FEEDING TIME AT Piney Run Park Nature Center is a busy time for naturalist Elaine Sweitzer.
She prepares meals for snakes, birds of prey, toads, frogs, snapping turtles, honeybees and fish. All these species are kept in various habitats around the nature center.
Sweitzer enjoys feeding the animals, but has to prepare some very unusual meals. Some of the snakes eat mice (stored frozen and thawed for meal time). The toads and frogs like live crickets. The garter snakes like live goldfish to prey upon.
The birds of prey eat day-old male chicks that aren't useful to the farmer - who offers them for sale - or donated venison or beaver. The baby snapping turtles enjoy earthworms - cut up by Sweitzer and placed in their tanks.
On Fridays, Sweitzer begins feeding the animals about 4 p.m., and they have become accustomed to this time, especially the snakes that eat only once a week. The snakes become very active and excited before feeding.
To feed the snakes, Sweitzer removes the back panel of their glass enclosure, giving her direct access from a small feeding room behind the cases, where she stores and prepares the meals. Once the panel has been removed, the snakes often strike in Sweitzer's direction as she places the meals quickly in the enclosures.
On Friday, the public was invited to see the feeding of the animals, and Sweitzer explained their feeding habits and how some of the species were acquired by the nature center.
Sarah Giordano, 5, and her parents, Martin and Nichole, observed the feeding. Sarah was fascinated by the feedings and ran from cage to cage to watch an event that few of us ever see take place.
Sweitzer explained the honeybee habitat, the intricacies of bee society and how it functions. The hive is inside the nature center in an enclosure, but the bees can go through a tube to the outdoors and find natural food. Sweitzer supplements their natural diet with sugar water dripped into the hive.
Some animals at the center were donated by local residents. A corn snake on display was once someone's pet.
The snapping turtle babies were hatched by the center from eggs found when a man was excavating for a pool.
The center incubated the eggs and observed 38 successful hatchings. Once the turtles reach a certain size, they will be released into the wild.
The fish on display were taken from the lake and will be released when they are larger. All the birds kept by the center have suffered injuries that prevent them from surviving in the wild.
One donated species that will not be released back to the wild is a black widow spider. She recently laid her egg pod, and hatched several hundred little black widows. They are carefully housed in a jar, but staff members say they are too dangerous to be released.
For information on animal feeding times, call 410-795-6043.
The Liberty High School Music Boosters will play host to the Liberty High School Marching Band Extravaganza beginning at 6 p.m. Sept. 22 at the school's outdoor stadium off Bartholow Road.
The event will feature more than 15 bands from Maryland and Pennsylvania, with more than 800 musicians and guard members.
Bands are competing for places in the Tournament of Bands Atlantic Coast Championships in Scranton, Pa., in November.
Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for students. Refreshments will be sold.
Substance abuse awareness
To increase awareness among parents about substance abuse in Carroll County, Not My Kid will speak at all 36 back-to-school nights in the county.
Not My Kid is a group of community leaders, families affected by substance abuse, and local police officers.
Short presentations will focus on how substance abuse is affecting children in growing numbers and at earlier ages.
Group members will answer questions after the meetings.
Debra Taylor Young's Southeast neighborhood column appears each Tuesday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.