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Features (Creature Feature)

10 ways our pets enrich our lives

Our animal companions make us healthier, happier and saner.     
    Animal lovers have always held that truth to be self-evident. Now, research is backing up that heart-felt conclusion. Benefits range from reducing allergies, blood pressure, stress and loneliness … to increasing self-esteem and activity … to drawing other people to us.
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Where to turn for help and to help

Anne Arundel County Animal Control Shelter
County animal management service handles nuisance animal issues, sponsors a Thursday rabies shot clinic, sells animal licenses and shelters found and abandoned animals temporarily before placement or euthanasia: 411 Maxwell Frye Rd., Millersville: 410-222-8900; aacounty.org/animalcontrol

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Blooms are bigger, badder

The Bay is being overrun by algae. Billions and billions of the tiny creatures are making life harder on the rest of the ecosystem. The three most common algae in the Bay have been blooming more frequently over the last 20 years, according to researchers at University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.
    Mahogany tide, formally known as Prorocentrum minimum, doubled its average number of annual blooms between 1991 and 2008.
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Run the Freedom Hill People Steeplechase, Kids Canter or Toddler Trot

Horses give humans a lift at Freedom Hill Horse Rescue in Calvert County.
    In species pairings called Equine Assisted Learning, people learn leadership, goal-setting and teamwork.
    In Equine-Based Education, people learn about horses, their proper care and treatment, natural horsemanship and the basics of horseback riding.
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Orphaned Wildlife Rescue Center plays Santa to injured critters but needs your help

Dozens of raptors were among the thousands of animals rescued this year by the Orphaned Wildlife Rescue Center in Lusby.
    One stands out for her size and the relationship she formed with her rescuers.
    Big Bird, as she was called, was rescued from a farm in southern Maryland. A nesting mother with three babies and a mate in a nearby tree, she had a broken left wing. What caused her injuries was never learned.
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How to get to know our ­regulars and seasonal visitors

At the tip of Thomas Point in Annapolis on a windy November morning, Linda Davis sees buffleheads, horned grebes and a loon diving in the Bay’s chop.
    “I am just learning my birds,” says Davis, of Shady Side. “I had surgery last winter, so I put up feeders outside the window where I sat and saw all these birds I didn’t even know existed. Then I began photographing birds, and now it’s all I want to do.”
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Resources abound online and in nature to help you sharpen your birding skills. Here’s a short list, organized by key questions

Who?
    Find tips on birding basics plus how to identify birds by song and plumage at All About Birds: www.allaboutbirds.org.
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Maryland bears and hunters coexist

Maryland is a pretty wild place, and getting wilder all the time. Foxes are joining deer, groundhogs, opossums, raccoons and squirrels as regular neighborhood families; skunks and coyotes are occasional visitors.
    Lest black bears rejoin the list of wildlife returning to their original statewide range, some 1,100 hunters stalked them, killing 69, in Allegany and Garrett counties from October 20 to 23.
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Species at risk in Maryland are a roll call of birds we know and love

Make room for more.    
    The Vanished Birds of North America, now on exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., features passenger pigeons, Carolina parakeets and heath hens.
    But two new reports tell us that list may soon be much longer.
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Cinema worth barking about