Monthly Archives: January 2016

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!

Meet the New Interns!

By Annalie Mallon and Trudyann Buckley

What’s happening nature lovers?! Enjoying this crisp January air? In the midst of learning how to teach all of the fall programs here at DNS along with the recent holiday craziness, we have completely forgotten to introduce ourselves 😳😱. Our names are Trudyann Buckley and Annalie Mallon and we are the education interns for the 2015-2016 year!  We are so happy that you have stumbled upon the kids nature blog – a great place for you to stay up to date on current things happening at DNS and to check out what kids like you have been doing at some of our sites!

Trudyann (left) and Annalie (right) teaching an Animals in Winter Outreach at a local school!

Since we have already been working here for the past few months, we thought we would give you a quick introduction with some fun facts about us and what we love most about working for the Delaware Nature Society.

Fact numero uno: We both have a passion for the outdoor world! What are some of the types of things we enjoy doing outside and where are some of our favorite spots to explore?

  • Annalie is a big ocean fanatic. When she is not daydreaming about living on a Caribbean island and SCUBA diving with fish everyday she enjoys hiking, camping, kayaking, and fishing! 🐠🐠 Below is a picture of her favorite camping spot on the St. Lawrence River in the Thousand Islands, New York.

camping

  • Trudyann likes to make the most of the seasons. She loves skim and boogie boarding on the New Jersey coast in the summer. In the winter, she hits the slopes on her snowboard in the Pocono Mountains. Below is a picture of the view on top of one of her favorite trails. She also loves hiking, ice skating, and swimming in lakes! slopes

Fact #2: The herp room animals are some of our best friends! We spend tons of time caring for, feeding, and teaching with these awesome reptiles and amphibians. Which ones are our favorites? (shh we’re allowed to have favorites, just don’t tell them!)

  • Trudyann thinks our spotted turtle is awesome! It’s pretty shy, but it’s very friendly. It has only three legs, but it doesn’t seem bothered. Also, its balancing game is on point! spotted turtle
  • Annalie’s favorite herp room friend is the Diamondback Terrapin because he has the coolest diamond shell pattern and polka dotted body, AND he is an excellent swimmer who gets to live by the beach! He has also been used as a symbol for one of her favorite bands (extra points if anyone can guess who!).

terrapin

Female Praying Mantis

#3: What are our favorite programs to teach??

  • Annalie enjoys teaching insect safari because we get to explore three different habitats around Ashland and search for some super cool insects! We found this pretty lady (right) sitting on top of the butterfly house one day and brought her to some of our school outreaches. She even laid an egg case which hatched in the herp room – we had hundreds of baby praying mantises!
  • Trudyann has a wonderful time teaching Stream Ecology. The lesson shows kids how fun science can be! We get to test stream chemistry and look for critters. Then we find out why one effects the other. She especially loves finding Crayfish in the stream–so cool!

#4: What is the most exciting/our favorite thing that we have done so far while working for the Delaware Nature Society?

  • To train for our Native Birds lesson, Trudyann loved looking after a borrowed pet Mallard duck all morning. The duck explored our office space, and then she sat right next to our desks and started to fall asleep!20160112_224436
  • Annalie thought shucking corn on the farm was quite a fun little mission. At the beginning of December, a whole group of teacher naturalists and volunteers got together at Coverdale Farm Preserve to pull off and collect all of the dried ears of corn in the corn field! We loaded up whole trashcans full to be used for school programs!

#5: What are you looking forward to doing before your internship is over at the end of August?!

  • “Apart from waiting for it to snow so that we can FINALLY use sledding hill for what it was named for, I am super psyched about summer camp!! I can’t wait to go on some awesome adventures with all of you kids!” – Annalie
  • “I’m looking forward to seeing all the flowers and trees at the Nature Center bloom in the Spring! I hear the meadow is going to be beautiful, so Nature Photography, Insect Safari, and Exploring Ecosystems will be extra fun to teach!” -Trudyann

Are you a Delaware Nature Society member between the ages of 9 and 12 and love nature like us?? Come on over to the Ashland Nature Center and join the Young Naturalist Club, a group of  nature lovers, bug collectors, snake finders, and explorers! We’ll be spending our time outdoors hiking and exploring streams, woods, fields and wetlands in search of reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals. Make new friends that are interested in the outdoors, like you. Time will be spent at Ashland Nature Center and natural areas and preserves in the area.

Meets the last Sunday of the month at Ashland Nature Center unless otherwise noted, 9 – noon

Ages 9-12, members only: $60

3511 Barley Mill Road Hockessin, DE 19707 (302) 239-2334

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New Year, New Trees!

by Annalie Mallon, Education Intern

Happy New Year nature lovers! We hope you enjoyed the holidays (although if you spent them any way like we did, you did quite a lot of eating and lazy laying around). So that means it’s time to get up and get back outside into what FINALLY seems like winter weather! (Take a look at the picture of wildflower creek below, it’s all iced over!) 12506621_10154218455222923_711342281_n

So I have some pretty amazing news to share with all of you – this past November, the Delaware Nature Society was granted the opportunity to plant a whopping 1,000 new trees and 1,000 new plants on some of our properties! If you are thinking to yourself “holy moly that sounds like a LOT of plants,” you are indeed correct. And to add to this plant craziness, the team of planters was given only a few short weeks to get them all into the ground. Sound like a challenge? They succeeded!

Take a walk down some of our trails here at Ashland Nature Center and see if you can spot any of these new plants. What might look like a bunch of little sticks popping out of the ground are actually baby trees, or saplings, of many different species!

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Here I am digging a hole to plant the sapling in the black container next to my foot!

Getting all of those saplings and plants into the ground took a lot of hard work and effort. First, large sections of dead vines and weeds had to be cut and mowed so that there was plenty of open land for planting. After mowing, the different species of trees and plants had to be distributed to these open areas according to their growing needs (for example, a type of tree that grows well in the shade was placed in a shadier spot). Then each and every hole had to be dug so that all 2,000 saplings and plants could be properly planted and snugly buried. Finally, hundreds of tree cages were cut, shaped, and carefully placed around the newly planted saplings to make sure they will not be eaten by deer and other animals this winter. All of this was done at Ashland Nature Center, Coverdale Farm Preserve, and Flint Woods Preserve within the span of only one month! Phew!

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Alec and Joe cutting and shaping a few of the hundreds of tree cages!

I asked the planting team about their month-long planting adventure, and this is what they had to say about some of the trees that were planted –

“I like the persimmon tree because people doing programs and camps, or just visiting our trails for a walk will be able to enjoy the delicious fruit that it produces. My favorite tree that I planted is the white oak because they are beautiful and the deer love them!” – Joe Cirillo

“We planted some beach plums which will produce some really yummy fruit, and I like the paw paw tree because it has a great name” – Dave Pro

I personally enjoyed planting the Tulip Poplar saplings because the roots were a bright neon green color and they smelled super funky. The Tulip trees also produce beautiful flowers in the spring (pictured below) and they can grow to be up to 150 feet tall!! (I made sure that all of the saplings I planted were done with extra love and care, so they will most definitely grow to be that tall).

tulip tree flower

Tulip Tree Flower taken by Dave Pro

So there you have it! Planting thousands of trees is a lot of hard work (I might still have blisters on my hands from my attempts at making tree cages), but it will definitely pay off years from now when they all grow to become new homes for the many animals that live around here.

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Can you see all of the new tree cages lining walnut lane?

Bring your family over to the Ashland Nature Center and join us this Sunday, January 10th, from noon to 3pm for our New Year’s Plant count! Discover how many species of plants can be found here in the middle of winter with botanist Janet Ebert, and see how many of these new trees you can find! Please bring a bag lunch and dress for the weather.

Register at www.delnature.org or by calling 302-239-2334.

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