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Creature Feature

Blue herons return for Valentine’s Day

The great blue heron’s return to Chesapeake Country and consequent mating occurs mid-February, bestowing these majestic birds the nickname, lovebirds.     “Their local nickname, along with love birds, is Johnny Crane,” said Mike Callahan, president of Southern Maryland Audubon Society.

Love finds its match with Critter Cupids

This Valentine’s Day, woo your love with chocolate, flowers and a critter cupid. That’s the advice of the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C., whose animals are lending their images to a loveable fundraising campaign.     Playing cupid this year are cuddling pandas, kissing seals, a Sumatran tiger, a red panda and a whole family of otters. Choose your Critter Cupid for $10 at

Chimps Go for Ravens, 49ers eat crow

The wise guys and gals of the world of sports gave Super Bowl XLVII to the San Francisco 49ers. The chimpanzee tribe of the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, however, got it right.     On Purple Friday, February 1, the zoo’s 11 chimps emerged from their night quarters into a dayroom decked out with footballs and two team banners: a red one for the 49ers and a purple one for the Ravens.     Zookeepers had set the stage for prognostication.

February 2 is too important a day to sleep through

February 2 is halfway through winter, so what better time to gather with friends and neighbors to eat good food, drink heartily and look ahead to the coming spring?     The Pennsylvania Dutch descendants of German immigrants did just that. Among the first celebrants of Groundhog Day, they partied hardy in Punxsutawney, Penn., as far back as 1887.

Student-artists show why turtles and balloons make a bad couple

When the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response team found Kermit washed ashore, the small green sea turtle was wasting away. X-rays showed balloons and plastic bags blocking Kermit’s throat.     Kermit and many turtles like him inspired the students at First Colonial High School in Virginia Beach to use the trash to get people talking. The student-artists created turtles stuffed with the balloons collected on the beach to demonstrate what turtles swallow.

Rufous hummingbird thrives in winter

My procrastination finally paid off. Long after the summer visitors to my hummingbird feeder had departed for their winter home, my feeder hung like a lone beacon in the leafless maple tree. I’ll get around to it, I kept telling myself.     While I was lazily watching out my window a flash of tan caught my eye. Then again. What was it? I knew it was some kind of hummingbird, but why was it here this time of the year?

Fortunately, its roar is worse than its bite

Few things look scarier than a gelatinous mass with tentacles twisting in the Bay.     Chesapeake swimmers endure sea nettle stings in summer. But few have been stung by a lion’s mane jelly, the world’s largest known jellyfish species. Lucky for us, these jellyfish are seasonal inhabitants of the Bay from November to March.

These long-distance travelers migrate from the Arctic for our mild winters

The swans have landed.         In November, tundra swans succeed osprey as Chesapeake Country’s big new birds.     The snow-white swans average four feet in length and weigh between 13 to 20 pounds.

Anne Arundel SPCA adoption sets a record

Forget fighting mobs at the mall for Black Friday deals.     The SCPA of Anne Arundel County offered the best deal around.     Any black animal — even with a speck of black — went up for adoption for free or at reduced rates.     Seventy cats and 23 dogs qualified for the Black Friday sale.     Last year, 18 animals were adopted. The year before, 23.

From wild to Broad Breasted White

The turkey carved for your Thanksgiving dinner is likely a Broad Breasted White, a hybrid developed to live up to its name.     Heritage breeds like the Black Spanish and Urban Red Ed Cramer raises at Fisher Farm in La Plata may be tastier, but they are more costly to raise, grow slower and produce less meat than the Broad Breasted White. You’ll pay roughly twice the price of a small-farm, pasture-raised, Broad Breasted White to enjoy one of those birds.