view counter

Creature Feature

It’s not all peanuts and mints for the Naval Academy’s Bill the Goat

The Naval Academy’s mascot is a fighting goat. That goat’s name is Bill, after a pet kept by the first president of the Naval Academy Athletic Association. The emblematic mascot is fashioned after the actual animal as embodied over the years by more than 37 goats. The first goat was only a skin, the remainder of a loved ship goat, and worn by naval officers as they danced for the crowd during halftime.

Keep an eye out for this nasty pest

It all started with the best intentions. Kudzu, a plant native to Japan, was imported to the southern United States in the 1800s to enrich soil depleted by tobacco. It then came to Calvert County to prevent erosion, stabilizing the Calvert Cliffs. Wherever it came, the woody vine with distinct three-lobed leaves brought problems.     It’s for good reason that kudzu is known as the vine that ate the South, for it can grow up to a foot a day in temperate climes with mild winters, a category that Maryland falls into.

Those talons are sharp!

As an aide at Battle Creek Cypress Swamp Nature Center in Calvert County for almost nine years, one of my duties was to feed the barred owl. The owl was blind, or nearly so, due to a collision with a car. Each morning I would take a couple of mice out of the freezer and put them on a plastic plate to thaw. Before closing I would take the now-thawed mice out back, enter the walk-in cage and touch the plate to the owl’s chin. The owl gobbled down the mice, whole, of course. I accomplished this simple task hundreds of times.

Citizen scientists join the search for other life forms

With summer comes longing for adventure. Motivated to engage with nature and be a part of something bigger, I signed up to study the parasite Loxo and mud crabs at Smithsonian Environmental Research Center.

This year, the winged swimmers are protected

One sunny afternoon with no breeze and the air hot and sticky, fishing was becoming a drag. We were ready to pack it in when the line zinged. With a leap of excitement, I grabbed the reel and began the labor of dragging the catch in. This would be no easy feat as the line doubled over.     We were both tired when I lifted up my prize: a tiny baby cownose ray.

Firefighters save Lassie look-alike Siri

Anne Arundel County Firefighter Brian Doyle and his team were out on the water training when they got the call. A dog trapped down a hole near Edgewater needed rescuing.     His Special Operations Confined Space Rescue Team jumped into action, splitting up so that some could get their special rescue rig from the Jones Station firehouse while the rest headed to the scene.

He’s keeping the species alive

It’s a dark and stormy night, the moon is shaded by clouds. The only light streams from our headlamps and the revolving beam of a nearby lighthouse. The rain is pelting sideways, and the water is above our ankles. Tired and cold but hopeful, our trio trudges down a Calvert County beach at 3am, scanning the turbulent water for a prehistoric monster.

Soon these pullets will be laying eggs

Right about now spring chickens are no longer the cute, fuzzy bundles they were just five weeks ago. Just like human children, they have begun maturing — at first by bits. Now they look like mini adult chickens.     So it’s a good thing most chick purchases are not for cuddly cuteness but for modern homesteading.

Mack the Lab is Maryland’s chief apiary sniffer

Cybil Preston and her bee dog Mack the Lab are official heroes in the state of Maryland.     Like all heroes and superheroes, Mack rose from a troubled past. He was a puppy in a dissolving family where three small children took up all the time the mother had to give. Preston came to the rescue, sensing Mack had the brains to pick up new skills. He did.

Bats have a colony of mothers

Who knew that bats make excellent mothers? You and I do, thanks to Maryland Department of Natural Resources bat biologist Dana Limpert, who speaks highly of the brown bat.     “They take excellent care of their young. If a baby falls out of the roost or is injured, the mother will recognize its calls and rescue it.”