Temperatures rise and the snow melts. Robins begin arriving, and daffodils and rhubarb begin to emerge from the cool, soggy ground. It must be March. However, for all its teasing, this month is normally far from being the usher of spring-proper weather. We'll no doubt see periodic snow and colder weather before April's arrival, probably several times.
I sometimes hear groaning about this unappreciated month, usually because there's "nothing" to do outdoors. Too early for trout fishing, too late usually for ice fishing, and rabbit, squirrel and grouse seasons closed the last day of February. But for hunters, there are still crows and coyotes since those two species' seasons remain open. Crow season ends March 31, and coyote season ends March 25. While coyotes can be hunted any time, day or night, crow hunting is limited to Fridays through Mondays only (a result of a treaty with Mexico, where crows are important scavengers). Anglers might consider special regulation waters where fishing remains open. Consult the DEC fishing syllabus for a listing of those waters.
Being a transitional month between two seasons, March doesn't have much in common with our other transitional month of November, when there are all sorts of outdoor activities available to us. And since March is often noted for some of our heaviest snowfalls, it can make the arrival of spring weather seem to be approaching at a snail's pace, much to the dissatisfaction of winter-weary residents. The tease of spring-like days such as we enjoyed this week only makes it worse when another batch of cold and snow follows. But for all its warts, March is, well ... March. And we get what we get, like it or not.
One March activity that is often overlooked by many is the chance to photograph wildlife. Deer and turkey are showing up in groups where the snow has melted and patches of bare ground offer them feeding opportunities. The variety of birds around now increases as winter species remain for a few more weeks and summer species arrive back from the south. Hibernating or denning mammals such as woodchuck, raccoon, opossum and even black bears begin to move about with more frequency. The next few weeks bring us a cornucopia of potential wildlife sightings that won't be seen again until next March. So keep your camera close at hand.
You don't have to be a professional to get some great photos and images of wildlife. Today's cameras, both digital and film, are capable of taking perfectly exposed and focused images. Pro photographers usually say the biggest mistake many amateurs make is poor composition planning prior to the shot(s). Probably because cameras do so much of the work for us, there's a tendency to just "point and shoot" without taking a few seconds to preplan the shot. Of course there are times when seconds may cost us the opportunity because the wildlife spooks. So it's not a bad idea to take a quick shot, then if the subject(s) stay put, take follow-up shots that are carefully planned for both effect and quality.
Another weakness we have is not keeping the camera rock-still when clicking the shutter. Obviously a tripod, monopod or car window clamp pod is best, but not always available or applicable. A simple way to keep a handheld camera as steady as possible is to hold it with your elbows in and pressed against your chest. Or if there's a stationary object handy, such as a tree, fence post or guardrail, use it to rest your camera on or against when taking the photo. And be gentle on the shutter button. Don't jab it. That's almost a guarantee your photo or image will be blurred.
Another accident that often occurs is the old "finger-in-the-frame" situation, where the photographer's grip on the camera has the tip of one of his or her fingers over the perimeter of the lens. We've all seen those - a nice image save for the blurred flesh-colored blob along the border. And last but not least, keep your camera lens clean. Use only soft lens paper and cleaner fluid made especially for the purpose..