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Creature Feature

A sweet potato the size of a turkey

This sweet potato could be the vegetarian answer to the Thanksgiving turkey.     It looks the part, though Birgit Sharp — who grew the lookalike at American Chestnut Land Trust’s Double Oak Farm in Prince Frederick — calls it The Swan.     At 25 pounds, nine and one-quarter ounces, it’s big enough to do the job.

Canada geese are here, ducks arriving, swans not far behind

Back when people were fewer in the Chesapeake watershed, skies used to blacken with waterfowl.     You can get a glimpse of how abundant waterfowl can be, starting with Canada geese.     Big Vs of Canadas are as common as school buses. You hear them coming by their honking.

Know where your oyster comes from — and howOysters in Season

Oysters are Maryland’s catch of the season. Oystermen and women are tonging, diving and dredging for Crassostrea virginica in a season that runs October 1 through March 31.     Last year saw 393,588 bushels harvested with a dockside value of $17.3 million. “The second highest total in at least 15 years due to healthy oyster reproduction in 2010 and 2012,” according to DNR Secretary Mark Belton.

Mermaid and Bride of Frankenstein top Homstead’s Critter Crawl

Critters pranced, bolted, held back and had to be dragged, but — despite the name — none crawled at the Critter Crawl at Homestead Garden’s Fall Festival. Twenty-nine costumed dogs were strutting their stuff, as were their owners, often wearing pared costumes. A terrier wore prison stripes for bad behavior, a shepherd sprouted reindeer horns, a pit bull turned into a frog.

Young-of-the year index way up

Fish are jumping on Chesapeake Bay. The thousands too small to take home are good news for the future of rockfishing. In this year’s survey, juvenile striped bass approximately doubled the long-term average, 11.9. This year’s index found an average of 24.2 juvenile fish per sample. That’s the eighth highest on record, according to Maryland Department of Natural Resources, which has conducted and analyzed samples since 1954.

What’s in your suitcase?

Twenty seahorses do not belong in your suitcase. Which led to trouble last month for a Vietnamese traveler arriving at Dulles International Airport.     All 20 live seahorses, found in a routine baggage check by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, were seized. Had the seahorse collector possessed only four, she could have kept them: The baggage limit is four seahorses.

Butterflies release commemorates life

“The butterfly is a symbol of how lives change and are transformed,” said Calvert Hospice’s Linzy Laughhunn as he set free one of 72 monarchs during a celebration of life ceremony at Chesapeake Highland Memorial Gardens in Port Republic.     Chesapeake Highland Memorial Gardens are surrounded by open land where the released monarchs will find milkweed on which to lay their eggs and for nectar as they prepare for their epic migration to Mexico.

Milkweed nurtures monarch caterpillars

Plant milkweed, we’re told, and monarch butterflies will come. It’s true. My milkweed is crawling with caterpillars.     Only one or two of the orange-winged monarchs alighted on this little grove of milkweed when I was watching. I saw no egg-laying or tiny eggs on the undersides of the spearhead-shaped leaves. Only when I noticed the sorry state of the patch did I see caterpillars. Clippers in hand, I had cut a branch when a horned head poked out at me.

Where to turn for help and to help

Anne Arundel County Animal Control Shelter County animal management service handles nuisance animal issues, sponsors a Thursday rabies shot clinic, sells animal licenses and shelters found and abandoned animals temporarily before placement or euthanasia: 411 Maxwell Frye Rd., Millersville: 410-222-8900; Calvert Animal Welfare League

Osprey and eagles are no fine, feathered friends

Reading by the side of Loden’s Pond in Quiet Waters Park, I was distracted by a considerable racket up above. Three osprey, I saw looking up, were dive-bombing an eagle.     This year’s baby osprey are still growing. By mid-September, they must be almost fully mature to make their long trip to the Caribbean and the Amazon, where they’ll spend their first two years. As the juveniles are not yet fully grown, they’re an appealing dinner to omnivorous eagles. To short-circuit that meal, mature osprey attack eagles.