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Creature Feature

Its bite can kill a horse

Beware the brown recluse.         The spiky-legged brown recluse grows as long as three-eighths of an inch. A violin shape marks its back. Its bite is devastating. I know because I’ve seen it firsthand.     A big, warm-blood, show horse on my Southern Anne Arundel County farm was bitten on the leg by a brown recluse. After more than two months of treatment, she had to be put down.

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.”
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.     Watch Blackwater Refuge’s eagle cam. The bald eagle lays its eggs in January: www.friendsofblackwater.org/ camcentral.html.

Tundra swans return to Chesapeake Country

“The first tundra swans of the season have arrived in Columbia Cove, Shady Side.” Randy Kiser‎ posted the news on Bay Weekly’s Facebook page on Thursday, Dec. 13, documenting their arrival with this photo.     Two mornings later I saw the snow-white birds at Fairhaven marsh pond, three on Saturday, then eight on Sunday.

Hibernation is convenient when you live in a shell

Wiggling antennae poke out from under coiled shell of the second-most prolific species on earth, the gastropodal snail. On land and in oceans and freshwater, 43,000 snail species live. North America has 500 land species, which brings them, usually stealthily, to all our gardens.     But you won’t see them this time of year, for many snails hibernate from October until April. Hibernation is convenient for snails as they carry their beds on their backs. In dry areas, snails can hibernate for years.

Swine seek your Jack-o-lanterns

Maizie, Pumpkin and Scarlet love pumpkins. They devour them like pigs because, well, they are pigs. Now they want your leftover ­Halloween Jack-o-lanterns.

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.

What to do when skunks move into the neighborhood

We’re a little worried about our new neighbors. They’re a well-dressed couple, but their reputation precedes them — malodorously.     Skunks are more often smelled than seen. Now that we’re seeing them, can smelling them be far behind?

Keep him in the lab and out of my kitchen!

Call him Drosophila melanogaster in the lab, where a century ago the fast-breeding creature helped scientists understand chromosomes and set out mapping genes.     At home he’s the common fruit fly, aka the vinegar fly.

Find Lothian-grown pumpkins from around the world at Riva Farmers Market

Your search for the perfect pumpkin may end at the Anne Arundel County Farmers Market, where Ray and Sonja Wood of Lothian, with grandson Brandon Myers, offer a bumper crop of heritage pumpkins from around the world.     Some are huge: not pumpkin-catapulting huge, but pumpkin-carving-contest-worthy. As Jack-o’-lanterns or on uncarved display, they’re great.     Decoration was the couple’s original pumpkin plan.