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Letter from the Editor (All)

We’re the top strata

History is the byproduct of daily life.    
    Dip a toe or jump into Maryland Day celebrations and you drift into that conclusion.
    That’s the plan. It’s been maturing for eight years under the direction of the Four Rivers Heritage Area, Anne Arundel County’s variation on the statewide program devoted (and funded) to keeping our culture alive. Some four-dozen partners join in this historic weekend. Each brings its particular interest. So much of Maryland history is on display. So many real people guide you into the human archaeology of the places we now occupy.
    So finally it dawns. We’re the top strata, laying the record of our lives on top of the layers deposited by all the people who’ve come and gone before us.
    Of course, history is a big deal in Anne Arundel County, and Maryland Day — make that weekend — makes it a party drawing lots of us in.
    History is going on just as fervently all around us.
    Just last weekend, Calvert shined the light on women writing 21st century history by the lives they are living. For 14 years Calvert has brought its Women of the World to the fore at Women’s History Month. This year, nine organizations collaborated to honor 14 women and girls at work all around us, as teachers, Scouts, judges, mediators and civic volunteers.
    Seven organizations join the Calvert Commission on Women and League of Women Voters to show the breadth of the reach of women making history by improving the quality of present life.
    Among them, the youngest were schoolgirls, seventh-graders Nina St. Hillaire and Danielle Frye and ninth-grader Dia Brown. Their achievements were History Fair projects celebrating “the heroine in our own backyard.”
    Their subject, Harriet Elizabeth Brown, probably knew she was making history when she enlisted NAACP attorney Thurgood Marshall to sue for equal pay for black teachers. But her real goal was equality: Her $600 salary bought a lot less living than the $1,100 salaries of white teachers in 1930s’ Calvert County.
    So too, each of the 14 is making history as the byproduct of daily work for our times.
    They are Amber Bayse, Calvert Memorial Hospital Foundation … Madeleine Buckley and Dayna Jacobs, Girl Scout Council … Marjorie Clagett, County Administrative Judge … Ella Ennis, volunteer … Jennifer Foxworthy, business leader … Nancy Highsmith, educator … Joy Hill, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southern Maryland … Gladys Jones, Chamber of Commerce … Morgan Lang, student and woman of tomorrow … Daniella Lenzly, Concerned Black Women … Julie Morrison, Calvert Collaborative for Children and Youth … Janet Scott, Community Mediation Center … and the League of Women Voters Study Team on Transparency in County Government.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

Snow, too, if I had my way

I’d love to tax the rain.     
    Heavy, trouble-causing rains I’d hit with draining fees. Rains that pour and seep into our lower levels, taxing us with sucking it up with the Shop Vac or a multi-thousand dollar remediation job? I’d punish them the same way storm­water-remediation-fee-averse Marylanders say our state’s most hated tax is punishing them. Bad rains would pay at least as much as the $15, $29, $85 or $170 a year some Chesapeake Country homeowners (in the nine taxed counties and Baltimore) and assorted politicians claim are draining our bank accounts.
    Sharing the taxing privileges of government would enable me to exercise their dispensations, too. I’d exempt good rains from taxation, just as churches and assorted not-for-profits are exempt. Light, nourishing do-good rains would pay only a cent — Frederick County’s fee for stormwater remediation.
    Even more, I’d love to tax snow.
    Though with reservations. From late November into early January, white-Christmas dustings would be exempted as welcome visitors — Providing they arrive in amounts of one inch or less. Also tax-free would be go-out-and-play snows falling on Saturdays and Sundays. I’m no Grinch wanting to tax the fun out of sledding and building snow forts and families. As long as they melt before Monday’s rush hour.
    Even as the snow piles of February and March retreat, they make the case for snow and, less visibly, rain taxes.
    Falling and new-fallen snow brings transient beauty. Examine those white flakes and you can imagine purity as well as infinity. If there’s acid rain in those crystals, it’s invisible.
    Old snow is not very pretty, is it? Its sooty crust is visible proof that what falls out of our environment may not be pure as the driven snow.
    When I look at my own personal snow piles, I see more than meets my eye in better weather. My beloved little car’s noxious tailpipe emissions of some 19 pounds of gases per gallon of fuel are usually invisible, being, after all, gases, including carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides. But with snow I can see their traces in the dirty little particulate company they keep.
    Along with the soot are goopy mud, salt, de-icing chemicals and dog, cat, fox, possum, raccoon, deer and bird poo.
    Come the melt, and what happens? Where earth and grass and rain gardens suck it up, it percolates into groundwater. Without filtration, it goes downhill straight to the Chesapeake, traveling fast on the paved expressway.
    On the open road, my mess combines with your mess to make a really big mess.
    As you say good riddance to the snow, it might be a good time to think in terms of what stormwater remediation fees are remediating.
    Twenty-first century messes, I’m sorry to say, are made by you and me right here in Chesapeake Country.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

Seizing life’s moments while dreaming of summer days at camp

This week’s paper, featuring our annual Summer Camp Guide, is not 100 percent wishful thinking.
    But enough of it is to take your mind off present ­circumstances.
    I left behind the gelid remains of winter mix — and the prospect of more to come — in the hours I spent considering the camps of summer. Why do kids get to have all the fun? Michelle Steel, who prepares the Guide, shared that wishful sentiment. Together we yearned to sail small boats, swim, dance, skate, invent, act, imagine, build, explore, hang out with animals and discover nature’s ways.
    Many fun-loving, far-sighted people must have stayed up into the wee hours to come up with such odd, wonderful and various things to do. Swordsmanship at one; rock climbing at another; waterskiing at a third; wilderness survival at a fourth; horsewomanship at a fifth; hearth-cooking at a sixth; comedy at a seventh; wizarding at an eighth; water polo at a ninth; dirt digging at a tenth.
    Camp is all about fun, but that’s not all it’s about.
    Camp is a turning point in a kid’s life.
    As a camper, you leave your parents behind, for days at a time if you’re an overnighter. You climb over prison’s walls into freedom. The rule of rules collapses; camp rules manage freedom rather than enforce captivity. The mold of routine shatters; fun, novelty and adventure fill camp days. Instead of sitting, you’re playing. Instead of indoors, you’re out. Instead of the kid you’ve always been, you get to try out who you might be.
    In camp you get to do the daring adventures we all dream of — with a safety net. So if you fall, you’ll most likely bounce. And your parents’ fretting won’t spoil your fun.
    Those are dreams to dream of in these cold days of late winter.
    As for doing in the here and now, we bring you a winter adventure of a lifetime.
    Mike Strandquist, an Annapolitan outdoorsman who owns Breezy Point Marina in Calvert County, wasn’t ­content to wait until summer to seize life’s moments. Or to remember the old days of what used to be.
    When his creek passed the ice test on February 23, he called the neighborhood out to play. But first they had to clear snow off iced-over open water to make their hockey ring.
    “I guarantee you it was an experience these kids will remember for the rest of their lives,” Strandquist said of the adventure.
    To his surprise, everybody came.
    “As I was not sure how parents of the other kids would feel, I was surprised that everyone we invited was allowed to come,” Strandquist said. “I guess the parents felt I have safety in mind first and foremost.”
    Exhilaration over a safety net. That’s what Bay Weekly is about this week.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

Can our Free Will Astrologer break the late-winter blues?

Now is the winter of our discontent.    
    Cold February lingers like a crust of dirty snow. Pipes freeze and people shiver. Spring may be only weeks away, but getting there is a slog.
    You’ve got to be real creative to talk yourself out of such a state.
    Enter Rob Breszny, our Free Will Astrologer.
    His get-out-of February advice for you Scorpios is so good that I’ve made an editorial decision to give it to each of us, whatever our sign. I promise you’ll find it provocative, even transformative. Since taking it to heart yesterday evening, I’ve felt new spring in my step. My bad attitude is improving. I’m cheerier. I bet you’ll feel better, too. Here’s Breszny:
    Be in nature every day. Move your body a lot. Remember and work with your dreams. Be playful. Have good sex. Infuse any little thing you do with a creative twist. Hang out with animals. Eat with your fingers. Sing regularly.
    Now, here’s my plan and progress.
    Be in nature every day. That’s a hard one. Walking isn’t so appealing in gusty winds and blood-freezing cold. That crusty snow has buried the garden. Snow shoveling doesn’t much improve my mood. Guess I’ll have to make an inspirational visit to the National Botanical Garden (100 Maryland Ave., SW, Washington, D.C.) where warmth is ever-green.
    Move your body a lot. Just what I need to hear. I’ve been clinging to the fireplace like a limpet to a rock and citing cold blood as an excuse to avoid the gym. Time to load James Brown into my iPod and get up off of that thing.
    Remember and work with your dreams. What does Breszny mean? Your life dream? Or, as I suspect, the stories of sleep that fade on your wakening into the dark cave of the unconscious? If I’m right, husband Bill ­Lambrecht has his work cut out for him. Last night he dreamed he was the only guest in a bed and breakfast. Imagine his surprise when on opening the bathroom door he found a person in the tub. A living person, I’m glad to report. But who? And how to work with that?
    Be playful. Does driving a fantasy car count? Our office neighbor Linda Sefick at The Learning Edge turned up in a Mazda MX-5 Miata while her much duller Honda is repaired. Hmmmmm, I said, and picked up my husband last night in a Mercedes Benz GLK 350. Alas, I couldn’t keep it. But an extravagant test drive is one good way of playing make believe.
    Eat with your fingers. Okay, I’ll put down my fork. Especially for my husband’s homemade pizza. In celebration of its goodness, we’ve evolved a little playful ritual: I sing for my supper. My verses are tortured and I can’t hold a tune, but we laugh a lot and the pizza keeps coming.
    Sing regularly. See Eat with your fingers.
    Have good sex. Sorry. In this family-oriented newspaper, only Breszny gets to talk about sex. We’re substituting Have stimulating crushes. With Robert Redford-reminiscent James Norton playing Sidney Chambers in The Grantchester Mysteries on Public Television, crushing has been easy. The six parts of the premier series took us through February.
    Hang out with animals. Our dog Moe died on November 29, leaving us with serious animal deficiency. The birds are helping us out, gathering in flocks at our feeders, where squirrels add to the entertaining spectacle. Of course we can’t pet these birds, but I have, as you’ll read in this week’s feature story, petted an owl. In fact, it may be animal deficiency that got me into this story.
    Infuse any little thing you do with a creative twist. That’s our mission at Bay Weekly. I tell myself that your reading means we’re living up to it. That’s why you’re reading this editorial instead of the dull one I couldn’t bring myself to write.
    All together, today I’m feeling notably less discontent. But more snow is forecast. Time to pretend you’re a Scorpio and take Free Will Astrologer Rob Breszny’s advice.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

Harriet Tubman now conducting tours

History is a bigger hall nowadays, with room at the table for more people than the old white guys who used to rule there. So a good story for any week of the year is the new prominence coming to Harriet Tubman as a hero of Maryland, New York and our nation.
    Harriet Tubman, a contemporary of Abe Lincoln, escaped slavery only to return home, to Dorchester County, to conduct many more enslaved people along the Underground Railroad she had followed to freedom.
    In “Harriet’s Homecoming: The road was long and never smooth for Harriet Tubman,” Emily Myron tells you more, including the Congressional honor making Tubman the first individual woman to have a National Historical Park named for her.
    As the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park comes together, the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park is under construction on Tubman’s Eastern Shore homeland
    Blackwater Wildlife Refuge marks the spot in a landscape that’s mostly open space, farm or preserve. Listening to a new audio tour that’s part of the package will inform your drive along the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway. You can bike the flatland too, with bike and kayak rentals near the Refuge.
    But that’s down the road …
    In the here and now, we’re telling this story in Black History Month.
    Why bother with Black History Month now that Black History is all our history? Or, for that matter, Women’s History Month in March?
    Memorial times still matter because we know so little of what we know.
    Our own personal history slides into forgetfulness as we march away from back then into the advancing years.
    How much — or little — do you know about the other people in your own life? Your friends? Your brothers and sisters? Your parents? Even your partner?
    Unless you’re a genealogist or writing a family history, I bet we share the same kind of amnesia. Test yourself: Do you know when and where your mother was born? If you can answer those questions, can you go a step further? How did she enter this world: by midwife or doctor or quite spontaneously in a car en route to the hospital?
    (Send me your answers and I’ll send you mine.)
    Even the people drilled into our collective consciousness in school — Lincoln, Washington and all those other presidents we honor February 22 — live on in our memories as a few semi-bright images in a fog of oblivion.
    If we know a little more of black history, it’s because such a big deal has been made of it over the last half century. Memorials, museums, monuments and, yes, Black History Month, make our pictures of the past into bright murals — maybe even movies.
    This week’s feature puts Tubman into focus and opens the way for us to see more. A landscape looks empty until you’ve learned about the people who lived in it before you. Now, 102 years after her death, Harriet Tubman can conduct you through the Shore as she knew it.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

Start with a little resveratrol, add tryptophane …

My mother was not always right.    
    But in hitting the nail on the head, she had far better accuracy than I credited.
    A woman who believed she could do anything, she invested even more of her capital in cooking than she did in looking good. And she looked very, very good.
    The way to a man’s heart is his stomach, she advised.
    Ohhh mother! I scoffed, for that was back in the day when I believed love sought you for yourself alone.
    I have since learned that in this wisdom she nailed it.
    On the feast of love, Valentines Day, this is advice worth taking. Especially if you’re among the third of Americans who say they are only “a little” — worse, “not at all” — satisfied with their sex lives.
    That sad condition is reported by the survey company Survata, which invites online newspaper readers to share their opinions for a fee. The finding is not entirely scientific, but it is thought-provoking.
    Could a lovely dinner improve a lovelorn love life?
    Like love, sex and reproduction, food is a biological necessity.
    Can the pleasure of one enhance the pleasure of another? Can a satisfied stomach lead to an enamored heart — and beyond?
    Tradition tells us that’s so, offering a rich menu of foods supposed over the ages to be aphrodisiac. Oysters, chocolate, coffee, honey, artichokes, avocados, figs and an assortment of Valentine-red comestibles, including wine, beets, chili peppers, pomegranates, strawberries and watermelon.
    How could you resist loving the person who serves you foods so delicious? Foods so amorously beautiful?
    Modern science adds chemistry to the equation of lovely foods and love. Each of these contains chemicals that promote wellbeing and enhance libido. Phenethylamine and tryptophan in chocolate, for example, boron in beets and resveratrol in red wine.
    Scientific my mother was not, but she knew a lot about love. She had well-fed husbands and admirers aplenty. On this subject, I’ve taken her advice, and the results are good.
    Odds on, your mother as well as mine believed in this old wives’ tale. Think about it. Who should know more about the love that binds a family than old wives, who had just that as their job descriptions?
    Cooking for love is a womanly art to which men aspire in this modern world. Equality is fine with me. I love a meal cooked by my husband.
    This Valentines Day, food writer Caiti Sullivan continues the womanly tradition, offering a four-course meal planned to unite eye, tongue, stomach and heart in a feast of love.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

Six more weeks of winter? Let it snow.

At first it shone fresh in memory, the gold filigree earring formed on a redbud leaf bought for me by my husband on a book tour visit to Nebraska’s Arbor Day Farm, where good practical environmentalism pairs abundantly with good food. But in the cold days and weeks after I lost it — after I’d searched coat collars, scarves, carpets and car crannies —it faded into forgetfulness.
    So its reappearance months later on the bulletin board of my post office sweetened my remembered appreciation with the shock of recognition and the surprise of recovery.
    That’s just how I felt running again into old friends among the movies in our annual Groundhog’s Movie Guide to Surviving Six More Weeks of Winter.
    Bay Weekly Moviegoer Diana Beechener is the big brain behind our guide in recent years; hence her credit as curator. Her suggestion to make Je Suis Charlie one of our categories sent me straight — do not pass go — to Richard Pryor. In my memory, nobody’s funnier or more outrageous.
    But memory fades. Tastes and styles change. Would Pryor be all that I remembered?
    With some trepidation, husband Lambrecht and I considered Netflix’s delivery of the first of six on my Pryor list, a 1979 performance filmed at Long Beach, California. We’d just sample it, we agreed. An hour and 19 minutes later, properly scandalized and aching from laughter edging on pain, we reaffirmed our faith. Pryor was even better as we traveled back in time.
    Will The Godfather hold up as well? The Nights of Cabiria? Life Is Beautiful? The Lives of Others? The Great Escape? The Fisher King? To Have and Have Not?
    Hurry up Netflix! I’m eager to see.
    Other movies I’ll be seeing for the first time. So I’m hoping to make new friends and new memories.
    There are 30 in this year’s Guide, reflecting the disparate tastes of seven Bay Weekly moviegoers as well as that of Beechener and me. So you’ll find variety, from science fiction to sleepers. Particularly attractive is the In Memory Of collection featuring seven of the great talents who died in 2014: Maya Angelou, Richard Attenborough, Lauren Bacall, James Garner, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Mike Nichols and Robin Williams.
    Six more weeks of winter? Let it snow. I’ve got all these movies to keep me warm.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

Friends and foes, we’ve got a lot to thank him for

The Tax Man. That’s the tag the incoming Republican establishment wants to pin on the back of the governor no more as he walks out the door.
    Former Gov. Martin O’Malley did indeed oversee hikes in the sales tax, the gas tax and taxes on corporations and big earners.  
    But before all we remember of Martin O’Malley is the epithet of the victors, I want to summon a few other images.
    O’Malley didn’t disgrace Marylanders. Leaving office, he moved to Baltimore, not to jail, as has been the path of many another governor in several states. Consider Illinois, where I lived for 14 years before my ascension to Maryland. Of Illinois’ last seven governors, four moved on to prison, most notably Rod Blagojevich. No other state comes close. Maryland has only one jailed governor, and his conviction was overturned.
    (On the other hand, we have Spiro Agnew, who rose to the vice-presidency. So his fall, for evading taxes on bribes paid when he was governor, was farther. Still, it never landed him in prison.)
    Nor did O’Malley embarrass us — or himself. He didn’t, for example, follow in the footsteps of William Donald Schaefer. O’Malley’s predecessor as mayor of Baltimore (two mayors later) and governor (two governors later) grew so irascible that he’d show up at the doors of critics to harangue them at home.
    Not even in his alter egos did O’Malley rival Schaefer’s flamboyance. Schaefer donned an old-fashioned bathing suit and straw bowler to open the National Aquarium in Baltimore and the white and gold-braid uniform of a Naval officer to move from mayor to governor. O’Malley’s alter ego is a Celtic rock musician, leader of O’Malley’s March, dressed in sleeveless T-shirts that showed off his rock-star muscles.
    O’Malley was said to have been more outraged than embarrassed by his surpassing pop culture achievement: Inspiring in good part a character in the television drama The Wire. Wire fans loved his caricature as Tommy Carcetti, the ethnic, boyishly handsome, scheming white guy who beats the racial odds to get elected mayor while dreaming of moving up to the State House.
    (If O’Malley hated the joke, his gubernatorial predecessor Bob Ehrlich relished it. Ehrlich appeared as a State House security guard in an episode that had Carcetti waiting on a governor of the opposed political party — presumably the invisible Ehrlich — who kept him cooling his heels before offering him the devil’s deal.)
    What other politician achieved such on-screen fame — albeit by backhanded compliment — while alive and in office? Even Louisiana’s legendary Huey Long was dead before his appearance in All the King’s Men as novel or movie.
    So, friends or foes, we’ve got a lot to thank Martin O’Malley for.
    I suspect most of us could add a personal benefit to this list, an action of O’Malley’s eight years as governor that made our lives better.
    He got a fair amount done as far as social policy: legalizing same-sex marriage, repealing the death penalty and removing criminal penalties for small amounts of marijuana. These actions made huge differences in the lives of many people and began to redefine the culture of our state.
    For people — and institutions, like Bay Weekly — committed to the environment, O’Malley is the governor whose administration put the stalled Chesapeake Bay cleanup into gear. On a bipartisan note, Ehrlich gave those advances a head start, spending political capital to engineer the environment-friendly flush tax.
       O’Malley demanded new accountability, partnering with the federal government in far-reaching initiatives and putting faith and resources into the restoration of native oysters. Those acts, and many more, give our Bay a fighting chance — and Gov. Larry Hogan a worthy act to follow.


Seed Money Waiting to Be Planted

Apply now for garden grants in Anne Arundel and Calvert

    The Calvert Garden Club is seeding natural resource preservation and conservation in Calvert County with mini-grants of $100 to $1,000. Applicants must be nonprofit organizations, not individuals, and projects must help conserve natural resources and the environment. Deadline Feb. 1: 410-535-6168; www.calvertgardenclub.com.
    Unity Gardens’ 2015 Spring Grant Cycle offers grants up to $1,000 to Anne Arundel County, non-profit organizations in support of greening projects, environmental enhancement and education. Deadline March 15: 410-703-7530; www.unitygardens.org.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

From Jim Toomey to Charlie Hebdo, we need their levity

In any of 150 newspapers around the world — including the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun — you can bump into Jim Toomey any day of the week.
    But Bay Weekly kept the world-famous creator of Sherman’s Lagoon waiting in line.
    What kind of way is that to treat a neighbor?
    Toomey, who draws Sherman the shark and his aquatic friends from his West Annapolis home, makes a good story any week of the year. But I wanted the perfect week.
    “What’s our news peg?” I asked writer Bob Melamud, using the newspeak term for that perfect place in time to run his long-awaited story on Toomey.
    I never imagined we’d be hanging the story on a peg so newsworthy it reached round the world.
    Yet there’s no better time to feature a cartoonist than the week the world is reeling from the assassination of five French cartoonists in a wave of terrorism that’s taken 17 lives, put Paris on Red Alert and mobilized support across the free world.
    Charlie Hebdo, the satiric newspaper hit in the initial wave of terror, featured a comic style far more irreverent and raunchy than Jim Toomey’s. In wry Sherman’s Lagoon — as in the famous mid-20th century comic strip Pogo — we are our own worst enemies.
    Left, right or in the middle is pretty much irrelevant on the spectrum of free speech, Toomey tells us. In his own words:

    “There seems to be a prevalent reaction that goes something like this: I defend Charlie Hebdo’s right to express their opinion, but I question their judgment in this particular matter.
    I disagree with that assessment.
    We can’t live in a world where we fear the disproportionate reaction of a fanatical few, and as a result, muzzle our opinions. I believe there are limits to our freedom of expression, but the Hebdo cartoonists did not cross that line.”

    Like Sherman’s Lagoon, Toomey’s words reach me in a place very near home.
    Bay Weekly is not Charlie Hebdo. “We don’t,” as Toomey notes, “even run cartoons.”    
    For whatever kind of journalism we favor — mild or fiery — is but one part of the freedom at stake.
    As well as the five cartoonists, two editors and two columnists, a maintenance worker and two officers were murdered in the Charlie Hebdo attack.
    The policewoman killed the next day and the four Jewish shoppers the day following died because of who they were. What they might have said — their levity, their piety, their pleas — was irrelevant.
    At bottom, what’s at stake is freedom to be.
    If I make it my business to make your irreverence a capital crime, at what point on the spectrum does my rage stop? Your religion? Your color? Your tattoos? Your straight or curly, short or long hair? Your age (two of the murdered cartoonists were in their 70s; one in his 80s)? Your gender? Your sexual preference? The language you speak? The clothes you wear?
    From the French, we learned the phrase vive la difference. Modern France is a multicultural society, as are we. How many of the many differences we encompass — and which ones — can we still celebrate? At what point on the spectrum of difference do we allow our tolerance to end? At what point do you — or I — get to take offense?
    At that point, the slope turns slippery.
    Odd, opinionated and different we all are. If laughter helps us coexist — if irreverence keeps our fanaticism in check — bring on the cartoonists.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

Birds and squirrels, horses and riders

I took Bay Weekly at its word.    
    “The best way to start learning about birds is to put up a feeder,” advised international birder Colin Rees, conveyed in Dotty Doherty’s Dec. 4 story Winter Is for the Birds. Today I’m reaping the rewards of refilling and hanging my feeders to celebrate Christmas for the birds.
    Snow has me and the birds home together. While I work at my livelihood via MacBook Air, they’re working at theirs, pecking up their fuel of safflower and black-oil sunflower seed. They’ve puffed up their down against the cold; I’m wearing multiple layers and keeping the fire burning. Even so, we can both feel the chill of temperatures in the 20s and falling.
    But we keep at it. Watching and writing, I’ve added blue jay and dove to make 11: Sparrows (all seem to be white throated), plus juncos and towhees. Plus, of course, titmouse, chickadee, cardinal, house finch, nuthatch and downy woodpecker.
    Whoops! Neighbor Sharon’s dog Cassie just walked past, scattering the flock.
    The ever-bold titmouse is the first to return. Then the nuthatch, which seems to be the white-breasted sort.
    My Snow Day bird count is small peanuts compared to the National Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count, with some 30 organized counts focused on separate 15-mile circles throughout Maryland between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5.
    The hundreds of species and thousands of birds counted by these serious birders keep science abreast of life in the avian world.
    In the big picture, 71,531 observers in 2,369 circles counted 64,133 birds of 2,296 species last year.
    This year, on Dec. 14, the first day of the count, 30 birders at Jug Bay counted a “very low” 106 species. “Surprising given that conditions were good,” reports compiler Sam Droege, “but perhaps a reflection of the fact that the weather had been warm up until then and many of the waterfowl had not moved into the area.”
    At Patuxent River Naval Air Station on Dec. 28, 30 people counted close to 100 species, according to Andy Brown, of Calvert County Natural Resources Division. The big news in “an average year” is a record 33 bald eagle sightings.
    At Sandy Point State Park, on Jan. 4, 80 birders tallied 112 species, including three area rarities: a raven (only Edgar Allen Poe’s poetic license gives Ravens to our Atlantic region), a pair of snow buntings and four sanderlings.
    I fear I won’t add such oddities as a raven or snow bunting to my domestic count. But as a low-grade birder, I’m tickled by the appearance and antics of the usual suspects.
    Whoosh! There they go again, three dozen tiny creatures disappeared in a single burst of speed. Yet not a soul comes walking by …
    Instead the intruder soars into my view, a hawk on the wing.
    I have my Number 12, perhaps a Cooper’s or sharp-shinned hawk judging by his russet-striped belly and small size. Or perhaps a kestrel?
    Make that 13! Mr. Red-bellied woodpecker just flew in.
    Not a bad day for snowbirds and snow birder.
    Count birds of the Bay on Jan. 18 with musician and birder Dan Hass of the Anne Arundel Bird Club. 8-11:30am at Thomas Point. Dress warmly. rsvp: 410-703-4664; ­nervousbirds@gmail.com.

Snow Birds of a Couple More Species
    This time of year, many Marylanders join the flights of snowbirds escaping winter’s chill for Floridian warmth. Among them are two particular species, equestrians and their horses. One of the flock, Diane Burt, tells their story in this week’s paper.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com