Hello everyone! We’re Rebecca Wadman and Corey Harrison, the Environmental Education interns here at Delaware Nature Society for 2014-2015! We’re going to be keeping this blog up to date with the exciting things that are happening here at DNS, from family programs to seasonal changes.
Winter is here, and the plants and animals all around us are slowing down. Lots of birds have migrated to the southern United States and the tropics for the winter. You might have seen flocks of birds traveling, but by now all the birds that are going to go south have left Delaware for the year.
Some animals have started to hibernate, slowing down all their bodily functions, letting their temperature drop, and resting for the winter. Reptiles, amphibians, and many mammals go through some kind of hibernation.
Reptiles, like our turtles and snakes, rest for the winter underground or in the mud at the bottom of ponds. Turtles in our area hibernate for about half of the year! Before they hibernate, turtles stop eating and start moving slowly. Aquatic turtles hide in the mud on the bottom of ponds, but box turtles have powerful legs and claws that they use to dig deep holes in the ground. Most turtles don’t hibernate for the entire winter, but will come out of their hiding places and go look for a drink of water if it gets warm enough to move around.
Amphibians also hibernate. Many frogs dive down to the bottom of ponds and hibernate there. They do not burrow, they just sit on the bottom of the pond until it gets warm again in the spring. Toads, like our American toads, dig deep burrows in soft dirt by pushing and kicking with their back legs. They have to dig down far enough that they won’t freeze in the winter when it gets cold. In some places, this means they have to dig a hole three feet deep! A lot of the time, toads will just use a burrow left behind by some other animal, so they don’t have to dig their own. Some frogs, like wood frogs, will hide underneath logs and leaves and will actually freeze for part of the winter!
Come join us on our winter hikes at Coverdale Farm Preserve, the third Sunday of the month January-April and try to see some of these animals waking up! These walks are from 1-3pm, and are for the whole family. Please register at www.delawarenaturesociety.org and search for the program “Winter Hikes – Warming Snacks”. For members, these programs are $10 per person. You’ll also have the chance to see our farm animals, including baby animals in the spring, and make some delicious snacks!