BIRD TRACKS: In yet another worrisome sign from the farm fields, Maryland's Department of Natural Resources announced it will cut the bag limit for pheasants from two birds a day to one this fall hunting season. DNR spokesman Peter Jayne said the pheasant population is at an all-time low, primarily because of habitat loss. He said hunters and land owners pressed the state to reduce the bag to conserve what ringnecks are left.

Meanwhile, Maryland and Virginia reported record wild turkey kills during the spring season as gobbler populations continue to expand. Virginia hunters took 7,770 gobblers this spring, a 5 percent increase over 1989, and in Maryland, where the previous record was 1,014, hunters bagged 1,122.

WHITEWATER: It's time for whitewater racing enthusiasts to make preparations to attend the U.S. Wildwater Championships and World Cup slalom races July 6-8 on the Savage River in Bloomington, Md., site of last year's championships.

Washington area paddling superstars Jon Lugbill, Dave Hearn, Jed Prentice, Andy Bridge, Dana Chladek and Cathy Hearn will be among the racers. Tickets are available from Ticketron. Acommodations are plentiful around nearby Deep Creek Lake, but it is a holiday weekend and reservations are advisable. For information, call (301) 387-4282.

SMALL TALK ON SMALLMOUTHS: The Potomac River Smallmouth Club meets to discuss techniques, tackle and hot spots at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the National Wildlife Federation Building, 8925 Leesburg Pike, Vienna. The public is welcome. Call Jon Weimer, 719-9588.

PONY UP: Virginia boat owners get hammered with increased state licensing fees this year that will more than triple the cost for owners of large vessels. For the last decade, all motorboats in the Old Dominion were licensed at a standard fee of $11 for three years. New three-year charges, which go into effect Sunday: Motorboats under 16 feet, $18; motorboats 16-19 feet, $22; motorboats 20-39 feet, $28; motorboats 40 feet and over, $36.

WHERE YOU BEEN? Someone gave us a hummingbird feeder so we stuck it on a front window at the house last week with the reservoir filled with sugar water, even though we'd never seen a hummingbird around. Three hours later old rubythroat was out there sucking up sweetwater.

Likewise, a year or so ago the kids came back from a hike with acorns in their pockets. We tossed them out the back door into the yard, where there isn't an oak tree in site. Yet almost within minutes, a squirrel was gobbling up these acorns.

So how did they know?

BOTTOM TO TOP: U.S. explorer Will Steger, who led a precedent-setting, multinational 4,000-mile trek across Antarctica last winter, is just back from Moscow, where he and his six-man team met with Soviet Foreign Minister Edvard Scheverdnaze.

Scheverdnaze praised the international composition of the team, which included Soviet scientist Victor Boyarsky. Said Scheverdnaze, "I will tell you openly and frankly that Victor Boyarsky's representation in this group is very symbolic, confirming our interest in peace."

SIR BRUCE: Annapolis yacht designer Bruce Farr has been named an officer of the British empire in the latest birthday honors list of Queen Elizabeth II. The honor entitles the New Zealand native to put the letters O.B.E. after his signature. It puts him on the second rung of Britain's hidebound pecking order.

Farr designed New Zealand's last two America's Cup contenders and is widely considered the world's most successful racing yacht designer.