Elms Environmental Education Center

Welcome to Planet Earth

Critter of the Month

Every month we highlight a different local animal.

January 2016: Bald Eagle

 Juvenile Bald Eagle

Haliaeetus leucocephalus 

Who am I?

You know me. I am your national bird! No I did not get my name because the white feathers on my head make me look bald. I am piebald, yes PIEBALD -- meaning I am two colored, white and brown. At least I am when I grow up. When I am young I look kinda splotchy. I will be five years old when I finally am PIEBALD. This time of year I might be hanging out by myself. Soon I will find my mate and we will begin to rebuild our nest. In the winter I will lay two or three eggs and after a bit more than a month they will hatch. My mate and I will take care of them for the next three months, feeding them and guarding the nest. I am very territorial and will fight other eagles that enter my turf during the breeding season. I do not sound like you might think. I make a squeeky chirp like sound. Quite different than your movies might make you think.

Where can you find me?

 I can be found throughout North America, from Mexico to Alaska. If you are looking for me look around rivers, lakes, estuaries and sea shores. I like water.

What do I eat?

 I like fish. Really. Lots of fish. Live fish, dead fish, fish other birds caught that I can steal. Fish. And ducks, but they are harder to catch. If I am really hungry I will scavenge dead critters as well.

What might eat me?

 Nothing. I am on top of the food web. I prey, no one preys on me even my babies. Let 'em try.

Cool reasons why I am the critter of the month!

  • In January I can bee seen locally re-initiating my courtship with my mate and rebuilding our nest.
  • I am the largest raptor in our area with a wing span of over six feet.
  • There are over 500 nesting pair of Bald Eagles in Maryland, about 75 in Saint Mary's County.
  • Pesticides, like DDT, almost wiped me out. I came off the Endangered Species List in 2007, thirty years after the use of DDT was highly restricted.
  • Because I eat ducks and will happily eat those wounded by hunters, I have benefited from the change from lead shot to steel shot.

December 2015: Lions Mane Jellyfish

A Lions Many Jellyfish

 Photo by: Dan Hershman

Lions Mane Jellyfish
Cyanea capillata

Who am I?

 I am water, salt water. Okay 95% of me is water, the other 5% is me. Of course when you have no bones, no heart, no blood and no brain it is hard to say what I am, who is the me. An eating machine I suppose I am. Around the Chesapeake people call me the winter jelly because I really do not like warm water. While my tiny medusa (bell like blob) is floating around by mid December you probably won't notice me until later in the winter when I get bigger. In the Bay I can grow to about 8" across. I am a very weird creature. During late winter as an adult I can produce both eggs and sperm. Once germinated, I carry these eggs in my tentacles until they hatch, to the bottom of the water I go and deposit them on something hard. Soon they grow and form a polyp -- a squishy stalk with, eventually, a stack on pancakes (called ephyraes) on top. Think of a sea anemone or a sea cucumber -- those guys are polyps. Here I will be through the summer. While I am a polyp I can also clone myself, just in case there are not enough of me already. So there are a lot of polyp me around. But wait, when the water gets cold in late November or December the stack of pancakes at the top of my stalk will start to separate floating off as individuals like little frisbees. These pancakes, or frisbees, will grow into the adult jellyfish you know and probably don't love. I am misunderstood. Sure, I sting, but not as bad as a sea nettle! They are mean. Besides I am only in the Bay during the winter and who is swimming around the bay in the winter! By May I am gone. No worries.

Where can you find me?

 I like cold water and can be found near the north or south end of the planet. I am especially well known in the Arctic where I can grow really, really big.

What do I eat?

 I eat mostly other jellyfish, little fish and plankton.

What might eat me?

 Sea turtles. I hate sea turtles.

Cool reasons why I am the critter of the month!

  •  I hold the world record for the largest jellyfish. One of my brothers/sisters was found on a beach with a medusa seven feet across and tentacles that were over 120 feet long! Don't worry, I don't get that big in the Bay.
  • I have a lot of tentacles, up to 1200 of them.
  • and coolest of all, I eat an poop with the same hole. Gross huh? But cool too.

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