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Creature Feature

A rare breed proves it’s still Best in Show

Whiskey was the first wire fox terrier to enter our home. He chased children and adults, pilfered food from the table and ripped the shingles off a hand-built doghouse — even after application of sour apple anti-chew spray. He could open coffee cans and drag leaded food dishes up flights of stairs. This miscreant pup was a terror on four legs.     He barked, he dug and he obeyed only when convenient.     After Whiskey, we couldn’t imagine owning another breed.

Help scientists track these invasive fish

What’s big, blue and whiskered and doesn’t belong in the Chesapeake?     If you guessed blue catfish, you’re right.     Introduced in the 1970s to Virginia rivers for sport fishing, blue catfish have been slowly but steadily making their way up Chesapeake Bay. The resilient freshwater fish have adapted to the southern Bay’s salty waters and have made their way into Maryland’s Nanticoke, Patuxent, Choptank, Sassafras and Susquehanna rivers.

Grab your binoculars and start spotting

Cardinals devouring holly berries; nuthatches scooting down sweet gums; tundra swans hooting on the Bay. Get ready to count them all during the 17th annual Great Backyard Bird Count, February 14 through 17.     Citizen scientists all over the world count birds for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in conjunction with the National Audubon Society and Bird Studies Canada. Developed over the four-day period is an annual snapshot of bird population trends.

Hunger and adventure bring seals to our warm waters

Seals aren’t an everyday sighting in Chesapeake Country. So if you happen to spot one lounging on a regional beach, you’ve reason to be impressed.     If you haven’t seen one yet, keep looking, the experts say.     “Seals are natural visitors,” reports Jennifer Dittmar, manager of animal rescue at the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

Calvert Marine Museum adds ­invader to teach about ­climate change

The lionfish invasion of Caribbean and southeastern U.S. is coming our way. When Calvert Marine Museum reopens this spring, a lionfish aquarium will show us a 360-degree view of the spiny, brightly colored invader.     With no natural predators in our part of the world, lionfish are eating up the environs. They consume just about every marine creature in range — more than 70 different types of fish, invertebrates and mollusks — plus the coral reefs supporting tropical marine life.

Even fur coats can’t keep pets warm

Baby, it’s cold outside. These record low temperatures are hard on all of us, people and pets. Puppies, kittens and shorthaired animals are especially vulnerable in cold weather.     Keep your pets inside except for quick bathroom breaks. Both dogs and cats can get frostbite. Ears, tails and footpads are most susceptible.

The Rufous Hummingbird makes another unseasonable appearance

Rufous hummingbirds travel great distances. The red-tinged birds’ migration takes them from their wintering grounds in Mexico and the southern United States to their breeding grounds in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, western Canada and southern Alaska.     They breed farther north than any other hummingbird.

Reindeer are perfectly suited to pull Santa’s sleigh

On Dasher, on Dancer, on Prancer and Vixen, on Comet and Cupid, on Donner and Blixen.     Why are reindeer the right choice for Santa to lead his sleigh on his annual voyage?     Maneuvering through the middle of the night with a load of precious cargo for millions of girls and boys leaves no margin for error.

Snowy Owls popping up all over

Is it a bird? A plane? A creature flown out of Harry Potter? Or a white paper bag frozen in a field?     This year, it may be a snowy owl.     The white bird with bright, yellow eyes, huge talons and a five-foot wingspan is usually a rare sight in Chesapeake Country. So rare that the first-ever snowy owl sighting and photo was recorded in Calvert County this week.     The big bird was perched on a Ford tractor in Prince Frederick.

No need to put out the welcome mat

The mouse stood high in ancient Greece, where the god Apollo took the creature as one of his namesakes, Apollo Smintheus. White mice were kept under the altars in temples to that incarnation.     Most of us can better relate to the Indo-Aryan Sanskrit tradition wherein musuka means thief or robber.     Sanskrit may not be familiar to you, but the burglary antics of the common house mouse probably are, especially this time of year.