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Chris French
Mike Roberts

Metamorphic March musings match the month

Here I was ready to welcome the month of March with open arms as I envisioned some early open-water fishing.

Ha! What a mistake that was!

March became a dirty word, and growled and snarled, as it came in more like a polar bear with freezing temperatures than like the proverbial lion associated with any bad weather at the beginning of March.

The brutal weather we experienced at the start of this month came like a double slap in the face because prior to that a warming spell and some rain caused the cancellation of an ice fishing derby on Silver Lake last month.

I guess it really is true: If you don’t like the weather in New England, wait a bit and it will change.

And then if this weather pattern isn’t confusing enough, I get a press release from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology last week regarding one of my favorite woodland and backyard creatures, the chickadee. I have wiled away many hours in the deer and turkey woods with these little puffy, feathered birds flitting about my head as they searched for whatever it is that they find to eat on the bark of the branches they search.

They are bold little critters. I have had them land on the brim of my hat, my bow and the barrel of my firearm as they busily flit about. They appear to be fearless as they get right up close and personnel to you. Or is it curiosity? It really doesn’t matter, though, because they are a really entertaining bird to watch.

But as we were in the middle to an arctic blast of super-cold weather, I found the press release interesting because it said that “warming temperatures are pushing two chickadee species and their hybrids northward.”I would imagine they are having second thoughts now.

The release specified the Carolina Chickadee and the Black-Capped Chickadee were the two birds involved.

According to the release, in a narrow strip that runs across the eastern U.S., Carolina Chickadees from the south meet and interbreed with Black-Capped Chickadees from the north. The new study finds that this hybrid zone has moved northward at a rate of 0.7 miles per year over the last decade. That’s fast enough that the researchers had to add an extra study site partway through their project in order to keep up.

“A lot of the time climate change doesn’t really seem tangible,” said lead author Scott Taylor, a postdoctoral researcher at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “But here are these common little backyard birds we all grew up with, and we’re seeing them mostly moving northward on a relatively short time scale.

In Pennsylvania, where the study was conducted, the hybrid zone is just 21 miles across on average. Hybrid chickadees have lower breeding success and survival than either of the pure species. This keeps the contact zone small and well defined, making it a convenient reference point for scientists aiming to track environmental changes.

Female Carolina Chickadees seem to be leading the charge in this northward hybrid zone movement. They are moving more on an average of 0.6 miles between where they were born and where they settle down.

I have always taken chickadee sightings for granted and thought some of our readers might find the thought of a “warming” trend pushing the Carolina Chickadees northward interesting, especially after the winter we have had.

Up until I saw this release, I simply thought that my winter companion in the winter woods, the chickadee, was just a hardy little critter who seemingly loved the colder weather. I guess I was wrong.

UPLAND GAME HUNTING

Sick of the snow? Need to get outdoors and enjoy a good hunt? Even though our regular upland game season in Connecticut is over, there is still some mighty fine upland hunting at Millstream Preserve in Lebanon.

Millstream Preserve has been one of my “go-to” spots when I have a hankering for some upland game hunting as winter comes to a close. Since it looks like there might a slight delay in the open water fishing this year, maybe a run over to Millstream and a last bit of upland game hunting might get me through the winter doldrums.

Millstream Preserve is user friendly and an excellent place to start off a beginning` hunter.

No license is required to hunt the preserve and they also have shotguns and ammo available for those who might choose to give it a first time try. The preserve offers pheasant hunting as well as Hungarian partridge, Chukar partridge and Bobwhite quail.

Millstream itself is a thing of upland hunting beauty, with open fields rimmed with brush lines that offer some of the best upland hunting I have ever seen. You can hunt with their well-trained field dogs or use your own, the choice is yours.

Don Favry, the owner of Millstream, tells me he is also now taking reservations for spring turkey hunts for this year. Millstream has some really prime turkey hunting areas and it might be well worth your while to give them a try.

The upland season for the preserve will end March 31 and reopens September 15. If you want to extend your upland game hunting this year or book a turkey hunt for this coming spring, give Don a call at (860) 836-5744.

CAMOUFLAGE: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY

When I was a youngster (many, many moons ago), a hunter’s attire usually consisted of either red or green checked wool jackets, and sometimes breeches, and they were accompanied by a pair of leather highcuts (leather boots that laced up almost to the knees).

Wool stockings, usually gray with a red trim, were worn with the leather boots. They really did not do that good of a job of keeping you feet warm, but that was what was available at that time.

I can remember my dad Mike going deer hunting with Ed “Moose” Godek up in Massachusetts and fashioning a pair of shooting gloves for the hunt by cutting the fingers off a pair of cotton work gloves. I still wonder how he survived the trip.

There was also sturdy light brown hunting togs for the hunter, usually a hunting coat and trousers made up of an almost canvas like material that served the wearer well in the outdoors. I remember wearying my Dad’s old hunting coat for years after he gave up the sport.

Somewhere in the coming years a new style of hunting togs began to appear and they were made of camouflage, most of them the basic military camouflage (I still use a vest made out of the military camo). It was supposed to make you undetectable by the game you were hunting, especially the deer and turkey, but waterfowlers also found it to be an asset in their chosen sport.

Without going into brand names, various individuals began inventing new camouflage designs and patented them under their individual names and made fortunes. Camouflage became a multi-million dollar industry.

Look in any outdoor catalog and you will find camouflage clothes of every shape, design and description. Many of them carry the name of the special camouflage designer. Yep, I even purchased a couple of them for my deer and turkey hunting forays. Of course, I look like the “Camo-man” of many designs, because to me, any camo will do.

Yet I have to marvel at the catalogs that now offer camo underwear for men and women in the outdoors and I have to wonder—WHY? I have yet to see an outdoors person wandering around the woods in their camo underwear. Their underwear is under there outer camo clothing, so what is the advantage of camo underwear?

And why would any manufacturer make a knife with a camo handle that makes it impossible to find if you put it down on the ground?

Right. I do know that camo clothing is now fashionable, but I received an email that prompted this camo piece in the column.

Now, I don’t smoke or use smokeless tobacco, so maybe it struck me the wrong way, but did you know that there is now a camo product that comes in not one, but two camo patterns, Break-Up Infinity and Shadow Grass Blades? It’s called the “Spit Cup” and is designed to cater to all of your smokeless tobacco needs.

I hate to think what is coming up camo next. Is camo toilet paper on the list?

2-D ARCHERY TARGET LEAGUE

Connecticut Archery at 349 Quinnipiac Street will be hosting a 2-D Target League on Thursday nights starting March 20 and running to April 24.

Cost is $75 per shooter. All levels welcome. Call (203) 626-9465 for further info.

See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops where ever they may be serving.



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