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Creature Feature

Our flowering gardens are butterfly way-stations

     The butterflies nectaring around your garden took wing from the caterpillars nibbling there a few weeks back.     Fewer black swallowtails are flashing their wings in my garden. Many summers, all the leaves are eaten down to the stalk by the hungry white, black and yellow-stripped caterpillars that pupate black swallowtails. This summer, I’ve seen only one such caterpillar.     But I have hopes for other caterpillars, other butterflies.

Summer’s darlings, winter’s pests

Three seasons of the year bugs are pesky. But summer has fun bugs as well as pests.     I have a strong dislike of bugs, especially stinkbugs, verging on fear. Those little stinkers freak me out with their buzzing around hitting anything in their path. They and their evil eight-legged or beetle-y friends rule my house, and many other peoples’ too, when they come in from the cold.

Encounters with wild neighbors

The creatures of Chesapeake Country are out in force. Since the last full moon on June 13, critters of every make and model have been hopping, waddling, crawling, slithering, walking, meandering and flying out of cover and into view.     Since that moon, treetops flash with male fireflies signaling their mates. Closer to ground, females flash in their own code. Strange flying things come nearer still.

Don’t count your ducklings before they’re hatched

Over Memorial Day weekend, the egg appeared on a seat in my cockpit.     Clearly a boating friend was playing a practical joke on me. He must have come across a greyish-green egg as he was making breakfast and decided the obvious thing to do was leave it on the boat where my daughter and I make our home.     Not to be bested, I imagined a whirlwind of revenge pranks.

Find best friends for bargain prices at Anne Arundel County SPCA

With small sighs of relief, volunteers and workers celebrated a bit more room in the inn.     Filled to the brim with more than 50 adoptable dogs and 150 adoptable cats, the Anne Arundel County SPCA held two adoption events to make room for more needy animals.     The shelter houses, cares for and feeds up to 4,000 animals a year while seeking to find them homes.

June 13’s full moon brings the living dinosaurs to a beach near you

The Atlantic Flyway bird migration route passes over Chesapeake Bay. In the months of May and June, the full moon brings bright light to the sandy shores of the Bay, enticing horseshoe crabs to come and lay their eggs. These eggs mean new generations in more ways than one. Some develop into new crabs; migrating shore birds drop into the café to devour many others.     At dawn during May’s full moon, horseshoe crabs made shallow lumps in the surf at Sandy Point Park.
Life is determined and abundant. Keep your eyes open and you, too, may spot representatives of the latest generation of Chesapeake waterfowl, as these Chesapeake neighbors did.


At 8am late May, here swims a honker out of a finger of my creek. Closely following is a silent one. Not far behind are one, two … 36 little ones, half-grown already. But they won’t enter the larger creek, instead milling around as the steadily honking Canada steadily leads his silent follower out to the river and disappears.  

Calvert Marine Museum chips away at 58 million years

Persistence pays off. That’s the case with retired farmer Bernard Kuehn of Accokeek.     After 30-plus years combing the stream bed running through his farmland for fossilized sharks’ teeth, Kuehn hit the jackpot this month.     He discovered the soft-shell turtle fossil that lived over 58 million years ago in the Paleocene epoch.

Help stomp out Emerald Ash Borers and Hemlock Wooly Adelgids

You don’t want to know the hemlock wooly adelgid. The invader — no bigger than a period — is terrorizing towering trees, both hemlock and spruce.     These pests threaten to wipe out eastern hemlock forests, a loss that could be as dreadful as the loss of American chestnuts. The bug is loose in half the evergreen’s geographic range, 11 eastern states from Georgia to Massachusetts.

Cats (and dogs) in black (and white)

“It’s kitten season.” So writes kitten foster mother Cathryn Freeburger of Prince Frederick. “I have a houseful, as every foster does, and every rescue group is overwhelmed with calls.”     Filling her house is a family born the morning after Mama was turned in at a Baltimore County shelter. Mama Zaura is getting friendlier every day; only a year old herself but a good mother. At the milk bar are Zebulon, the only boy, and Zanna, tucked under mama’s chin; plus Zoe (white feet) and Zafira.