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Features (Creature Feature)

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.
    Freezing temperatures, like our recent dip into the low teens, send these furry rodents scurrying inside to the warmth of our homes and offices.
    If you have mice, you’re not alone. Each winter, mice and other rodents invade an estimated 21 million homes in the U.S. Mice visit between October and February, looking for food, water and shelter from the cold. Mice build their homes in our homes, near food sources, like our pantries and cupboards.
    Prolific and voracious, they eat more than growing teenagers and breed faster than rabbits. They eat up to 20 times per day and breed year-round, starting at about two months old.
    With a gestation of less than three weeks, a litter of eight to 14 pups and an average of five to 10 litters a year, a single female mouse will give birth to about 120 babies each year.
    That’s a lot of mice. Let two in, and many more will follow.
    Like little Houdinis, mice can squeeze through openings as small as a dime. A small crack or gap on the exterior of your home is an open door — and invitation — for mice.
    Prevent mice from gaining access into your home by sealing any openings on the exterior (such as where utility pipes enter) with a silicone caulk. You can also fill gaps and holes inside your home with steel wool.
    Keeping cats as pets helps, too. Since I rescued my two kitties three years ago, I haven’t seen a single mouse inside.
    Mice are cute and cuddly to some folks who may even keep them as pets, but they can transmit a disease called salmonellosis, a bacterial food poisoning that occurs when food is contaminated with infected mice feces.
    That’s just the beginning. Mice can carry as many as 200 human pathogens.
    No wonder Apollo Smintheus was a god of disease.

These intelligent birds have plenty to talk about
     Chickadees are a group of small but vocal birds that have learned to adapt to living around humans. They are highly intelligent and have a considerable vocabulary — among themselves. Even other animals rely on them for danger alerts as their raspy alarm can be heard for a considerable distance.
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Surely they deserve an exclamation point!

     Some butterflies overwinter as fully winged adults. Somehow they manage to find a spot to hide and not freeze or have their wings damaged.
      Two species, the question mark and comma butterflies, both are known to overwinter. They are quite similar to each other in other ways, as well. 
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Flycatchers, maybe hummingbirds
     In winter, birds that are displaced by severe cold in the far north don’t find the Chesapeake Bay area so bad a place. Unusually, one of the common visitors is a flycatcher, the phoebe.
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Is massive sea creature a Chessie ancestor?

       Researchers in Poland recently announced discovery of what’s left of a pliosaur, a fierce predator that patrolled the oceans 150 million years ago, in the Jurassic period.

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Broad-winged hawks come out en masse for migration
     The fall hawk migration is still taking place. Here is a common passerby.
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Whooo is the ghost owl?
       The barn owl has developed a very interesting relationship with humans. They so commonly borrow human constructions that the habit is reflected in their name. As well as barns, they are frequently found in other buildings, including church steeples. The appearance of the pale bird near cemeteries gives them the nickname Ghost Owl.
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Seals come by ocean for a lie on the sand
      In the middle of the winter, tired seals haul out of the ocean, beaching at Ocean City to rest and warm up. Mother harbor seals and pups lay together, or the pups alone while the mother waits offshore.
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A bug well adapted for Halloween 
      Late at night as you turn on a light, a sudden scurry catches your eye. As it disappears into a hiding spot, you are surprised by the speed and the flurry of legs.
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But vultures do have some disgusting habits

      Both black and turkey vultures, also known as buzzards, are common throughout North America, especially around the Chesapeake Bay. Even more are present during the fall migration, when they fly around the updrafts of the mountains and along the coastal shores.

         You see them circling in large groups called kettles. Many spend the winter here, so you also see them on roofs and trees trying to warm up in the sun.

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