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Creature Feature

Population highest since 2012

      Callinectes sapidus, our beautiful swimmers, seem to be thriving on moderate winters in a healthier Bay. The Chesapeake is full of more crabs than in any year since 2012, according to winter’s annual whole-Bay census, taken by the University of Maryland Chesapeake Biological Laboratory and the Virginia Institute of Marine Biology.

A doting mother

      A family of foxes at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Sanctuary in Kent County, Delaware, had a series of tragedies four years ago. Two kits disappeared one by one, leaving a young male. The mother fox, called a vixen, became extremely protective. For several weeks the two were always together. She was frequently seen herding him to stay close to the den and grooming him.
As babies, you wouldn’t know them
      Some say that the parents of juvenile little blue herons are lazy. Others think they are being smart to keep their young safe with other-species babysitters. You decide.
Among terns, these regional rarities are the opposite of least 
      Over the past week, migrating Caspian terns have been flying around the Chesapeake Bay. These are the world’s largest tern. They have a 57-inch wingspan, making them larger than a ring-billed gull. The smallest tern, the least tern, has a mere 20-inch wingspan.

African cat making its way north

      We’ll call this Rocky’s excellent adventure.       An exotic serval cat that disappeared from Kitty Hawk, N.C., in October was spotted last week in Virginia Beach, 85 miles north, after probably existing for six months on shorebirds and rodents.

Take a look at two of our neighbor snakes 

As the ground warms, hibernating animals start waking up. This past weekend, northern watersnakes and eastern garter snakes were rousing. I found several as I walked through a park in Baltimore County. Both are very common throughout Maryland and are non-venomous.

In Europe, invasion of the blue crab

       Breathless news accounts make it sound like something out of Jaws.          “Only a big octopus could win a fight with a blue crab’s deadly pincers,” read an account in The Guardian last week.          The typically reserved British paper is writing not of some fearsome sea creatures but of the crustacean that provides Chesapeake Country tasty lumps of our identity.

Early flowers and early birds love this color

      The spring bird migration has started. Soon flocks of warblers will be looking for the emerging bugs. Because it is spring, their feathers will show breeding hues. The hue that seems the most startling and catches my attention is bright yellow.

Should snappers be saved?

      The common snapping turtle is not so attractive or charming as its terrapin cousin, but it has its own fan base. The nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity has petitioned Maryland Department of Natural Resources to end commercial collection of these wild freshwater turtles.

Like baseball rivals, these birds are regular springtime competitors

     Most Chesapeake eagles winter along the Bay and its tributaries. Osprey, on the other hand, spend the winter in South America. In the middle of March, osprey start returning to our area only to find that many of their roosting, fishing and nesting spots have been taken over by eagles. Osprey are able to reclaim territory because they are more agile in the air than eagles. They chase and hound eagles away from nesting areas.