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Creature Feature

Avoid the masked bandit if you can


     A late noise startles you awake. When you turn on the lights, a masked animal gives a rolling growl as it sulks away. That raccoon is back. 

Birds set the highest standard


      Fatherhood in nature varies from the seahorse and pipefish, which carry eggs and then offspring in a special pouch, to the praying mantis father that gets eaten by the female after the reproductive act. In many herbivore mammals, like deer, the father does very little parenting. They are not around for the birth or care of the offspring. Herding mammals like bison collectively parent, with the fathers working as protectors.

Animal mystery in the English countryside

      A CNN headline last week roped us in: Raccoon Dogs on the Loose in an English Village. People were told to be on the lookout for these dangerous creatures.      A Daily Mail story warned that the raccoon dogs “terrorize locals and attack animals in Nottinghamshire.”      “BLOOD CURDLING SCREAM,” a villager recalled hearing.

Too fast for my camera to show their namesake inner wings


      A small gray-and-blue mirage fluttered wildly around my feet. It stopped for two seconds on a clover flower before taking off again just as erratically. I was trying to get a photo of an opened-winged butterfly, but it was too difficult.

These birds like to announce their presence 


      Belted kingfishers are common along Maryland’s waterways. But each has a large hunting territory so they are spread out. They seem to fight constantly over space and don’t tolerate one another. They also don’t tolerate people and can be heard screaming what sound like bird obscenities as they fly from human approaches. They also vocalize as they move from one perch to another, announcing their presence to every other animal in the area.
You’ll know this tern by its red-tipped bill and feet
     Here’s another tern to look sharp for in Chesapeake Country.      Caspian terns visited Chesapeake Country in late April ­( They have now moved on to their northern nesting grounds. Forster’s terns have moved in after spending winter along the southern coastline of the U.S. They are one of the more common terns along the Chesapeake and especially in the marshy areas of the Eastern Shore.  

One of Mother Nature’s wilder whims

       At North Point State Park looking for little blue herons, I was distracted by a female cardinal looking for insects in a nearby tree. Cardinals are generally seed-eaters but tend to look for insects when they have nestlings, so I thought she might lead me to her nest. Instead, when she was about 10 feet away, she grabbed a bright green beetle but immediately dropped it.

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.