Spring has Sprung!

By: Annalie Mallon

Happy Friday!

How is everyone enjoying this lovely April weather? I know I am! April happens to be my favorite month (not just because it is my birthday month), but because the cold of winter finally disappears and warm sunny spring days return. Along with a number of friendly spring time faces! Read on to discover some of my favorite signs of spring.

1. Spring flowers

I LOVE wildflowers. There’s something I find really special about a little plants ability to pop up in a random field with no prior love or care.

Spring Beauties by Annalie

 

My favorite little wildflowers are Spring Beauties (pictured left). Spring Beauties are super awesome because they can grow and survive in places where other wildflowers usually cannot! Habitats that may have been harmed from animals like deer eating too many plants are perfect places for these little guys to grow. They also have edible roots that are like tiny potatoes, and who doesn’t love a good potato?!

Virgina Bluebells by Annalie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another favorite spring bloomer of mine are the Virginia Bluebells (left). The color of these flowers is gorgeous and butterflies love their nectar! Check out the Tiger Swallowtail butterfly I saw getting a sweet snack from the garden the other day.

 

 

 

 

Flowering trees are also beautiful in the springtime. Below are two native flowering trees that produce very different but lovely flowers that insects, birds, and mammals love to eat.

 

 

 

 

Flowering Dogwood 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eastern Redbud 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Farm Babies 

Who doesn’t love baby animals? Especially ones you can find at the farm. Our Coverdale Farm Preserve babies were born over the past few weeks, and needless to say, they are TOO CUTE.

 

Mama pig gave birth to 11 little piglets the first week of April and they love piggy snuggles!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three little lambs have also appeared in the sheep pasture!

 

3. Spring Amphibians 

Spring = amphibian party time. Frogs and toads that were hibernating all winter long love this warm weather even more than I do. The first ones to arrive are the Wood Frogs, and they let us know they are here with their loud calls that sound similar to ducks quacking! They find a small pond to mate and lay their eggs and then hop back into the woods. Check out this video of them calling in the small pond behind the nature center. Don’t they sound funny?

A couple weeks ago some Toads came to join the spring party too! They hopped out of hibernation and laid a TON of eggs down in our marsh. A marsh is a big wetland full of plants that are perfect for toad tadpoles to eat and hide from other hungry critters.

Look at these squirmy toad tadpoles!

Toad Tadpoles by Annalie

Keep your eyes peeled for some of these signs of spring near your own house or neighborhood!

If you and your family would like to come celebrate spring with us here at Delaware Nature Society, join us on Earth Day, Saturday, April 22 from 11am – 2pm for a day full of nature walks, crafts, activities and Earth day fun! Check out our website for more details and feel free to stop on by!

And We’re Gonna Let it Burn Burn Burn

By: Annalie Mallon

Happy Friday Nature Lovers!

Sorry for our lack of posts lately, we here at the nature center have been busy beavers getting ready for our spring school programs to begin. Believe it or not we are also already preparing for summer camp! (I’m so excited for summer camp I can hardly contain myself).

Before this random snow storm showed up today, something super cool happened at Coverdale Farm Preserve that I wanted to share with you all! A lot of you have visited Coverdale Farm Preserve and seen the big barn, gardens, animals, and crop plots. What few people know though, is that behind all of that we have about 300 more acres of woods, meadows, and wetlands where many wild animals and plants make their homes (pictured below). Our conservation and land management team takes special care of this land by removing icky invasive plants, creating habitats for native animals, and keeping the trails in shape.

DNS staff hiking a trail at Coverdale Farm Preserve

Yesterday, our land management team along with a crew of people from the Delaware Forest Service, Mt. Cuba Center, Longwood Gardens, and Flint Woods Preserve did what is known as a “prescribed burn” on one of the big meadows at Coverdale Farm Preserve. If you have never heard of a prescribed burn, what they do is literally SET THE MEADOW ON FIRE AND LET IT BURN DOWN 😱😱.

Delaware Forest Service crew lighting and controlling the flames.

And let me tell you, it was HOT 🔥.

Controlled or prescribed field burning is a tool used in land management to help maintain grasslands. Every three to five years a meadow is burned or mowed to stop it from overgrowing into a big crazy jungle of weeds and trees (think of it as a haircut for the meadow). The fire burns up dead plant material leftover from previous years of mowing, it destroys the bad weeds and invasive plants that we do not want in the meadows, and it also kills small woody plants (like baby trees). This leaves plenty of room for native wildflowers, and grasses to re-grow!

Some people may be wondering why we don’t want our meadows to naturally grow into forests. After all, trees are super great and helpful for the environment, right?! Well, yes, but one of our major missions here at Delaware Nature Society is to care for all native habitats. This includes big open spaces like meadows. Meadows provide a wonderful home for a wide variety of animals, insects, and birds. By caring for and protecting these beautiful open spaces, the wildlife that live in them remain happy and healthy! Look how beautiful this Coverdale meadow is in the summer!

Coverdale Meadow photo taken by Joe Sebastiani

Controlled fire burning in a huge meadow sounds super cool, but there are a lot of safety precautions that must be taken to ensure that everything goes according to plan. (Aka do not do this unless you are a trained professional).

First they make sure there is a wide area of very short grass that runs around the perimeter of the meadow that will be burned. This grass provides a barrier called a fire break that will not easily burn if the fire touches it. It also separates the meadow from other areas of vegetation. The team of burners starts the fire in the corner of the meadow that is most down wind. This means the wind is blowing against the direction that the fire will be traveling in so the fire does not take off and spread like crazy! As the fire starts to slowly burn this back section of the meadow, it creates a big burnt black patch called a back burn. Once this back burn is created, the burners use fuel to carefully light more fires around the edges of the meadow. As the fire burns, it quickly eats up the dried grasses and weeds around the meadow until it reaches the already burnt patches and dies out. To make sure the flames don’t get out of control, trained burners walk around the outside of the burning section with water tanks to put out any flames that may be in the wrong spots. Once the burn is finished, they make sure everything is completely extinguished.

Burning around the meadow edge

Making sure there are no flames around the edges

Tada! No more meadow!

Just a leftover patch of fried grass (Joe is very happy he doesn’t have to mow it)

In just a few short weeks new grasses will grow and this entire area will be green! When spring starts it will once again be a beautiful meadow for animals like this butterfly (below) to enjoy.

Meadow Fritillary photo taken by Lori Athey

Check out this cool slow-mo video I took of the fire!

Turkey Talk

By: Annalie Mallon

Happy Friday Nature Nuts!

The end of our fall teaching season is quickly approaching us here at the Delaware Nature Society and we have been busy busy busy! What have you all been enjoying most about this beautiful fall season? I personally love the warm fall colors. Check out this photo Erynn took at Flint Woods Preserve last week. The leaves were poppin!

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Flint Woods Preserve photo by Erynn

I think a lot of us can agree that one of the most exciting things about autumn is THANKSGIVING! What is not to love about gathering with family around a table full of delicious food??

We all know how the Thanksgiving tradition started with the Native Americans and Pilgrims, but does anyone know why this whole day is mostly dedicated to a big colorful bird? Seriously, what is so special about turkeys? My pal Tom the turkey and I did some research to find out exactly why we eat turkey on thanksgiving and found some pretty interesting things! (Tom sits next to me at work and likes to distract me on a daily basis).

So while you are stuffing your face full of stuffing this Thanksgiving, here are some fun facts about that big bird on the table.

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Annalie and Tom the Turkey having a chat

To begin our turkey quest, Tom and I discovered something about the first Thanksgiving that we think is pretty interesting; although the Pilgrims and Native Americans sat down and shared a meal together, they may not have actually eaten turkey! Historians believe that they most likely ate deer meat, chickens, and beef. Eating turkey on Thanksgiving did not become a popular thing until Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. Since turkeys are birds big enough for an entire family to share, VOILA Happy Turkey Day!

first_thanksgiving

This picture is apparently FALSE

Did you know that the wild turkey was once so common and so well thought of in America that it was considered a choice for our national bird over the Bald Eagle? Benjamin Franklin thought it was a “much more respectable bird” than the Bald Eagle! Tom 10/10 agrees with Ben and is still a little bitter that he is not our countries symbol.

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Tom showing his Patriotic side

Wild turkeys can run at speeds up to 25 miles per hour and fly up to 55 mph! WOAH that’s as fast as your car sometimes drives on the highway! Tom on the other hand does not like to run or fly much, rather he spends most of his time answering emails and doing desk work.

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Tom checking his favorite news site: Turkey Times

Male turkeys are called “gobblers” because of the gobble calls they make to attract females. This call can be heard up to a mile away! (Speaking of gobble, if the gobble noise on this post has gotten annoying yet, just scroll down and turn it off. hehe).

A group of turkeys has many interesting names including a “flock,” “crop,” or “gang.” My favorite is definitely a turkey gang. Don’t mess with Toms turkey gang, they have serious golf tournaments.

DAVID ZALAZNIK/JOURNAL STAR A group of male turkeys in full springtime display tries to get the attention of a seemingly disinterested female along Grandview Drive in Peoria. The male turkeys walk with feathers puffed out and splayed wide with their facial coloring becoming pronounced in an effort to attract females.

Turkey Gang by David Zalaznik

Last but not least, my favorite fact about turkeys: You can tell the difference between a male and a female turkey from their poop! You heard me, their poop! A male’s will be shaped like the letter “J” and a female’s will be more of a spiral shape. TOTALLY WEIRD RIGHT?! Tom is very embarrassed and upset that I shared this fact with you all and is now hiding somewhere in the nature center.

Well friends, that’s all the turkey facts I have for today!

I hope everyone has a wonderful and delicious Thanksgiving dinner with the people they love! Remember to #take5outside, trot like a turkey, and enjoy the remaining fall colors.

P.s. I found Tom..

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Tom hiding under Erynns desk

 

Meet the New Intern!

Hey Nature Lovers!

Now that school is back in full swing I think it’s time for me to introduce myself. My name is Erynn DeGennaro and I am the new education intern at Ashland for the 2016-2017 year! I’m very excited that I get to post on the Kids Nature Blog. The Kids Nature Blog is your place to “Ask a naturalist” any nature questions you have, stay up to date on current nature events, and see all the cool things kids like you have been up to at our sites! Be sure to check out our “Program Spotlight” to see how you can get involved too!

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Video by Annalie Mallon. Grab your binoculars and look out for more blog posts by Erynn!

My favorite time of the year has started! Fall started on September 22nd, and some exciting signs of Fall have already started to show. Here are just a few of my favorite things about Fall.

Fall Favorite #1:

Did you know that every year thousands of hawks leave their breeding grounds in the north to fly south in search of warmer weather? During the Fall you may have noticed lots of hawks flying over your house. This is called the Fall migration. Along the East Coast there are a few sites dedicated to counting all the hawks that participate in this raptor run. We are lucky to have one of these sites right here at Ashland Nature Center! Every Fall, Hawk Watch Hill transforms into a bird watching extravaganza. I love walking up to see all the excitement surrounding our big feathered friends!

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Photo by Erynn DeGennaro. Hawk Watch Intern, Hannah Greenberg looks through the scope on a beautiful fall day.

 

Fall Favorite #2

Birds aren’t the only animals that migrate during the fall. My favorite insect does too! Monarch Butterflies are the only butterflies that migrate like birds do. How neat is that? Since Monarchs can’t overwinter like other insects they move south towards Southern California and Mexico. In the early fall I love going out and seeing if I can spot a Monarch around Ashland.

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Photo by Annalie Mallon. A Monarch butterfly hangs out on a flower in the sunlight.

Fall Favorite #3

One of my favorite things about Ashland in the fall is all of the colors that appear. During the fall you can see Ashland turn from green to orange, red, brown, and yellow. The leaves aren’t the only things changing though. Goldenrod’s sunny yellow is common to see during hikes through the meadow. I love Goldenrod because not only is it pretty, its useful too! Goldenrod is often used for medicine!

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Photo by Erynn DeGennaro. The bright yellow flowers on Goldenrod stand out among a sea of brown and green.

 

Tell us about your favorite things about Fall in the comments!

Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer Camp!

By: Annalie Mallon

Hey there nature lovers! I hope everyone has been having a wonderful summer and is looking forward to the start of another school year!

Here at the Delaware Nature Society we have just finished up with TEN WHOLE WEEKS of summer camps! Between June 13 and August 19, Ashland Nature Center, Coverdale Farm Preserve, Dupont Environmental Education Center, and Abbott’s Mill Nature Center had a whole summer filled with 131 camps of outdoor fun and adventures. There was hiking, kayaking, getting muddy, building forts, catching bugs, making crafts, casting spells, playing in streams, caring for animals, and so much more!

Below are a few of my favorite highlights from the camps I was lucky enough to help out with for these past ten weeks – Enjoy!

Fun with Fishing: We visited the ponds at Coverdale Farm Preserve, Lums Pond State Park, Papermill Park, Becks Pond, Carousel Park and more! There were a lot of tangled lines and hooks in my fingers, but we caught SO MANY FISH!

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Fishing At Coverdale Pond, June 2016

Kayak Club: We practiced our skills and kayaked in places like the Octorara Reservoir, Dragon’s Run Marsh, and the Brandywine River! My favorite part of the week was kayaking through the marsh and then stopping for Ice Cream in Delaware City 😀

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Kayaking at Dragon Run Marsh, June 2016

Outdoor Adventures and Videography: We spent the week fishing, rock climbing, canoeing, and doing archery to get some AWESOME pictures and video footage that was later used to create action films!

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Campers take on the Delaware Rock Gym, June 2016

Wizards and Lizards: One of my favorite camps this summer (mainly because I’m secretly a huge Harry Potter nerd), I got the chance to teach Caring for Creatures Class and introduce campers to a variety of animals – both magical and real! I also enjoyed watching the Quidditch matches and was very happy to cheer on Gryffindor as their head of house!

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Wizards and Lizards campers learn about serpents, July 2016

Ashland Safari: For the last week of summer camp I led a group of 5 and 6 year old campers on a safari around Ashland Nature Center. We learned about reptiles, amphibians, birds, and insects and then explored different habitats to find them all!

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Ashland Safari campers searching for Insects in the Meadow, August 2016

It was a very fun filled but tiring summer! I enjoyed going on so many adventures and getting the chance to meet so many awesome campers, counselors, interns and instructors.

If you haven’t already, check out our camp facebook page with a parent or guardian for more pictures and camp stories! https://www.facebook.com/DelawareNatureSocietySummerCamp

Were you involved in any of our summer camps? If so, what were your favorites??? Comment below to share your memories and experiences with us!

🌻🌻🌻

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Annalie caught a fish, June 2016

 

It’s Spring Family Campout Time!

By: Annalie Mallon

Happy Monday Nature Lovers!

How has everyone been enjoying this beautiful spring weather? We here at the Delaware Nature Society have started teaching our spring programs and there are new and exciting things to find outside every day!

See if you can recognize any of the amazing things we have found below…

☀ These funny looking squiggles of little black dots are eggs that were laid in the marsh last month. Who do you think might have laid them?

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Photo by Annalie Mallon

An Eastern American toad! The eggs recently hatched and there are now thousands of tiny toad tadpoles swimming around in the marsh!

☀ Here is a Water Snake found during one of our Spring Amphibians programs. (Although he is a reptile and not an amphibian, we were still very excited to see him basking in the sun!)

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Photo By Annalie Mallon

☀ Can you guess who left these cute little tracks in the mud next to one of our creeks?

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Photo By Annalie Mallon

They’re from a Raccoon! Raccoons are known to wash their food in the water before eating it!

 

☀ Do you see who I see camouflaged in this vernal pool? (A vernal pool is like a small pond that is usually only filled during the spring season due to melted winter snow and spring rain. Frogs and toads love to lay their eggs here because there are few predators to bother them!)

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Photo By Annalie Mallon

Its a Northern Green Frog!

 

☀ Finally, check out this beautiful Skunk Cabbage that has popped up all over our wetland areas. Be careful not to step on it though, if the leaves rip the plant lets off a stinky smell similar to a skunk! (This keeps animals from eating it but also attracts flies to pollinate its flowers!)

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Photo By Annalie Mallon

Would you and your family be interested in discovering some of these things during a whole weekend of fun? Join us this Saturday, April 30, from 5 pm to Sunday, May 1, 10 am for a spring family campout at Bucktoe Creek Preserve!

Enjoy nighttime and morning hikes through the forest and fields to find who’s out there hooting and croaking. We will provide a fun snack for the evening campfire, and a breakfast. Bring your own bag dinner. Use your tent, borrow ours, or stay in an Adirondack shelter. Family registration includes all members of a single household.

Register HERE or call (302) 239-2334

Members: $30 per household, $15 per individual; Others: $45 per household; $20 per individual
Meets at Bucktoe Creek Preserve, 432 Sharp Road, Avondale, PA 19311

Seven Simple Ways to Celebrate Spring!

By Trudyann Buckley

As the air gets warmer, we Interns are busy setting up a storybook adventure that you can come visit in April and May! A storybook walk is a trail that has pages of a book posted along the way, so you can read while you walk! The story on our walk is On Meadowview Street by Henry Cole. It’s about a girl who creates a habitat in her front yard! (A habitat is a home for animals.) You can learn more about this event at the end of this blog post.

Were setting up the Storybook walk soon! Photograph by Trudyann Buckley.

Were setting up the Storybook walk soon! Photograph by Trudyann Buckley.

We love On Meadowview Street, and we’re pretty sure you will too. It gave us some great ideas for celebrating nature this Spring, and we wanted to share them! You can try them at home, or you can try some of them at your local park or Nature Center:

1. Draw a flower!

Flowers are beautiful, aren’t they? Pack a bag with a notebook, a pencil and eraser, and something to color with like crayons or colored pencils. Then, go outside! When you find a pretty wildflower, draw your own version of it! You can practice the challenge of drawing it exactly as it looks, or you can change how it looks! Make it your favorite color, or give it different shaped petals! There’s always room for imagination. You know, if you go back to that flower a week or two later, it might look completely different. You could even draw it again. Try it out!

Annalie is a great artist! She practices drawing flowers a lot. See if you can guess what flower she drew. I’ll give you a big hint: its picture is in this blog post!

Drawing by Annalie Mallon.

2. Make a birdfeeder!

You can thread some cheerios and dried cranberries on a string and hang it on a tree or a nearby fence. Then, visit it from time to time! If you are very quiet with your footsteps, you may see a bird eating your snack! If not, you might still see that the snack you’ve left out has been nibbled! I’m sure you’ll feed some happy birds! Just remember, you need thread and a sewing needle for this project, so make sure you have an adult’s help or permission.

Or if you want to make another kind of birdfeeder, ask an adult to help you find some ideas on the web. There are pinecone birdfeeders, orange-half birdfeeders, and lots more!

Photograph by Trudyann Buckley.

Photograph by Trudyann Buckley.

3. Catch an insect!

There are all sorts of cool insects hiding in the grass and the leaves. Ask an adult to poke small holes in an old, cleaned-out peanut butter jar. Then, take the jar outside and go on an insect expedition! You might catch a beetle, grasshopper, fly, caterpillar, or even a praying mantis. You can look at the insect’s behavior, and compare it to the other insects you’ve caught. You can even draw a picture of it. But don’t forget: when you’re done with the insect, let it go so it can continue living its happy life.

Who knows what you will catch? Photograph by Christy Belardo.

Who knows what you will catch? Photograph by Christy Belardo.

4. Make a birdbath!

Wildlife needs water to survive! Try putting water and maybe some pebbles in an old, shallow bowl and leaving it outside so that animals in your neighborhood have a source of fresh water. If you put it on the ground in a hidden spot, you might be surprised by a toad or a snail! Just remember to change the water every few days to avoid mosquitos.

I hid my birdbath so that birds would feel safe there. Photograph by Trudyann Buckley.

Photograph by Trudyann Buckley.

3. Take care of a native flower!

Did you know that baby birds can’t survive without a lot of insects to eat? Did you know that insects can’t eat plants from other countries? So, plants from other countries don’t make very good bird habitat because they don’t provide food for baby birds. However, plants from around here make great habitat for birds! Plants from around here are called native plants. They are useful to wildlife and beautiful to you and me. If you see a wild flower, or a flower at the store that you want to take care of, try asking an adult you know if it’s a native plant! If they don’t know, you can figure it out together! You can take care of a native flower by planting it in a spot where it will grow happily. If you find one in your yard or garden, try fencing it from lawn mowers and deer so that it can spread and make new flowers.

The flower below is a native flower. It’s called a Spring Beauty! Does it look familiar?

Spring Beauties are blooming right now! Photograph by Trudyann Buckley.

Spring Beauties are blooming right now! Photograph by Trudyann Buckley.

6. Spend time outside!

Maybe you like playing ball games. Maybe you like puddle jumping. Perhaps you want to watch clouds, or stargaze! Do you like to make sculptures or little towns out of rocks and sticks? Is your favorite thing quietly searching for animals in trees and under rocks and logs? Do you want to go to the playground, or have a picnic? If you don’t know what you like to do yet, try something new! The important thing is: you’re having fun in the fresh, Spring air!

Looks like a cool place to explore!

Looks like a cool place to explore! Photograph by John Harrod.

7. Go for a walk!

You can go for a walk outside anywhere you want! It’s a great way to get active, get healthy, and enjoy the outdoors.

Between April 1st and May 31st, you’re invited to Ashland Nature Center, DuPont Environmental Education Center and Abbot’s Mill Nature Center to go on a storybook walk! Pages of the book On Meadowview Street will be posted along one of our trails so you can read while you walk. You don’t have to register this time, just come visit a nature center any day you’d like!

Welcome! Photograph by Helen Fischel.

Welcome! Photograph by Helen Fischel.

This event is part of Longwood Gardens’ Community Read.  You can learn about other Community Read events HERE.

If you are interested in making your own backyard habitat for animals to live, ask a parent to help you visit THIS website to learn how in 5 steps. You can even certify it if you would like to.

If your family wants to raise a few native plant that they don’t have yet, they can visit THIS website to learn about the upcoming Native Plant Sale. Continue reading

Maple Madness & Pancake Palooza!

By Annalie Mallon, Education Intern

Howdy Kids! I hope everyone has been venturing outside to enjoy this lovely weather!

Here at the Delaware Nature Society we are in the midst of prime maple sugaring season. The most exciting part about this is that our family maple sugaring program and pancake breakfast is being held THIS upcoming Saturday, Feb. 27th!

If you have ever wondered how maple syrup is created (spoiler alert: I’m about to share some of the secrets below) then head on over to Ashland Nature Center to find out AND get a chance to make and taste your own!

Some Selections of Maple Syrup. photo by Annalie Mallon

Mmmmmmm maple syrup. That sticky sweet deliciousness that you lovingly pour over fluffy pancakes to make them taste a little bit more like heaven. Is your mouth watering yet? Mine sure is!

But from where does this delicious treat come? For those of you who do not know, we get maple syrup from Maple trees! In the late Winter months, like February and March, when the temperature starts to get warmer during the day (around 40 degrees) but remains freezing over night, tree sap that has been stored in the trees roots all winter starts making some moves. The sap (which is made up of over 97% water and less than 3% sugar) acts as a source of food and nutrients for the tree. It rises up through the trunk during those warmer days and starts to make its way to the branches and buds so that new leaves can grow come spring! It is during this wonderful time of the year that people harvest that sap and use it to make maple syrup!

A view of some gorgeous Maple trees in the Fall!

To start the process, we choose a Maple tree that is old enough to be tapped. To check if a tree is old enough, we measure how wide it is. If it is at least twelve inches in diameter, we can use it! We grab our handy hand drill to drill a small two inch deep hole into the tree. Don’t worry though, this does not hurt the tree. We then tap a tool called a spile right into the newly drilled hole and watch as sap starts to drip out! Check out the picture below and see if you can spot the drop of sap coming off the end of the spile..

Spile in a Silver Maple – photo by Annalie Mallon

 

Collecting bag on a Silver Maple! Photo by Annalie Mallon

Once the sap starts to flow, we hook one of these blue collecting bags onto the spile and wait for it to fill…

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Photo by Annalie Mallon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Woah check it out! The whole bag filled up over the weekend!

Once we have collected enough sap, we bring it back to the nature center and begin the process of turning it into syrup.

Pouring the sap into a big pan being heated over a fire, we boil it down so that a majority of the water evaporates out of it and we are left with a small amount of sweet sugary liquid that we call syrup!

It takes between 60 – 90 gallons of Maple sap to make only 1 gallon of syrup! That is a LOT of sap! No wonder pure maple syrup is expensive!

 

 

Fun Fact: Maple Syrup is made only in North America! Canada is the largest producer, but the state of Vermont comes in at a close second (they produce over a million gallons per season!). This is because our unique climate of warm days and freezing nights plus all of the maple trees that we have is not very common anywhere else!

Would you and your family be interested in seeing how this process works and then get to eat a bunch of pancakes? Join us this weekend and work up an appetite while walking to our maple trees to learn how Native Americans developed the technique of producing maple syrup. Discover why settlers relied on this source for many years and how syrup farmers make this product today. See how we tap trees at Ashland and how other animals might be doing the same. Then boil down some sap into syrup and taste it before returning for a pancake and maple syrup brunch!!

Saturday, February 27, 10am – Noon

Members: $7, Others: $12

Meets at Ashland Nature Center, 3511 Barley Mill Road Hockessin, DE 19707

Call (302) 239-2334 or click Here to register!

pancakes

Why Do Male and Female Animals Sometimes Look Different?

by Trudyann Buckley

Good morning, nature lovers, and Happy Almost-Valentine’s Day! While you’re outside this weekend, make sure to look for our favorite Valentine-colored bird: the Cardinal!

The Male looks like this:

A Male Cardinal

Photograph by Joe Sebastiani.

 

And the Female looks like this:

A female Northern Cardinal. Photograph by Joe Sebastiani.

Photograph by Joe Sebastiani.

 

When a male and female of the same species look different, that species is called dimorphic (Pronounced dye-morf-ik). You may have known this was true of Cardinals, but do you know why?

There are lots of reasons for dimorphism, but it all comes down to attracting that special someone to build a nest together. Scientists think that a male cardinal’s redness has to do with how much nutrition he gets. So, he is advertising to the female that he is healthy, and knows where good food is to provide for babies.

Mallard ducks are also dimorphic. The more of a certain type of vitamin the male duck eats, the more orange their beak becomes! Female mallards are attracted to males with nice orange beaks.

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A male Mallard Duck. Photograph by Joe Sebastiani.

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A female Mallard Duck. Photograph by Joe Sebastiani.

 

Of course sometimes color has nothing to do with health and a female just chooses the male she thinks is the prettiest.

When a species is dimorphic, it really all depends on which gender is competing for the attention of the other. Lots of males often compete for the attention of one female, and the female chooses the male she’s most impressed by. If female cardinals are always choosing the reddest male cardinals, then their male babies will inherit that redness. Thus, very bright red males are born in a few generations!

Meanwhile the female cardinal doesn’t get anything out of being red. She’s not competing for a male’s attention; she’s choosing. Her coloration helps her camouflage with her surroundings instead. This is especially useful when they have to tend to a nest without predators finding them.

But why aren’t the females colorful too?

Sometimes the females are more colorful, like the Belted Kingfisher. Sometimes females and males are colored identically, like Blue Jays and Tufted Titmice. It all depends on the birds’ evolution, and how they interact with each other and their environment.

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A Blue Jay. Photograph by Joe Sebastiani.

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A Tufted Titmouse. Photograph by Joe Sebastiani.

Is dimorphism only about color differences? Nope! Males and females might be the same color, but different sizes or shapes! Remember Blue Jays? Females of that species tend to be smaller than males.

At Coverdale Farm preserve, our roosters are bigger than females. Compared to hens, roosters generally have bigger combs on their heads and wattles under their chins. That’s another way to attract females, but it also helps keep the bird cool in the heat of summer: that’s two purposes in one!

Do you want a chance this weekend to see some of these birds in real life? On February 13th, 2016 from 10am to 11:30pm, Ashland Nature Center invites families of all ages to Feed The Birds! Come hike to our bird feeders and birdwatch, as well as peak through our new bird blind. You’ll even make a bird feeder of your own so you can see these birds outside your own window. Try to spy some species you’ve never seen before, too! Register HERE, or call (302) 239-2334 to register over the phone.

If your family would like to see our chickens, cows and other farm animals, Coverdale Farm Preserve will show you around in Farm Valentines, where you’ll deliver a Valentine’s gift to fuzzy and feathered friends, and then make a valentines treat for someone you care about! This program will run on Valentine’s Day: February 14th, 2016, 1pm to 3pm. Register HERE, or call (302) 239-2334 to register over the phone.

And don’t forget, this weekend is the nationwide citizen science program: the Great Backyard Bird Count! Find out how to participate HERE.

Five Fun Groundhog Facts!

By Trudyann Buckley

Groundhog photo by Derek Stoner

Groundhog photograph by Derek Stoner

A groundhog could count these facts on one hand! …if he could count.

  1. groundhog1Groundhogs are also called whistle-pigs and woodchucks.

They are called whistle pigs because, when they spy a threat, they sometimes whistle. This may be to warn others, or to scare their predators. They’re not closely related to pigs at all!

Woodchucks don’t have anything to do with wood, either. (Though, they can climb trees to get away from predators.) The name “Woodchuck” actually comes from the Native American name for Groundhogs: wuchak.

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2.    groundhog2How Much Wood A Woodchuck Would Chuck:

If we’re talking about nibbling on wood, they do that to file down their teeth, but not too often.

But lots of people would say “to chuck” means to throw something. Groundhogs are great at digging burrows, so they chuck a lot of dirt, but not wood. In fact, one scientist found that they “throw” about 700 pounds of dirt out of the way to make one burrow. If you imagine that dirt is a bunch of wood chips instead, you have your answer!

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groundhog33.  Their teeth keep growing!

Groundhogs are rodents. They’re closely related to squirrels, and more distantly related to mice, rats, and beavers. Rodents are set apart from other mammals by their two front teeth, which just keep growing! If they don’t file their teeth down by munching, they’re in trouble! A groundhog’s teeth can grow a little less than an inch every year.

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groundhog44. They hibernate!

A lot of the mammals who live in Delaware stay active during the winter, but not groundhogs! They eat a lot during the fall, pack on the pounds, and then they burrow into the ground and fall asleep for the winter. While hibernating, they can lower their body temperature from around 99 degrees to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and sometimes even colder temperatures! Their heartbeat and breathing also slows down. During that time, they use their extra fat as fuel to keep them alive. Then, they wake up in the spring!

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groundhog55. Groundhog Day used to be Candlemas Day!

Groundhog Day has been celebrated on February 2nd in Punxsutawney, PA since the early 1800s. It falls on the Christian holiday of Candlemas, the festival of light. The superstition goes that if it’s sunny on Candlemas, then there will be six more weeks of winter. However, if it’s cloudy, then Spring is coming! So, in Europe, if a hedgehog emerged from hibernation on Candlemas and saw his shadow, uh oh! More winter! When Europeans came to America, groundhogs were chosen as a substitute, since there were no wild hedgehogs here.

Sun on Feb. 2nd meant MORE winter!

Do you want to celebrate Groundhogs with Delaware Nature Society? Come on over to Ashland Nature Center on February 1st at 10am for the Groundhog Gala! We’ll be meeting a Groundhog puppet friend, visiting an outdoor burrow, playing games, and crafting our own furry friend!

The Groundhog Gala is a seasonal family program, perfect for families with kids below ten years old! Learn more and register HERE! or, call (302) 239-2334 to register over the phone!