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Creature Feature

This year, the winged swimmers are protected

One sunny afternoon with no breeze and the air hot and sticky, fishing was becoming a drag. We were ready to pack it in when the line zinged. With a leap of excitement, I grabbed the reel and began the labor of dragging the catch in. This would be no easy feat as the line doubled over.     We were both tired when I lifted up my prize: a tiny baby cownose ray.

Firefighters save Lassie look-alike Siri

Anne Arundel County Firefighter Brian Doyle and his team were out on the water training when they got the call. A dog trapped down a hole near Edgewater needed rescuing.     His Special Operations Confined Space Rescue Team jumped into action, splitting up so that some could get their special rescue rig from the Jones Station firehouse while the rest headed to the scene.

He’s keeping the species alive

It’s a dark and stormy night, the moon is shaded by clouds. The only light streams from our headlamps and the revolving beam of a nearby lighthouse. The rain is pelting sideways, and the water is above our ankles. Tired and cold but hopeful, our trio trudges down a Calvert County beach at 3am, scanning the turbulent water for a prehistoric monster.

Soon these pullets will be laying eggs

Right about now spring chickens are no longer the cute, fuzzy bundles they were just five weeks ago. Just like human children, they have begun maturing — at first by bits. Now they look like mini adult chickens.     So it’s a good thing most chick purchases are not for cuddly cuteness but for modern homesteading.

Mack the Lab is Maryland’s chief apiary sniffer

Cybil Preston and her bee dog Mack the Lab are official heroes in the state of Maryland.     Like all heroes and superheroes, Mack rose from a troubled past. He was a puppy in a dissolving family where three small children took up all the time the mother had to give. Preston came to the rescue, sensing Mack had the brains to pick up new skills. He did.

Bats have a colony of mothers

Who knew that bats make excellent mothers? You and I do, thanks to Maryland Department of Natural Resources bat biologist Dana Limpert, who speaks highly of the brown bat.     “They take excellent care of their young. If a baby falls out of the roost or is injured, the mother will recognize its calls and rescue it.”

Look up; they’re all around you

Drifting high across most landscapes this time of year, sometimes to altitudes of 16,000 feet or more, are airborne travelers that few people notice, though the fliers may number in the thousands.     They are spiders seeking new ­territories.     These ballooning or sailing spiders are generally the smaller of the many spider varieties and are borne aloft by winds on gossamer filaments, usually three, spun by the spider, forming a pyramid canopy that can carry them for miles, sometimes thousands of miles.

Fish in the Classroom goes to college

Whoever heard of taking fish back to the water?     Trout Unlimited did, and that’s why my Anne Arundel Community College environmental studies class of 25 students is carrying buckets of trout to the Little Paxtuxent River near Savage Mill.

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.

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.