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Creature Feature

’Tis the season for owls

     Santa’s not the only flyer of the December night skies. ‘Tis also the season for owls.      Most owls are hard to see, so we usually only hear them. But once the leaves fall, it’s a little easier to catch a glimpse of these secretive night hunters. 

Tundra swans return

     “The first tundra swans of the season have arrived on Fairhaven pond.” Jimbo Degonia‎ posted the news on Bay Weekly’s Facebook page Tuesday, November 21, documenting their arrival with this photo. That’s early for birds usually seen after the first of December.      A week later I saw a pod of three of the snow-white birds on the same pond, and more since.

Neither goose nor hurricane can stop this migrator

     This spring, a pair of ospreys returned to a webcam nesting platform in Baltimore’s Masonville Cove.      The ospreys, named Frederick and Harriet by osprey cam followers, are determined birds. In 2016, a pair of Canada geese took over their nest. Frederick and Harriet built a nest at another platform and laid eggs, but cold, wet May weather caused them to abandon it.

Saw-whet owls passing through on their annual southern migration

      Hearing something going bump in the night? Perhaps it’s a northern saw-whet owl passing through Chesapeake Country on its annual flight south for winter.       Volunteers with Project Owlnet hope that’s the case this week as they set out mist nets at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater to try to catch the little raptors.

Calvert Marine Museum scientist helps solve the mystery of the ­plesiosaur’s teeth

       Saur, from the Greek, tells you it’s some kind of lizard, likely a dinosaur, as that’s this suffix’s common use. There’s little else familiar about this Plesiosaur — except its connection to Calvert Marine Museum.      First, the introduction: Plesiosaurs are stout-bodied, long-necked lizards, from the age of dinosaurs that propelled themselves through their oceanic environment using four flippers.

Orb-weavers put on early fall displays

     The chill in the air has sent nature’s insect and arachnid world scurrying to get in those last meals. Suddenly we start seeing long-legged and acrobatic guests in our gardens and window frames.      Many of Bay Weekly’s Facebook followers sent us their favorite photos of garden spiders. Mainly of the orb-weaver variety, these garden and door-stoop visitors are striking in their white, yellow, black and orange stripes and spots. 

One big, happy fungi family

     As summer ends, toadstools seem to appear from nowhere.

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.

With monarch butterfly numbers on the wane, they need our help

     Jane Bishop of Dick and Jane’s Produce Stand in Harwood has been filling empty stomachs for decades. For one set of mouths, however, she goes the extra mile.      Bishop gathers milkweed leaves to hand-feed tiny monarch caterpillars, checking the undersides for new caterpillars.      The caterpillars she finds, she raises in a tent at the farm stand and tags them before releasing the developed monarchs for migration.

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?      Photos followed by a few hours of research suggested that the large bee with an all-black abdomen absent hair was the Eastern carpenter bee, ­Xylocopa virginica.