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Features (Creature Feature)

Many hands help monarchs migrate thru Chesapeake Country

       By the time fall arrives this month, thousands of Anne Arundel County school students will be studying and rearing monarch butterflies, Danaus plexippus, in their classrooms. Over the next few weeks, regional parks and nature centers have planned monarch events for young and old. All this monarch hoopla coincides with one of nature’s wonders: the eastern monarch population’s migration to Mexico.
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Black-backed gull is largest of its kind … and perhaps the meanest, too

     The great black-backed gull, the largest of its kind in the world, lives and nests along Chesapeake Bay. With a five-and-a-half-foot wingspan, these birds are much larger than the more common ring-billed gull or herring gull. These strong flyers are also very aggressive toward other birds.
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       Fish are falling from the sky in Utah. No, we’re not talking about an osprey dropping an occasional croaker en route to the nest, like we see on Chesapeake Bay. What’s happening in Utah is tens of thousands of fish dropping from airplanes as wildlife workers stock remote lakes with tiny trout and Arctic grayling. 
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See for yourself at the Walters Art Museum

      From John Waters to HonFest to the Visionary Arts Museum, our biggest city has its cherished weirdness. The stately Walters Art Museum, founded by a scion of industry, is better known for very fine art — masterpieces from the ancient Mediterranean, Africa, East Asia, Middle East and the Americas — than funny art.
       Make that was better known.
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Nine-and-a half-incher sets an unofficial record

         The minimum keepable size for Atlantic blue crabs is five to five and one-quarter inches, depending on the season. Crabs that size are ranked as smalls. Mediums range up to six inches, large six and a half and jumbo up to seven. Crabs seven inches and up are ranked as behemoths, also called heavyweights or whales. 

         So what do you call a blue crab measuring nine and one half inches tip to tip?

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Now I know how this bird got its name

As the tide was falling in Boca Ciega Bay in Florida, I watched a bird called the American oystercatcher walk over the top of an oyster bar.  Covered by only an inch or two of water, the oysters were open and actively feeding. So were the oystercatchers, deftly stabbing their knife-like bills into an oyster, cutting its closing muscle and extracting the meat. When the tide was lower and the oysters closed, the birds loudly flew away.

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These aerial acrobats have the appetites of wolves

The hot summer months bring out hordes of mosquitoes and other flying, biting insects. One of the nemesis of the winged bugs is the dragonfly. Dragonflies are the wolves of the air. They are able to eat their own body weight in mosquitoes in an hour. Thus, a dragonfly can consume several hundred biting insects a day. 

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The red fox lives by cunning, guile and cover of night
 

Vulpes volpes, the subject of fairy tales and folklore, are in real life blamed for raiding chicken coops, killing pets and keeping people up at night with their cries. Red foxes have about three octaves of vocalization, and many of their sounds are unpleasant, even scary.  
    They are hunted with dogs and horses, poisoned and trapped for their skins. Yet still they remain very common.
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Roseate spoonbill visits North Beach

    This month, North Beach hosted an unexpected guest. Roseate spoonbills are usually residents of Florida and other warm, wet places in North and South America. This usually ­doesn’t include North Beach, where reader Jan Smith Bennett photographed one.
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