as little or as long as they wish during the four-day period. They tally the highest number of birds of each species seen together at any one time. To report their counts, they fill out an online checklist at the Great Backyard Bird Count website.

So why should we count birds?

Scientists and bird enthusiasts can learn a lot by knowing where the birds are. Bird populations are dynamic; they are constantly in flux. No single scientist or team of scientists could hope to document the complex distribution and movements of so many species in such a short time.

Scientists use the counts, along with observations from other citizen-science projects, such as the Christmas Bird Count, Project FeederWatch, and eBird, to give us an immense picture of our winter birds. Each year that these data are collected makes them more meaningful and allows scientists to investigate far-reaching questions.
How can you particpate?

1. Plan to count birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count. You can count for longer than that if you wish! Count birds in as many places and on as many days as you like—one day, two days, or all four days. Submit a separate checklist for each new day. You can also submit more than one checklist per day if you count in other locations on that day.

2. Count the greatest number of individuals of each species that you see together at any one time. You may find it helpful to print out your regional bird checklist to get an idea of the kinds of birds you're likely to see in your area in February. You could take note of the highest number of each species you see on this checklist.

3. When you're finished, enter your results through our web page. You'll see a button marked "Enter Your Checklists!" on the website home page beginning on the first day of the count. It will remain active until the deadline for data submission. (We'll let you know when that is for 2012.)
So you now have a reason to do some bird watching on February 17 - 20, as if you needed a reason.

For more information visit the GBBC website:  http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc/

Jan 23, 2012

Connecticut Duck Stamp Art Contest

I'm an no artist, but I can draw a mean stick figure, but if you are then don't miss out on an opportunity to have your artwork represented on Connecticut's Migratory Bird Conversation Stamp.   I am always amazed at the incredible detail of these stamps and they truly are a piece of art.

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is initiating a new artistic competition to determine the annual Migratory Bird Conservation Stamp image.

1993 Connecticut Duck Stamp Print
1993 Connecticut Duck Stamp Print
'First of State'
Painted by Thomas Hirata

A pair of black ducks over the historic Saybrook Lighthouse

The Connecticut Migratory Bird Conservation Stamp Program is a great example of how conservation works -- concerned citizens paying into a program that was formed to protect and enhance vital habitat. Over 3,145 acres of critical wetlands have been protected using Duck Stamp funds. These wetlands benefit not only waterfowl, but also a multitude of other wildlife species like herons, egrets, fish, and amphibians.
  • Artists are invited to enter an original piece of artwork that depicts a waterfowl species (duck, goose, or brant) that occurs in Connecticut. Images that include a Connecticut scene or landmark in the background are preferred. The winning entry will be featured on the 2013 Connecticut Migratory Bird Conservation Stamp. (Full Contest Rules - PDF)
  • Artwork may be in any full-color medium, including acrylic, oil, colored pencil, and watercolor.
  • The contest is open to all artists, regardless of residence, age, or experience.
  • Entries will be judged on originality, artistic composition, anatomical accuracy, general rendering, and suitability for reproduction.
  • Entries must be received in person or postmarked on or before March 15, 2012, to be eligible.
Print a full-color brochure on the Connecticut Migratory Bird Conservation Stamp Art Contest (PDF)

For More information visist the CT DEEP Website:   http://www.ct.gov/dep/cwp/view.asp?a=2723&q=492150&depNav_GID=1655

Jan 17, 2012

Gear Review: Glacier Glove River Pack

I was lucky enough to win a Glacier Glove River Pack during one of  the Outdoor Blogger Network gear giveaways and was looking forward to getting this pack in my hands to give this pack thorough test run.  When the box arrived at the house my first thought was "Holy Crap, this thing is much bigger than I thought it would be and I'm going to need more gear!", but once I sat down and familiarized myself with the features of the River Pack I started to think it might not be big enough.  I was wrong on both accounts.

The Glacier Glove River Pack is rugged, waterproof and solidly constructed which should make this pack a long lasting addition to your fishing gear. You can immediately tell that the Glacier Glove River Pack was designed specifically for the fisherman or fisherwoman with it's specialized compartments and organization for all your fishing gear.  As with most packs this pack has the standard plastic buckles which I don't seem to get along with on any of my packs and I'm sure it won't be long before I break a couple of them, but replacing them looks like it will be easy enough.  The internal frame is very sturdy and the shoulder straps are extremely comfortable.  The only problem I had was with the waist belt.  I could use a few more inches of strap to get around my slightly larger frame and the buckles are hard to adjust while wearing the pack.  I will either need to lose some weight, which isn't a bad thing, or add some strap to the waist belt giving me a little more freedom and adjustment.

The Wader Compartment  is perfect for storing your breathable waders and is vented to help with drying those wet waders.  The wader compartment also hides an integrated changing mat that folds up inside this compartment and is a welcome feature when it comes to getting in and out of your waders.  When unfolded the changing mat is plenty large offering up a large comfortable and dry surface to stand on and when done, it folds right back up and out of the way.  I don't have the best balance so I prefer to sit when changing and a nice addition to this pack would be to make the changing mat detachable offering up some mobility for changing and freeing up a little more space if need be.

The separate boot compartment is a sweet idea allowing you to keep those wet and muddy wading boots away from the rest of your gear while keeping your boots held tight and secure giving you piece of mind that they will still be there when you need them. 

The main storage compartment offers plenty of space for the rest of your gear like reels, vest or chest pack with plenty of room for a change of clothes and some snacks. There is alos a compartment for a hydration bladder if that is your thing.   There are little features like clips and hooks to keep things near the top of the pack and the bright yellow inside was a plus for me as it makes it easier to see what is inside, even in the low light.

Carrying your rods is also easy, just place your case inside the mesh pouches on either side of the pack and then strap them down to the side with the integrated straps.  I was even able to get my two piece rod case secured to the pack, and I didn't notice the difference except when going through the brush.  The mesh pouches could easily hold your reels or a water bottle or two instead of your rods.  The top of the pack has an adjustable top flap which allows you to adjust it for a snug fit keeping the main compartment covered and your gear secure.  There is also a zippered pouch allowing you to store a few quick access items if desired.  One little thing on this pack that I was happy to see was that the end of all the adjustable straps had a loop sewn into the end of them with a very sturdy piece of Velcro attached that allows you to easily roll up the long pieces of straps and secure them with the Velcro keeping them tight to the pack and not flapping around and getting tangled on the brush around you.  They definitely kept the straps much more secure than the typical piece of plastic that slides along the strap.

A couple of years ago while fishing Penns Creek in PA, I came across a beautiful landing net laying on the trail near some brush and thought how bummed out I would be if I lost my net. A 1/2 mile up the trail I ran into two fisherman and asked them if they lost a net and sure enough they did.  I told him where it was and he told me where to find a few fish.  Seemed like a good trade to me.  So the entire time I was looking over the Glacier Glover River Pack and it's features I couldn't stop thinking of what I was going to do with my net. There are plenty of places where I could try and clip the net to so I fiddled around with a few options before coming to solution shown above.   I decided to attach my net right to the back of the pack using two of the straps from the top flap of the pack and if for some reason the harness holding my boots fails, they should end up trapped by my net.

I was very pleased with the way this pack rode on my shoulders but stuggled a little with the waist strap and I will need to make an adjustment in the future for sure.  I was really pleased with the integrated wader and boot compartments which for me are hands down the two best features on this pack in my opinion.   In the warmer months when you can get away with wet wading, this pack me be a little too much for those outings, but I can see myself using it to carry my gear in instead of wet wadding as well as using the pack as a gear storage bag.

In the end I have to ask myself if I would recommend this to a friend and my answer is yes I would. So if you have a need for a fishing pack make sure to check out the Glacier Gloves River Pack.  You can check out the Glacier Glove website at:  http://www.glacieroutdoor.com/index.html

Jan 9, 2012

Connecticut Wildlife Officials Consider First Bear Hunt Since 1840

Link to Hartford Courant Article

From the Hartford Courant Article linked above

Recently there was a Black Bear encounter in a neighboring town that resulted in the shooting of an adult female black bear and the homeowner being charged for killing the bear. This is the second time in almost 5 years where a black bear has been killed by a homeowner and it has once again stirred up the debate on how to deal with Connecticut's ever growing black bear population.

Paul Rego, a wildlife biologist with 25 years' experience at the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection's wildlife division stated :
"I would say the population will continue an upward swing and the costs associated with dealing with bears will increase," Rego said. "It will spread over a bigger part of the state. There will be more frequent property damage and more frequent public safety threats. … The only feasible alternative is to control the population somehow, and I think the most efficient way to do that is through regulated hunting. "

I have been hunting the Delaware Water Gap in New Jersey for 34 years now and I have personally seen the Black Bear population explode in this section of New Jersey.  Now this area of New Jersey that I am hunting is not very populated and consist of hundreds of acres of state and federal land and it is a place you would expect a black bear encounter or two but not 19 of them in a 5 day stretch which is what I had a few years ago during a spring turkey hunt.  One of these encounters included an adult black bear with a younger bear running straight at Busch Pilot and I as we sat at the base of two trees.  Both of these bears passed within feet of the tree that Busch Pilot was sitting up against and was by far the closet I have been to a black bear and I have been close to many.  I must admit that I felt the need to change my shorts after that one.  So encountering one in a tree in my yard would not send me into a panic, but I can see how those with less time around black bears could be sent into panic mode.  It is easy for those to comment how harmless they are or that they are more afraid of you then you are of the, let me know of clam and carefree you are when an adult black bear is just feet from you.

I have the ultimate respect for black bears and love to see them out  in the woods and I have had many encounters and opportunity to see and photograph bears in the wild, including the video above.  I also understand that they need to live as well, but there is also a need to keep their population in check and I agree with Mr Rego about the use of regulated hunting to do so.  New Jersey has done many hours of research on their bear population and problems, which I can only assume costs thousands of dollars to complete and the most cost effective wildlife management method they came up with was regulated hunting.  For those of us that reside in Connecticut, a black bear hunting season is coming and the fight about this is just starting to brew and will be filled with statements, stats views from the heart from both sides of the room.  We must keep an open mind and understand the basics of wildlife management and that is for a healthy population of animals to survive their carrying capacity - which is the number of animals that can be sustained by the environment - must be determined and their population keep inside those acceptable numbers.  The problem is great then just keepign them inside their carrying capacity and moves to more of a social equation in that what is the real number of animals the residents of Connecticut are willing to put up with.  Educating everyone on the habits of black bears and how to deter them from looking for food at your bird feeder or trash cans will only go so far and hunting will be needed to keep the population in check.

For me this is the same movie only with a different cast of characters and a new setting.  One thing for sure, it will be interesting to see how this one turns out.

Additional information on dealing with Black Bears

Black Bears in New Jersey
Black Bears in Massachussets
Avoiding Bears in your Back Yard

Jan 4, 2012

Last Hunt of 2011

Last Hero Shot of 2011

The last hunt of 2011 turned out to be a goose hunt with Busch Pilot, Bubba and his son and myself on Saturday December 31st.  We were expecting some light rain early in the AM with fog and clouds the rest of the day so we started out just a little bit later than normal.  There was nothing moving at all until the rained stopped and once it did we started to see and hear some geese.  The geese were quiet for the most part and with the fog it made it difficult to know when there were gesse around. 

Me and Busch Pilot contributing to the Kielbasa fund

We heard the first geese around 8:30am and we would hear a honk or two and that was it.  It took some time before we could see the birds, but they were committed to the field.  As we worked the first flock, a second showed up right behind them as did a couple of stragglers.  We had the first flock on the ground just feet from the blind as we worked the rest of them in and just as the second flock started to touch down I called the shot and in true Team Empty hull fashion, most of the geese left unscathed but two hit the dirt.  Now don't ask me how 10 geese land just feet from the blind and they all fly away to live another day.  Bubba was blaming his cold and the NyQuil he took the previous night, but at least he couldn't blame the sun.

The entire field had signs of traffic
We had another flock come in totally quiet and never seen then until they cleared the fog and they were already committed to the field.  As they got close to the blind, they veered a little bit and I didn't call the shot thinking they would swing and commit and they did.  As the first bird touched down I called the shot and two more dropped from the sky.  When Busch Pilot and I went to retrieve the birds we only found one and could not find the other in the field at all.   I looked into the brush on the far side of the field and started to see what looked like small pin feathers on the pricker bushes, so I looked closer and they were feathers and I started into the prickers and found the other goose lying their dead.  That made us half way to a four man limit.

You can barely see the end of the spread

Reminded me of the Chinese restaurant scene in the Christmas Story

The fog had really socked in and we couldn't see more than 35 yards from the blind.  It was so bad we could hear a flock of geese near us and worked them with the calls and they flew straight down the field right over the decoys and we never got a glimpse of them.  We could hear them and their wings, but couldn't see them and they just flew off.   The fog started to clear a bit where we could make out the edge of the field again so we stuck it out for a bit.  For the next 1/2 hour we had ducks darting across the field everywhere but they were not interested in us at all.  We were just getting ready to send Bubba's sone james to the truck for some sodas and as we stood up, Bubba caught  8 geese coming in quiet and everyone got tucked in quickly and once they committed to the spread I called the shot and I couldn't even pick up my gun because I was still too open from the previous shuffle, but the other three let loose and only one goose dropped.  I think the fog was causing havoc with someones shooting because we should have been limited out with the first flock.

Bubba enjoying a piece of Goose Kielbasa

We ended the day with 5 geese, which is just about enough goose to make a batch of Kielbasa which made everyone smile.  We packed it in around 1:30 and headed home.  We may have not ended the year with a limit, but we had plenty of fun and laughs sharing the blind with good friends.  I'd  take that over a limit any day.