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Creature Feature

Tundra swans return to Chesapeake Country

“The first tundra swans of the season have arrived in Columbia Cove, Shady Side.” Randy Kiser‎ posted the news on Bay Weekly’s Facebook page on Thursday, Dec. 13, documenting their arrival with this photo.     Two mornings later I saw the snow-white birds at Fairhaven marsh pond, three on Saturday, then eight on Sunday.

Hibernation is convenient when you live in a shell

Wiggling antennae poke out from under coiled shell of the second-most prolific species on earth, the gastropodal snail. On land and in oceans and freshwater, 43,000 snail species live. North America has 500 land species, which brings them, usually stealthily, to all our gardens.     But you won’t see them this time of year, for many snails hibernate from October until April. Hibernation is convenient for snails as they carry their beds on their backs. In dry areas, snails can hibernate for years.

Swine seek your Jack-o-lanterns

Maizie, Pumpkin and Scarlet love pumpkins. They devour them like pigs because, well, they are pigs. Now they want your leftover ­Halloween Jack-o-lanterns.

Maryland bears and hunters coexist

Maryland is a pretty wild place, and getting wilder all the time. Foxes are joining deer, groundhogs, opossums, raccoons and squirrels as regular neighborhood families; skunks and coyotes are occasional visitors.     Lest black bears rejoin the list of wildlife returning to their original statewide range, some 1,100 hunters stalked them, killing 69, in Allegany and Garrett counties from October 20 to 23.

What to do when skunks move into the neighborhood

We’re a little worried about our new neighbors. They’re a well-dressed couple, but their reputation precedes them — malodorously.     Skunks are more often smelled than seen. Now that we’re seeing them, can smelling them be far behind?

Keep him in the lab and out of my kitchen!

Call him Drosophila melanogaster in the lab, where a century ago the fast-breeding creature helped scientists understand chromosomes and set out mapping genes.     At home he’s the common fruit fly, aka the vinegar fly.

Find Lothian-grown pumpkins from around the world at Riva Farmers Market

Your search for the perfect pumpkin may end at the Anne Arundel County Farmers Market, where Ray and Sonja Wood of Lothian, with grandson Brandon Myers, offer a bumper crop of heritage pumpkins from around the world.     Some are huge: not pumpkin-catapulting huge, but pumpkin-carving-contest-worthy. As Jack-o’-lanterns or on uncarved display, they’re great.     Decoration was the couple’s original pumpkin plan.

Scientists succeed in gene sequencing the nasty pests

The first one broke in on August 29. Throughout September, every warm, sunny day brought more. Wiggling though cracks a fraction of their size, smearing windows, crawling up walls, hibernating in curtains, under cushions, behind pictures and among magazines. As humans and dogs basked outdoors on the last Saturday in September, a persistent hailstorm of invasive brown marmorated stink bugs pinged house, windows and doors.

Southern migration underway

Say good-bye to an osprey — if you can find one. My neighborhood nests are all empty and their eerie whistle waded into memory.     Beginning in mid-August, the fish hawks left their summer homes all along the Eastern seaboard for winter grounds in the Caribbean, Central and South America.     Where osprey go we know from the work of osprey followers like Rob Bierregaard, who has tagged with transmitters birds all along the coast.

Species at risk in Maryland are a roll call of birds we know and love

Make room for more.         The Vanished Birds of North America, now on exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., features passenger pigeons, Carolina parakeets and heath hens.     But two new reports tell us that list may soon be much longer.     Thirty-three species common in the United States are “in steep decline” according to the 2014 State of the Birds Report from the North American Bird Conservation Initiative.