Volume 12, Issue 15 ~ April 8-14, 2004
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Not Just for Kids

Seahorses by the Bay
By Dick Wilson

Calvert County is getting some horses. Not the horses that gallop around on racetracks, nor the ones that pulled plows back in the days before there were tractors. No, what’s coming are the kind of horses that hold on to sea grass with their tails: Seahorses. In the next few months we in Calvert County will all have the chance to become experts on these fascinating animals.

As Calvert County celebrates its 350th birthday, part of the fun will be the Seahorses By The Bay display. Every child in every public school (and three private schools) in Calvert County has had a hand in designing a seahorse model. Hundreds submitted designs, and for each school one was selected. Now, each of the county’s 25 schools has a six foot-tall seahorse, decorated with an original design that the kids in the school can claim as their own.

The herd is not yet corralled in one pasture. Each of the 25 seahorses waits at its home turf, its school, impatiently marking time until the 350th birthday celebration, April 17, when one will be selected to ride on the back of a truck in the 350 Celebration parade. Those not selected for the parade will strut their stuff in public when they take up new residences around the Bay.

On May 1, each county seahorse will move from its school to a new stall somewhere in the county between North Beach and Solomons, where they’ll stay until September 1. At each horse you find, you’ll learn a new fact about seahorses and get directions to the others. By the time you finds all 25 Calvert County seahorses, you’ll know a lot about the Bay’s seahorses.

In September, all the seahorses will move to Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons to be auctioned off.
Seahorses in the Bay and Oceans

Seahorses are a kind of fish. Many kinds dwell in the warm oceans all over the world, but only one kind lives in our Chesapeake Bay. Its Latin name is Hippocampus erectus, but we know it simply as seahorse.

Other kinds of seahorses live in other oceans; the smallest, the pygmy seahorse, is about the size of your thumbnail and lives in the ocean near Indonesia. The seahorse in our Bay is much larger, growing to a length of 11 and one half inches, making it one of the largest in any ocean.

Seahorses have no teeth, but they do just fine when it’s time for dinner, holding onto a piece of sea grass or coral with its tail while waiting for its next meal. When tiny crustaceans and plankton float by, the seahorse quickly sucks in water and dinner through its tube-like mouth.

But other, bigger fish are eager to eat the slow-swimming seahorse, so the seahorse changes its color to match the colors around it. If its piece of grass is green, the seahorse will make its skin green; or it may change to dark brown to match the color of brown grass or stones on the ocean bottom. Whatever color it changes to, it will match its surroundings and be difficult to find by the bigger fish.

Young seahorses are cared for by their father. The mother seahorse lays her eggs in the pouch of the male. When they are old enough, the babies leave their father’s pouch to make their own way in the sea. Because they are so tiny, most of the newly hatched seahorses are eaten by bigger fish before they can grow big enough to hide in the sea grass.

Seahorses also depend on sea grass so they don’t get carried away by the current. Healthy sea grass helps make healthy seahorses, and healthy seahorses are a good sign that the Bay is healthy.

Kids Calendar

Friday, April 16
How Does Your Garden Grow?
Read Planting a Rainbow and create garden scenes with crafts. 10am @ Barnes and Noble, Harbour Center, Annapolis. free: 410-573-1115.

Nature Hour
Ages 3-5 join ranger Wendy to learn about rabbits with hikes, crafts and a talk. 11am @ Lake Waterford Park, 830 Pasadena Rd., Pasadena. $2; rsvp: 410-222-6248.

Saturday, April 17
Teen Trailblazing
Kids 13 and up enjoy a scavenger hunt on the trails of Calvert Cliffs, Kings Landing Park & Greenweel State Park. 8am @ Southern Community Ctr., Appeal Ln. (off Rt. 765), Lusby. free; RSVP: 410-586-1101.

Get Hooked on Fishing
Ages 12-15 collect and identify aquatic insects and see what fish are eating while learning about the different fly-tying materials in this class to hook kids on fishing and not drugs. 9am-1pm @ Tawes State Office Building, 580 Taylor Ave., Room C-1, Annapolis. free; rsvp: 410-260-8721.

Tuesday, April 20
Oink, Oink
Spend a day with a pig who is trying to stay clean with Peggy Pig’s Dirty Day; make your own clean pig to take home. 10am @ Barnes and Noble, Harbour Center, Annapolis. free: 410-573-1115.

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Last updated April 15, 2004 @ 1:12am.