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Creature Feature

African cat making its way north

      We’ll call this Rocky’s excellent adventure.       An exotic serval cat that disappeared from Kitty Hawk, N.C., in October was spotted last week in Virginia Beach, 85 miles north, after probably existing for six months on shorebirds and rodents.

Take a look at two of our neighbor snakes 

As the ground warms, hibernating animals start waking up. This past weekend, northern watersnakes and eastern garter snakes were rousing. I found several as I walked through a park in Baltimore County. Both are very common throughout Maryland and are non-venomous.

In Europe, invasion of the blue crab

       Breathless news accounts make it sound like something out of Jaws.          “Only a big octopus could win a fight with a blue crab’s deadly pincers,” read an account in The Guardian last week.          The typically reserved British paper is writing not of some fearsome sea creatures but of the crustacean that provides Chesapeake Country tasty lumps of our identity.

Early flowers and early birds love this color

      The spring bird migration has started. Soon flocks of warblers will be looking for the emerging bugs. Because it is spring, their feathers will show breeding hues. The hue that seems the most startling and catches my attention is bright yellow.

Should snappers be saved?

      The common snapping turtle is not so attractive or charming as its terrapin cousin, but it has its own fan base. The nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity has petitioned Maryland Department of Natural Resources to end commercial collection of these wild freshwater turtles.

Like baseball rivals, these birds are regular springtime competitors

     Most Chesapeake eagles winter along the Bay and its tributaries. Osprey, on the other hand, spend the winter in South America. In the middle of March, osprey start returning to our area only to find that many of their roosting, fishing and nesting spots have been taken over by eagles. Osprey are able to reclaim territory because they are more agile in the air than eagles. They chase and hound eagles away from nesting areas. 

This time of year, they’re on the move

     In deciduous forest areas throughout the eastern U.S., an early spring rain gets eastern box turtles on the move as males start looking for females.      How do reptiles mate when they’re encased in hinged shells that can close completely and tightly? Mating works because in males the hinged bottom part of the shell, the plastron, is slightly concave. 

These flying cigars eat their weight in pesky bugs each day

     You hear them before you see them, as if they’re part of summer’s soundtrack. Chimney swifts, resembling flying cigars, chitter as they swoop and swerve overhead. Joan Cwi, past president of the Baltimore Bird Club, has studied these strange little birds for 20-plus years.        Share her inside knowledge in her photo- and video-illustrated talk, The Ordinary, Extraordinary Chimney Swift, Anne Arundel Bird Club’s March 20 program at Quiet Waters Park.  
This is the time to see their courtship dance
      Several years ago I was standing quietly on a path in an open mature woods. About 20 yards ahead of me a child was kicking leaves. Suddenly a large brownish bird erupted, flew at me and landed in leaves right next to me

Giant Atlantic sturgeon spotting hopeful signs

      A sturgeon is not a pretty fish. It’s long and bony with a sharp, upturned snout and whiskers. A prehistoric fish, they have been around for more than 100 million years. Once, Atlantic sturgeon were common in Chesapeake Bay and its rivers, the biggest fish that swam here in modern times.