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Articles by Audrey Broomfield

Atlantic ribbed and hooked mussels are Chesapeake’s Brita filter

Mussels are more than a seafood dish in buttery broth. Unlike those delectable mussels, our Chesapeake Bay mussels are small and tough. Our two native species, the Atlantic ribbed mussel and the hooked mussel, serve environment rather than appetite. Both are believed to be key indicator species of the health of the Bay.
    These filter feeders have a leg up on oysters. Due to their smaller size, they can catch the smaller plankton Picoplankton.
    In doing that job, mussels have been credited with filtering out twice as much plankton as do our oysters, Crassostrea virginica. That’s according to research conducted in 2015 by Smithsonian Environmental Research Center scientists Denise Breitburg and Keryn Gedan and Virginia Institute of Marine Science’s Lisa Kellogg (www.vims.edu/newsandevents/topstories/mussels.php).
    “Hooked mussels were also twice as effective as oysters at filtering picoplankton,” says Breitburg. The tiny picoplankton are particularly abundant in the Bay in summer.
    Lifespans upward of 15 years mean our mussels have long careers. They do their work in the Bay’s most dynamic environments near the water’s edge, helping to reduce sediment. They are also part of the Bay food chain, feeding crabs, shorebirds and ducks.
    You might see these hard-working mussels on the roots of underwater grasses or on hard surfaces like oyster shells, pilings and boat bottoms.

Mr. Burrito finds his forever home

You’re working late one night, taking out the last can of trash when a large moving shadow across the street catches your eye. After pushing down the initial urge to run back inside, you recognize not a big rat or a small dog but a rabbit. Still, something isn’t adding up. This rabbit is much too large to be a garden-variety cottontail. A rabbit this big, and with a floppy ear, is bred to be a pet.
    You approach with caution, careful not to spook it. But it is carelessly headed toward a major thoroughfare while snacking on roadside debris.
    I don’t know about you, but I felt every nurturing instinct in my body waken as I burst into the restaurant kitchen yelling, “I need a carrot!”
    What follows is a quick-paced chase with slapstick humor, heart-pounding music and quick getaways. Despite carrots, my close approach sends rabbit under the nearest car, with me following.
    Rabbit would have been roadkill without a sidekick who joined me in a pincer move. Rabbit was caught by his scruff against a chain-link fence.
    Packed neatly in a fast-food box with a carrot, rabbit came home with me — and my Siberian husky — for the night.
    Next morning calls to local animal rescues and posts on Facebook Lost and Found Pets of Anne Arundel County turned up no missing rabbits. Poor allergic me was recued — as well as the rabbit, who made the husky very curious — by a friend with a farm and a vacant hutch.
    She said this was only temporary.
    Her roommate thought otherwise.
    Mr. Burrito, as he has been named, has found his forever friend, Sarah. The pair enjoys watching late-night television snuggling on the couch.
    Not every story ends up as well as Mr. Burrito’s.
    More than 60 rabbits were surrendered last year, according to Robin Catlett of Anne Arundel County Animal Control.
    To help prevent homeless bunnies, research the care and monetary commitments a bunny will need for an average life of 12 years.
    Never give a pet as a gift. Instead offer to pay for any fees and go with the beneficiary to make your gift an experience. Follow this rule with especial firmness at Easter time.
    Browse local shelters and rescue groups before buying from a store.
    Never abandon a pet. House pets are not bred to survive in the wild. If you can no longer care for a pet, call a local shelter or rescue group to surrender it.
    If you do see a rabbit in the wild and prefer not to give chase, you can call animal control, and an officer will assist you: 410-222-8900.

What makes milk chocolate?

     The NPR report that “seven percent of adults still think that chocolate milk comes from chocolate cows,” got me thinking. 
     Breed and coloration can factor into milk production, reports Anne Arundel 4H-er Patricia Williams, who notes that Holsteins are the best milking cow. A single Holstein produces some 2,674 gallons of milk each year.
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This bee drills into wood and flowers

     Gazing out at your garden, you’re sure to see pollinators great and small, from bumblebees to butterflies and wasps. One of these winged creatures is out in abundance this time of year. It’s a big bee. But which bee?
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For a few days around the full moon, blue crabs are at their most vulnerable    

            Our precious resource, the Atlantic blue crab, grows by backing out of its armored shell. This feat is achieved by the crab swelling its body with water until it literally bursts out of the back seam. The crab will then begin wriggling free, leg by leg times eight plus two claws.

            Full moons like the one coming August 7 are prime shedding times.

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Confessions of a Jay Fleming pupil

After my ninth grade photography teacher’s put-down, I have shied away from taking any photos but snapshots — and definitely no Snapchats. “You manage to capture something that is already beautiful, but you fail to create it as a picture.”
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Don Risher decorates the office at Belair ­Engineering like a July 4th float

You’d think it was Christmas and Don Risher of Belair Engineering in Upper Marlboro was Clark Griswold from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
    From Memorial Day through summer, he fills his office with red, white and blue. “It’s very patriotic, with lots of Americana,” says Risher, who puts his heart into this decorative commemoration because of his time in the service and camaraderie with service men and women.
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