Monthly Archives: November 2012

Enjoying Your Backyard Bird Friends!

Did you know that not all birds migrate south for the winter? Some birds stay here in Delaware, and you can see them right outside your window! Now’s the time to feed the birds! There are different kinds of bird feeders—natural bird feeders like sunflowers and winterberries, as well as artificial bird feeders that you can hang up in your own backyard!

Delaware Nature Society has both of these feeders at their sites! At Coverdale Farm Preserve, a field of sunflowers is planted each spring. Through the spring and summer you can see their vibrant yellow petals and big, brown heads.  These big, brown heads are full of sunflower seeds and birds love to eat these seeds in the fall! Although the sunflowers don’t look as pretty anymore, they make excellent bird feeders!

This field of sunflowers at Coverdale Farm Preserve is a great place for birds to eat seeds!

The birds land on their tipped heads and reach underneath to pluck a sunflower seed from the head. The birds crack the seed open and eat the inside, and then leave the shell on the top of the head. They are very messy eaters!

Do you see the seeds the birds left on top of the sunflower head?


Other natural bird feeders are winterberries and holly berries.  Winterberries do not ripen until November (did you know that freezing weather actually triggers ripeness?) and the berries make an excellent winter snack for our birds.

These winterberries at Ashland are waiting for a bird to eat them up!

This Eastern Bluebird is snacking on some winterberries right here at Ashland! Photo by Derek Stoner.


American holly berries ripen even later in the wintertime during December.  These berries are bright red which tells the birds that they are ripe and ready to eat. These provide nutrients for the birds and give the birds energy and warmth through the winter.

Holly berries look very similar to the winterberries, except their leaves are super pointy! Don’t touch!

This female Purple Finch found some red multiflora rose berries to snack on! Remember, red is a trigger color for the birds! Photo by Derek Stoner.


At Ashland Nature Center, we place sunflower seeds and thistle in artificial bird feeders made of plastic and/or wood that hang along our trails and outside of the auditorium windows.  It’s not only a treat for the birds, but it is also enjoyable for the staff members and visitors to see these beautiful birds in the wintertime! Check out these pictures that DNS staff member and bird lover Derek Stoner has taken!

A Carolina Chickadee snacking on some suet (keep reading to find out what suet is!) Photo by Derek Stoner.

A Tufted Titmouse – this bird is appropriately named due to the tuft of feathers on its head! Photo by Derek Stoner.

This male Northern Cardinal has the perfect beak to crack open the seeds that may be in your bird feeder! Photo by Derek Stoner.

Check out the beautiful blue feathers of this Blue Jay! Photo by Derek Stoner.

This picture of a Purple Finch was taken on one of our Ashland artificial bird feeders! What great colorful feathers! Photo by Derek Stoner.


Aren’t those birds pretty? Those species of birds (and more!) may come hang out in your backyard if you put up a bird feeder! Here are some ideas of different foods to put in your artificial bird feeders. If you like Goldfinches, put thistle in your feeder.  Suet, a fat that gives birds lots of energy, attracts chickadees (that’s what the chickadee was eating in Derek’s picture!), tufted titmice, nuthatches, and woodpeckers. Sunflower seeds and mixed seeds attract seed-eating birds like bright, red cardinals. These are just some examples, you may find a lot more species come visit your bird feeders! It’s also important to keep refilling your bird feeders to make sure your backyard birds stay fed, especially during a snow storm!

Carrie is refilling one of the bird feeders at Ashland Nature Center for her feathered friends!


So grab some birdseed, a field guide, and your binoculars and find out what kinds of birds hang out in your backyard all winter long! It will certainly be quite a treat!


Young Naturalists Club Goes Owl Banding!

Hey kids! The Young Naturalists Club, a group of 9-12 year old nature lovers, went on a really cool field trip a few weeks ago! One of their fearless leaders Kristen Sensabaugh wrote about their experience, check out what they had to say about it!

On Saturday, October 27th the Young Naturalists Club took a trip to the Rushton Woods Bird Banding Station at Rushton Farms in Malvern, PA in hopes to see a Northern Saw-Whet Owl!  The bird banding station has been open since 2009 and is run by the Willistown Conservation Trust. Blake Goll and Doris McGovern taught our group that banding birds, placing a numbered plastic band around the bird’s foot, provides a way for scientists to learn more about the life span, population growth and behavior of bird species.

Choosing a band for the owl! Photo by Kristen Sensabaugh.

The  Northern Saw-Whet Owl was once thought to be endangered, but through closer study that has been found to be untrue.  Right now, the Saw-Whet owls are migrating from Canada and so far 80 have stopped at Rushton Woods this year to refuel so they can continue their journey further south. The owls are drawn in to an area with mist nets by a loud Saw-Whet Owl call playing through large speakers.

We took our first trip out to the nets at 7:45pm and went back to the building empty handed, but with high hopes that an owl would be caught the next time out.  Blake took our group on a night hike and to the “scratch and sniff” garden of organic herbs at the farm while we waited for the next trip to the nets.  We headed back out to the nets at 8:45pm and found an owl in the net!  Blake took the bird back to the banding station where we got to see the bird banded, weighed (the owl weighed 100 grams, so that told us it was a female because the males weigh less – approximately 65-85 grams) as well as see other measurements, like the length of the beak and color of the feathers!

We determined the age of the owl by the feathers! Photo by Kristen Sensabaugh.


After all the data was collected, we were taught how to hold the owl safely and we each took a turn!

One of the Young Naturalists, Gabe, holds the Saw-Whet Owl! Photo by Kristen Sensabaugh.

Another Young Naturalist, Joey, holds the Saw-Whet Owl! Photo by Kristen Sensabaugh.


Didn’t this trip sound super awesome!? Thanks for sharing Kristen! The Young Naturalists have fun adventures planned for their next meetings too, check it out!

Sunday, November 25th 1-4pm – They will be learning about how the Lenni Lenape lived on the land that is now Ashland Nature Center!

Sunday, December 16th 1-4pm – They will be learning about and searching for signs of animals in the winter!

When the warm weather return’s the Young Naturalists will be out trying to catch reptiles, amphibians, and fish!

If you’re interested in joining the Young Naturalists Club on their adventures, sign up now! Members can register online at or you may call us at (302) 239 – 2334.

This Fungi is a Fun Guy

Have you walked the path towards the Ashland Nature Center and seen this great big blob on the side of the Silver Maple tree?

This is the Bearded Tooth Mushroom along the path to the Ashland Nature Center.

That blob is a fungus known as the Bearded Tooth mushroom!  That is its scientific name, but this fungus has a lot of names! It’s also known as the Chandelier Fungus, Lion’s Mane, Hedgehog Mushroom, and Pom Pom Mushroom. That’s a lot of names, huh? I only  have one name. It’s Carrie…

I took another picture from a different angle, check it out! It makes sense that Chandelier Fungus is one of its nicknames, right?

This angle is so cool!

This mushroom, like other species of fungus, eats the dead and decaying wood on trees and it is common to see these kinds of mushrooms in the late summer and fall.


You can eat this mushroom, but only when it is really small and first appears on the tree (so don’t pick the one at Ashland)! In fact, in China, vegetarians replace meat with this mushroom. They are called Monkeyhead Mushrooms! What a silly name!

Next time you’re in China, pick this up at the grocery store!

Remember, never eat anything you find in nature – mushrooms (or even plants) unless an adult who is 100% sure of what it is tells you it is edible (meaning it’s okay to eat)! But if you see this in a grocery store, ask your parents, and go for it!

Tell me if you’ve seen anything else cool in your adventures outside, we’d love to hear about it! Fall is a great time to look for fungus on fallen logs or dead trees! Keep exploring!