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Creature Feature

Oyster babies abound

Chesapeake Bay oysters were amorous last summer, and the seed they sent forth willy-nilly into the water has set into abundant spat.     Natural Resources researches examining the intimate lives of 53 key oyster bars last fall found spat — or oyster babies — about five times higher than the 25-year median. Instead of 16, spat count per bushel was nearly 80, the overall highest since 1997.

The Chesapeake Bay Rockfish

The striped bass, known around the Tidewater as the rockfish, is one of the most popular of all Eastern, saltwater, game fish. Found along the Atlantic Coast from Nova Scotia to Florida, rockfish have a lifespan of up to 30 years and have been know to exceed of 100 pounds. The current Maryland rod-and-reel record is 67 pounds and eight ounces.

If it’s a sunny day, a second winter is on the way

On February 2, Punxsutawney Phil saw his/no shadow, answering the question of whether our weather will be wintry. Yes, for about six more weeks. But he begged the real question: Why let a groundhog decide? European folklore tells of sacred animals like bears, badgers and hedgehogs predicting the weather. Arriving in North America in the 19th century, Germans brought this tradition with them, giving the job to the animal that most resembled those back home: the groundhog.

Coyote Call

Fifty feet away, just where open land tumbled into kudzu, a large, shaggy, mottled, gray canine was devouring the carcass of some small animal. Certainly not a fox, which are the size of cats or lapdogs. Nor a wolf. Wolves are not resident in Maryland, according to Harry Spiker, Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ man on big furbearing mammals. Likely it was a coyote. In Fairhaven.

He’s Got His Mother’s Nose

He doesn’t have a name yet, but the National Zoo’s baby giant anteater already has a photo blog and a ghostwriter. Keeper Marie Magnuson has been posting status updates and photos of the long-nosed baby boy since his birth in December. Magnuson had close contact with the baby in the early days, because mother Maripi wasn’t producing enough milk to keep the little guy gaining weight. How do you surrogate nurse an anteater?

Foreign Fowl Range Free in Calvert County

Backyard birds like the familiar cardinals, bluejays, wrens and woodpeckers are an everyday sight in Chesapeake Country. But guinea fowl waddling through neighborhoods? Or a four-foot emu trekking across fields?  Not so everyday.  A flock of free-range guinea hens enjoyed a pastoral New Year’s weekend wandering through a Huntingtown neighborhood, foraging for insects and seeds across winter-dormant lawns. 

The Latest Addition to the National Zoo Has a Nose for Trouble

Born on the seventh of December, the latest addition to the National Zoo has already caused a fuss among the zookeepers. The giant anteater pup was found lying outside his mother’s cage with a dangerously low body temperature. The month-old cub was rushed to the vet, then given the all-clear to go back to his mom. “We’re not sure what happened,” says animal keeper Leigh Pitsko. “But he pulled through like a trooper.”

A soda can alligator takes top honors at the Maryland Department of the Environment’s Rethink Recycling contest

Josh Tichinel’s alligator may not be able to swim the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. But the soda-can reptile is a reminder that we can all help save the Bay through creative repurposing. The Northern Garrett High School student won the Maryland Department of the Environment’s Rethink Recycling art contest.

Sign up for Bird School and you’ll think like a bird

As cold weather sets in and you fill your bird feeders, you’ll find hours of entertainment — and bafflement — in their behavior. What are they up to with all the strutting, head-bobbing, feather-fluffing and wing flapping? Get the answers from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, now enrolling backyard birders in the online bird-behavior course Investigating Behavior: Courtship and Rivalry in Birds. Over five weeks, you’ll learn how to observe and interpret bird behavior in terms of reproduction and survival.

The National Aquarium is looking for a manatee with a bad sense of direction

If there is a manatee swimming in the Middle Branch of the Upper Patapsco, it must be cold. The sub-tropical marine mammal was reported in mid-October. Since then, nothing — despite a plea to boaters for updates. “With this one we haven’t been able to confirm an actual sighting ourselves with photographic evidence,” says Baltimore National Aquarium’s media/public relations director Jen Bloomer.