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Creature Feature

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.

Courtship, propagation and babies amid the flora and fauna

      The dogwood and redbud trees are now in their full green-leaf splendor, and another school year will be soon coming to a close. In your neighborhood the smell of charcoal permeates the evening air and the songbirds are singing. Spring is transferring into summer. From marsh to forest, Chesapeake Country invites you to experience a new season.
Election Day Comes Early Vote June 26 … or June 14-21       Maryland’s Primary Election day is June 26, with polls open statewide from 7am to 8pm.      Can’t wait that long?
A living fossil spawns again
       Horseshoe crabs are more closely related to scorpions than to our blue crab. They are living fossils virtually unchanged over 250 million years. They were on earth before the dinosaurs.

This nocturnal neighbor hides in plain sight in our own back yards

     Squirrels are acrobats. Maryland’s common eastern gray squirrels run utility-line tightropes, scamper up giant trees and leap branch to branch, heedless of the void of space beneath them.       But gliding through the air with the greatest of ease is beyond them. The master of that feat is the southern flying squirrel. That squirrel, too, lives among us, but not so flagrantly as the gray squirrel, whose territory is our territory and whose sustenance is our bird food.

High schoolers take on English ivy

       Ivy-covered homes may look charming, but the more English ivy grows, the more malignant it becomes. Brought over by early European colonists looking to add a bit of home to their new landscape, English ivy is now one of the most devastating invasive species in the United States. The leafy vine climbs tress and chokes whole forests.
Their prayerful attitude is deceptive, for all three species are cannibals
      Three species of praying mantis live in Maryland: the Chinese, the European and the Carolina. As you can tell by the names, two are introduced species and one is native. All have a similar life cycle but differ a little in their preferred habitats.

Don’t let your ear fool you

      Several North American birds imitate sounds that they hear around them. These mimics usually copy other birds, like the blue jay that commonly makes the call of a red-tailed hawk. As I follow birdcalls to take a photograph, I have to admit that I have been fooled more than once by a well-tuned blue jay. 
These little birds are high-performance machines
      Hummingbirds are here, and by mid-May the migration should be complete. Arriving before many high-nectar flowers are blooming, they eat lots of small flying insects. They also will drink the tree sap from the holes made by sapsuckers.
Named for their nesting habits, if they haven’t got an old tree, a ­nesting box will do
      Now is the time to start looking in trees for ducks. In early spring, wood ducks seek nesting spots. Unlike most other ducks, they look for tree cavities to lay a dozen or so eggs. It is fun to find a duck perched in a tree, as they look so out of place.         In the early 1900s, wood ducks were in a decline. They were heavily hunted, and logging of hardwood along waterways reduced nesting areas. In 1912, built nesting boxes were introduced, with an immediate increase in successful nesting.