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Watch for babies and respect elders 

The common snapping turtle’s life history shows extreme longevity and perseverance.

They begin their life by cutting through an eggshell, digging through a half foot of dirt, then crawling up to a half mile to water. Many eggs are eaten by raccoons, and the tiny young are food for many animals, even other turtles. Living on a diet of insects, tadpoles and minnows, the young spend most of their time hiding in dense pond weeds.

The first two years of life are the hardest. Very few, maybe one percent, survive. 

Snapping turtles grow slowly, taking 15 years to reach maturity. Their lifespan is unknown, but some tagged individuals have been over 100 years old and weigh close to 90 pounds. Locally, some have been up to 75 pounds. A large common snapping Turtle may well be older than you.

They are ambush predators, eating almost anything that comes along — and that list is quite long. They have been witnessed killing a raccoon, but generally they eat fish that swim too close to gaping mouths.

Through winter, snappers hibernate under water and frequently under mud.  

In the warm seasons, they mate. The female can store live sperm for several years, waiting until the conditions are right for egg laying. Starting in the late spring, female common snapping turtles laden with up to 75 eggs haul themselves out of the safety of water to find an area suitable for laying eggs. The nesting area can be up to a half-mile from water and uphill.

On their journey, you might see them crossing roads, laying eggs in gardens, hissing at pets and blocking trails. As for human contact, for the most part they are shy, but when cornered they can be very aggressive. Their strong jaws can cause serious damage to hands and feet.

To rescue a large snapping turtle crossing a road, either use a shovel to lift it or toss a towel onto the head and back and pick it up by the sides of the shell. Picking it up by the tail can tear the artery going into the tail and cause the animal to perish. Some people are able to pick them up by the shell at the area where the back legs go in, but there is a risk of getting bitten or scratched. Move the turtle in the direction that the turtle was already going.

Mid to late summer is the time the turtles hatch from their underground nests. They are a little more than an inch long and look like a clump of dirt or a partially smashed acorn. The hatchlings are usually only noticed when they move or are discovered by a pet. If you find a baby turtle, move it to a nearby body of fresh or brackish water. Snappers cannot survive the salinity of the ocean.  

Team Rotary RAAMs Polio raced across America with local support

The race to end polio has stretched farther than Race Across ­America’s 3,000 miles, all around the world. It has lasted longer, 39 years instead of a week. But this year’s race brings the killer closer to eradication. In its third year racing, Team Rotary Race Across America’s Polio raised an all-time high of $1 million to destroy the dread disease in its last strongholds, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Team Rotary RAAMs Polio reached new personal bests in both time and sponsorship. As well as raising more money for polio vaccinations, the four international RAAM racers reached Annapolis less than seven days after setting out from California.

Two racers from Austria, Ruth Brandstaetter and Markus Mayr, and one racer from Germany, Kurt Matzler, joined Tulsa’s Bob McKenzie in the United States for the race. McKenzie has ridden in Race Across America with Rotary for three years running. “I tell the team every year in Oceanside that we’ve already won because we have provided immunization for the kids against polio,” McKenzie says.

Rotary, an international organization, has been focused on eradicating polio since 1979, thanks to John L. Sever. In 1979, the year when the final case of polio was diagnosed in the United States, Sever was both a Rotarian and head of the National Institutes of Health’s infectious diseases branch. Awed by the conquest over smallpox, Rotary International president Clem Renouf challenged Sever to find Rotary an equal task. Sever suggested polio as the Rotary target.

The challenge succeeded. Incidences of polio around the world have decreased by 99.9 percent. As the vice chair of the Rotary International PolioPlus Committee, Sever is after the last of the germ. Low vaccination rates and unexpected occurrences still keep the disease alive. Ukraine, for example, was declared polio-free in 2002 — until two cases were reported there three years ago. Only 50 percent of that nation’s children had been vaccinated against polio. The disease won’t stay down if people are not vaccinated against it.

Local Rotary clubs have supported the campaign since its beginning. For this year’s Race Across America, the Rotary clubs of Parole, Annapolis and North Shore contributed, raising $4,000.

“The club tries to contribute $2,500 to the PolioPlus campaign each year,” said Bob Smith, president of the Parole Rotary Club. This year, the contribution went higher, thanks to the additional efforts of the Annapolis and North Shore Rotary clubs.

It cost $60,000 in equipment and maintenance for Team Rotary RAAMs Polio to compete. In their arduous race, they were able to raise enough money to deliver more than 1.6 million polio vaccines.

“It’s pretty spectacular when you think about it,” Smith says.

Maybe that's because it's what this sparrow eats?

    Many animals are named by the sounds they make or the food that they eat. The grasshopper sparrow is named for both. These little birds live in grasslands from Canada to Florida, where they like to perch on any stick or fence and sing a song that sounds like a flying grasshopper. They also feed on grasshopper and other grasshopper-like insects.
    In the summer, they make nests by clumping grass near the ground. Thus their nests are at risk during hay cutting. Some farmers purposefully put off cutting while the birds are nesting. With fewer open grass fields, more grass cutting and many other reasons, the population has dropped 75 percent since 1968. The Florida sub-species is almost extinct.
    To help protect populations of grass-nesting birds and animals, most states have established large tracts of grasslands that are not cut until after nesting is finished. In Maryland, the largest tracts are at Fair Hill and Soldiers Delight, with a smaller grassland at Sands Road Park.

Join a July 4th Parade

Cape St. Claire Celebration

10am from the Fire Department to the Main Beach for fun from 11am-2pm: tug-of war, sand-castle building contest, water-balloon toss, spoon and egg races, watermelon-eating contest and the Cape’s BBQ ribs and patriotic dessert contest: 410-757-1223; www.cscia.org/cape-st-claire/cape-st-claires-annual-july-4th-celebration

 

Severna Park Parade

10am from St. Martin’s in-the-Field Church, to Severna Park High School, to Evergreen Road to B&A Blvd to Cypress Creek Park: 410-647-3900.

 

Shady Side Parade

10am from Cedarhurst to the Shady Side Community Center on Snug Harbor Road. Roads close to traffic at 9:45am. Eddy Boarman: 443-370-8720.

 

Galesville Parade 

1pm down Main Street, which closes to traffic around 12:45pm. Parking $5/car on the athletic field at Anchors Way and Main St.: [email protected]; 703-328-6669.

 

Annapolis Parade

6:30pm down West Street from Amos Garrett Blvd., around Church Circle, down Main Street, then on Randall Street to Market House: www.annapolis.gov.

Your guide to fireworks, parades and celebrations

Friday June 29

Historic St. Mary’s Fireworks: Pyrotechnics follow Chesapeake Orchestra’s birthday concert in honor of Leonard Bernstein, with music of Sousa, Tchaikovsky and more. Bring lawn seating and a picnic or buy from food trucks. Arrive early at this thronged summer favorite. 7pm, Townhouse Green, St. Mary’s College, St. Mary’s City: www.chesapeakeorchestra.org.

 

Saturday, June 30

Chesapeake Beach Fireworks go up from two barges anchored beyond the town jetties, visible from the water and from land along the Bayfront from as far south as Willow Beach to north of North Beach. Watch the 25-minute spectacular from North Beach Boardwalk; at Rod ‘N’ Reel, where Split 2nd performs 5-9pm; on water onboard the Miss Lizzy (8pm, Chesapeake Beach Resort, $35, rsvp: www.cbresortspa.ticketleap.com); or take in the view from Chesapeake Beach Water Park (www.chesapeakebeachwaterpark.com). Fireworks 9pm, Chesapeake Beach: www.chesapeake-beach.md.us.

St. Michael’s Fireworks: The Shades of Blue Orchestra plays at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (7-10pm) for Big Band Night and St. Michaels’ fireworks. The orchestra performs at the historic Tolchester Beach Bandstand with dancing under the tent, and fireworks beginning at dusk over the Miles River (rain date July 1). Bring chairs, picnic blankets, food and drinks, but leave non-service dogs at home. Food, ice cream and non-alcoholic beverages sold; sponsored by Eastern Shore Tents & Events: www.cbmm.org/bigband.

 

Tuesday July 3

Sherwood Forest Fireworks: See this private community show from the Severn River from your boat. Or book on the Harbor Queen, with light snacks and cash bar. 7:30-10:30pm from Annapolis City Docks, $50 w/discounts, rsvp: www.watermarkjourney.com.

Herrington Harbour Fireworks: Fireworks set off from a barge illuminate Herring Bay. Marina grounds are reserved for members. But the view is great from boats, private docks, lawns or beaches. About 9:15pm, Herrington Harbour South, Rose Haven: www.herringtonharbour.com.

 

Wednesday, July 4

Baysox Fireworks: With an extended finale follow the Bowie Baysox baseball game against the Harrisburg Senators; rsvp for barbecue picnic buffet ($40 w/discounts). Picnic 5:30pm, game 6:35pm, Prince George’s Stadium, game tickets $7-$17, rsvp: www.baysox.com.

Annapolis Fireworks rise from a barge anchored in Spa Creek, illuminating Annapolis Harbor. Spa Creek Bridge closes to traffic at 6pm and local garages may fill up early; $1 shuttles run from Navy-Marine Corps Stadium to Lawyers Mall 5pm-midnight. Town and water views including from the Harbor Queen (7:30-10:30pm, Annapolis City Dock, $55 w/discounts, rsvp: www.watermarkjourney.com) or Schooner Woodwind (6:30-10pm, Annapolis Waterfront Hotel dock, $89 w/discounts, rsvp: www.schoonerwoodwind.com ): 9pm over the Severn River: 410-293-2291. 

Solomons Fireworks shoot from a barge anchored in the Patuxent River, giving the entire island — plus boaters — front row seats. Arrive early for the boat parade (noon); stay to stroll the Riverwalk and see the town. Rsvp by June 30 to watch aboard the Wm. B. Tennison on a Calvert Marine Museum cruise (8pm,  $35: 410-326-2042, x41). 9pm, Solomons: 443-324-8235.

Greater Baltimore’s Fourth of July fireworks illuminate the Inner Harbor, where the fun starts with the Commodores U.S. Navy Jazz Ensemble playing at the amphitheater (7pm). Come early for a heightened view on land or water, watch from the Top of the World observation floor, World Trade Center ($50 w/discounts, rsvp: 410-837-8439) or from a Watermark yacht (8-11pm, $59 w/discounts, rsvp: www.watermarkjourney.com) or on the Spirit of Baltimore (7-10:30pm, Inner Harbor, $115-$200, rsvp: www.spiritcruises.com). Fireworks begin 9:30pm over Inner Harbor, Baltimore: www.promotionandarts.org.

Washington, D.C. Fireworks: Celebrate America with high drama, music and special effects as the United States Army Presidential Salute Battery blasts cannons as fireworks burst over the capital. Tens of thousands of celebrants gather early on the National Mall for the National Symphony Orchestra’s annual concert (8pm). The nation’s capital begins the day at 11:45am with the Independence Day parade down Constitution Ave. and 7th St., traveling toward the Lincoln Memorial. Prime views include the Capitol, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, FDR Memorial, Iwo Jima Memorial and the Ellipse: 9:09pm on the National Mall: www.nps.gov/foju. 

 

Saturday, July 7

Laurel Fireworks: Arrive early for parade (11am), then visit food and craft vendors, a classic car show, hot-dog eating contest and field events; Oracle plays music. Then settle in for fireworks set to music shot from the far side of Laurel Lakes. 9:15pm at Granville Gude Park (Laurel Lakes), 8300 Mulberry St., Laurel: www.laurel4th.org.

Don’t crowd this little bird off the beach

“The birds are taking over the beach.”     

            I heard that complaint as parts of a beach were being roped off because of nesting birds.

            The bird under protection is likely the tiny piping plover. 

            In the 1850s, piping plovers were very common along the East Coast and the shores of the Great Lakes. The population collapsed as they were hunted so their feathers could decorate women’s hats. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 stopped the hunting, and the population stabilized.

            With human development along the coast, the population was again threatened. By 1986, just 790 breeding pairs survived on the Atlantic Coast. That is when they gained protection under the Endangered Species Act. Even with protection, the most recent surveys still place the Atlantic population at fewer than 2,000 pairs. 

            Piping plovers nest in small depressions in beach sand. They lay their speckled, sand-colored eggs in depressions about the size of a footprint. The eggs are very hard to see.

            The eggs take 25 days to hatch, emerging at about the size and shape of a miniature marshmallow. The tiny chicks hide by freezing in place, as they cannot fly for another 30 days. Eggs and young are very vulnerable to predatory animals and to being stepped on or run over by motor vehicles and bikes.

            Adults also have difficulty feeding the chicks when people are too close. After the chicks have learned to fly, they are no longer as vulnerable. By September, the plovers start their migration south along the Florida coastline to the Bahamas.

            These little birds need space to survive as a species. Four thousand birds along the hundreds of miles of Atlantic coastline is not very many. Help them out by avoiding nesting areas, and keeping your pets out, too.  

African Americans take center stage

Many diverse cultures melded to make the people of Chesapeake Country. Celebrate African American heritage, history and culture at two summer events this week as we also recognize Juneteenth, commemorating the June 19, 1865, announcement of the abolition of slavery in the state of Texas.

            Before you make any plans for the weekend, rsvp for limited seats at the Rise Above Exhibit. This mobile theater has been touring the country and makes a stop in Annapolis June 13 to 16. Inside the immersive panoramic movie theater, you’ll learn more about the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II, see memorabilia and soar with the Red Tail Squadron in an IMAX video about these war heroes who broke down color barriers. 9am-4:15pm, Rockwell Collins parking lot, Annapolis, free, rsvp: https://bit.ly/2M09Ejt.

            Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum in St. Leonard joins with the Calvert chapter of the NAACP to celebrate our patchwork of cultures at the 23rd annual African-American Family Community Day. Watch living history presentations, see a talent show with performers of all ages, check your well-being at a mini health fair, tour Sukeeks Cabin and see exhibits on display in the museum and at the lab. Live music plays all day around the picnic area. Sat., June 16, 11am-5pm, Jefferson Patterson Park, St. Leonard, free: www.jefpat.org.

2018 Sneaker Index: 36 inches and rising

As they have for 31 years, a chain of people walked into the Patuxent River on June’s second Sunday, hand in hand, and fully clothed. A tall man clad in overalls, cowboy hat and white sneakers waded at the center of that procession.

            Bernie Fowler could, at one time, walk shoulder high in the Patuxent and still see his feet on the sandy bottom. In 1988, then-state Sen. Fowler held the first-ever Patuxent River Wade In, encouraging local, like-minded environmentalists to focus on the river’s well-being.

            That inaugural year, the convoy only made it to 10 inches deep before Fowler lost sight of his bright, white shoes.

            This year’s contingent made it to 36 inches — 41⁄2 inches less than last year, but with the recent torrential rainfall, murky water was predictable.

            The Sneaker Index measurement, now made at Jefferson Patterson Park, isn’t an entirely foolproof experiment. Too many factors can disrupt the Patuxent at any given time. What Fowler’s Sneaker Index does do is educate, raise awareness and create community.

            Old friend Steny Hoyer, the second most powerful representative in the U.S. House, was on hand as usual measuring the damp on Fowler’s overalls.

            “For 31 years, Bernie has focused our attention on the health and cleanliness of our waterways,” Hoyer said, “and we are truly grateful for his efforts.”

            Fowler never relents in those efforts. At 94, he is unyielding in his resolve to protect the river he loves. “This year we saw some healthy signs that lifted our morale,” Fowler said. Some seaweed that hadn’t been there in previous years was uprooted. “It was heartwarming and enlightening to see that grass again, the red ducks love it,” he said.

            “We will truly never, ever, ever give up.”

 

Way Downstream …

From Australia’s Goat Island, the luck of a crocodile-tormenting terrier named Pippa ran out last week.

            For years, the yapping dog, a 10-year-old West Highland-Australian terrier mix, had tourists yelping with delight as it chased a seemingly frightened crocodile named Casey back into the drink.

            It was quite the sight, an attraction so hysterical that Goat Island Lodge posted videos (goatisland.com.au) beneath the headline Dumb Blonde Strikes Back.

            Remember the refrain about the danger of tugging on Superman’s cape? Crocodiles are fearsome creatures with huge, serrated teeth and the strongest jaws on earth, eight times more powerful than killer whales.

            So learned the Ethiopian minister pulled under by one of these flesh-eaters while performing a muddy waters baptism.

            The lodge didn’t post Pippa’s last video, and we won’t either. In a split second, with one mighty chomp, Casey got even, and croc and dog disappeared into the Adelaide River.

Through my father’s influence I have been training my whole life for my own surprising fatherhood

Ah, Father’s Day, our annual sojourn into celebrating dear ol’ Dad.

            When I ask my father what he wants for this celebratory occasion, I usually get a you can’t afford it — until my pestering leads to an exacerbated “Fine, an Amazon gift card.” Bingo.

            My father is a simple man. He likes his guitar, power tools and eggs for breakfast. Most of all he is humble. He is not one for elaborate displays of congratulatory behavior. To him, Father’s Day is just another day, not one to be self-indulgent.

            He never spoke of being a good man or what makes a great dad; he just did it. To this day, I have a fine example of fatherhood in my own father, but I never thought I would be one myself. I’m a photojournalist; I do not have time for kids.

            Late last September, as we departed on a camping trip in the north woods of Maine, my wife told me that she thought she was pregnant.

            Gulp. Really? I mean … I know we just began speaking of starting a family, but already? No way could I be a father. Or so I thought.

            On our return, a little lima-bean-looking thing on the sonogram confirmed that she was indeed pregnant. At the sight of it, I felt like I was going to cry. Yet I was not sad, and I didn’t even feel scared — though that would come soon enough. What I felt was love. This is not hyperbole; I felt an immense feeling of love.

            We were told the expected due date was May 24.

            My wife and I decided to be surprised by the baby’s gender; we waited until Christmas to tell our families we were expecting. The first week of April we planned to take a baby-moon to New Orleans to go see WrestleMania 34. (Did I mention my wife is awesome?) My father took me to all the professional wrestling events when I was a child, and the pastime has never left. A few days before our departure, my wife’s ob-gyn checked her over and assured us it was safe to fly.

            New Orleans is great. It is colorful, musical and full of good food. The locals are very nice, too. As it would soon turn out, we would meet quite a few of them.

            Fast forward to 1:30am Monday, April 9. Wrestlemania had ended two hours before I heard my wife’s voice come from the bathroom of our Airbnb. “I think my water broke.”

            Wait … what? My heart speeded up, and my throat became parched. What do you mean, “water broke?” Was it a glass bottle or plastic? Should I get a mop?

            The paramedics were very cool guys (one was from Silver Spring) who drove us a little farther out to what they said was the best baby hospital in New Orleans.

            I will spare you all the details in the hospital over the next 12 hours, the scariest and most stressful of my life. I have no recollection of time at that point. Some of the statements I heard were:

            The baby is only 33 weeks, and the lungs will not be developed …

            We need to prolong the labor until the baby reaches 34 weeks …

            Your wife is dilating fast so we need to try to prolong the labor for 24 hours to get her another dose of antibiotics and steroids to develop the lungs …

            She’s dilated much more …

            The baby is a breech …

            We need to do an emergency C-section.

            My wife, who is much stronger than I am, was ready. I faked it. Not long ago I was cheering on The Undertaker and Triple H at the Superdome. Now I was sitting next to my wife as she is being operated on.

            At 2:06pm, I heard the sweetest cry I ever heard.           “Congratulations,” said a nurse, “you’re the parents of a beautiful baby girl.”

            And there she was, our sweet baby, who cried and cried and cried.

            Wait? I thought the lungs ­shouldn’t be developed. But here she was, crying on her own with fully developed lungs. She never needed supplemental oxygen.

            The next couple weeks in the NICU had their share of ups and downs. Being 1,200 miles from home didn’t help.

            Soon after the baby was born, my parents arrived in New Orleans. For the next five days, I slept at my wife’s side. When she was discharged at week’s end, I had given no thought to where we would stay.

            Dad, as he always has, sensed my stress. Before he flew back to Baltimore, he extended his hotel stay.

            “It’s now yours,” he said. “I need my daughter-in-law comfortable and you well rested for your family.”

            After many weeks, I am finally home with my lovely wife and daughter. I am now a proud member of the Dad club. I’m a novice and, in full disclosure, not sure what I am doing. But hey, I’m changing diapers and giving her baths. I got this!

            Though I did not know it at the time, through my father’s influence I have been getting trained my whole life on the mentality that makes a great dad. Selflessness, dedication and humility are but some of the qualities. I know I have a long but exciting road ahead of me, but he has given me an encyclopedia of memories.

            Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I’m getting you more than an Amazon gift card this year.

 

Authors Note: Thank you to the wonderful staff of Touro Hospital and the Best Western St. Charles Inn in New Orleans, Louisiana. We promise to bring Liliana back to her hometown.