Category Archives: Out and About

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

Who Came First? The Shorebird or the Egg?

What do Delaware Nature Society staff members do when they all take a day off together? Go play outside, of course! At the end of May, we headed down to the Delaware Bay to see the migratory shorebirds and check out the horseshoe crab phenomenon. It was quite a sight to see thousands of horseshoe crabs all in one place!

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Look at all of them!

LOOK!  Photo by Jim White.

So what’s the big deal about these horseshoe crabs anyway? Every year in May and June, horseshoe crabs converge on the Delaware Bay to breed during the full and new moons, as well as high tides. The Delaware Bay is known as a staging site for migratory shorebirds, a place between their wintering and nesting grounds where food is plentiful and the birds can double or triple their body weight before continuing their journey. The horseshoe crab eggs that are laid are an important food source for these birds as they stop here on their way to their Arctic nesting grounds.

The first stop on our outing was at Slaughter Beach. Abbott’s Mill staff member, Elliot, taught us about the horseshoe crab migration and the interdependency between the horseshoe crabs and the migrating shorebirds. We spent some time looking for horseshoe crab sheds and even got to tag one of the horseshoe crabs!

Scientists can track where the horseshoe crabs travels by tagging them and hoping someone finds them and reports them later. Photo by Jim White.

FUN FACT: Did you know that horseshoe crab blood is really important? Horseshoe crabs are harvested for their blood because it is used in medical testing to ensure that drugs, vaccines, or other medical devices are free from bacteria contamination. Staff member Jim White extracted some horseshoe crab blood to show us how quickly the blood coagulates, or solidifies. It’s also a very bright blue color!

DNS staff member Jim White drawing horseshoe crab blood. Photo by Christy Belardo.

 

Next, we did some birding at the Dupont Nature Center and as we drove along Port Mahon Road. (Pronounced MAY-hon).  We got some great looks at the shorebirds throughout the day, check out these pictures!

So many Semipalmated Sandpipers in flight! Photo by Jim White.

Ruddy Turnstones. Guess why they are called turnstones!  They actually turn over stones and other debris with their upturned bill!  How cool is that! Photo by Jim White.

Anna likes Double-crested Cormorants because she thinks they look like dinosaurs! Photo by Joe Sebastiani.

 

See all those little green dots? Those are horseshoe crab eggs, and these Semipalmated Sandpipers were having a delicious lunch! Photo by Joe Sebastiani.

I was most excited to see the Red Knots on this trip because I’d never seen them before.  This colorful bird has declined dramatically in recent years, partly due to the overharvesting of horseshoe crabs, who’s eggs they eat along Delaware Bay.  However, this season there has been a higher count of Red Knots on the Delaware Bay than scientists have seen in a number of years!

The Red Knots look very similar to the Semipalmated Sandpipers, but you can see they are much larger and have a red breast. Photo by Joe Sebastiani.

It was such a great day to spend some time away together as a staff and just be outside! It was a lot of fun learning about the horseshoe crabs and learning how to handle them. It took a little getting used to…

It was slightly alarming holding the horseshoe crab for the first time, especially when it was pointing its tail at us! They are actually harmless and fun to hold.  No need to be afraid!  Photo by Christy Belardo.

…but after the initial “yikes!” moments, Anna and I had a blast taking a closer look at these ancient animals!

Photo by Jim White.

Two thumbs up for horseshoe crabs! Photo by Brian Winslow.

By the time you read this, many of the shorebirds we saw will be winging their way to the arctic to nest.  Some of them fly non-stop for thousands of miles to get there!

Just like these shorebirds, Anna and I will be spreading our wings and flying onto what’s next as our year-long internship comes to an end. We had an absolute BLAST writing for the blog this past year; we hope you’ve had as much fun reading our posts as we’ve had writing them! Don’t worry though, we will still be around this summer teaching camps and plan on occasionally guest writing for the blog. We hope you continue to have fun outdoorsy adventures, and we’ve encouraged you to as find as much joy in nature as we have!

A Snowy Ashland Morning

Hey kids! Did you enjoy waking up Sunday morning to the blanket of snow as much as I did? Christy Belardo, Delaware Nature Society’s Volunteer Coordinator, and I had a sleepover at the intern house the night before; it was a wonderful surprise for both of us to wake up to snow! We quickly shoved our feet in our boots and threw on our coats to go take pictures of the snow covered Ashland Nature Center. The glistening white snow looked beautiful in the morning sun!

The snow covered driveway leading up to the intern house. Do you see the tracks in the bottom of the picture? Can you guess what animal those tracks belong to? (Keep reading to find out...) Photo by Christy Belardo.

The snow covered driveway leading up to the intern house. Do you see the tracks in the bottom of the picture? Can you guess what animal those tracks belong to? (Take the quiz below to see if your guess is correct!) Photo by Christy Belardo.

The  marsh looks quite different when it’s blanketed in snow! Photo by Christy Belardo.

The marsh looks quite different when it’s blanketed in snow! Photo by Christy Belardo.

After we got our fill of taking pictures, we headed back inside. There is a bird feeder that sits right outside the dining room bay window, and I often bird as I’m eating my breakfast in the mornings. Christy and I did the same, and she caught this Carolina Chickadee in action at the feeder. We saw Tufted Titmice and a White-breasted Nuthatch who also came to the feeder to eat breakfast with us.

Carolina Chickadee at the bird feeder next to the intern house!

Carolina Chickadee at the bird feeder next to the intern house! Photo by Christy Belardo.

 

Christy and I also got to see some tracks that were in the driveway. Take a good look at the tracks in these pictures; Photo 1 and Photo 2. Then, scroll down to take the quiz below to see if you can identify the animal that made the tracks!

Photo 1: What animal made these tracks? Answer below!

Photo 1: What animal made these tracks? Take the quiz below!

Photo 2: What animal made these tracks? Answer below!

Photo 2: What animal made these tracks? Take the quiz below!

Your Score:  

Your Ranking:  

If you enjoying exploring in winter like Christy and me, and you’re looking for something to do on a day you have no school, look no further than the Delaware Nature Society’s Day Camps! When school is out, nature is in! The first day camp is Monday, January 21st 8:30am – 3:30pm for kids ages 5-12.  We will be exploring the winter wonderland of Ashland looking for signs of animals and tracks, as well as playing games and making our own bird feeders. Dress for the weather and pack a lunch. Snacks will be provided.

Save the dates for our other day camps as well!
Monday, February 18th 8:30am – 3:30pm
No School? Ashland Unplugged – Experience your favorite video games come to life! Try shooting an arrow or a slingshot, and complete an obstacle course to save the “princess”! Dress for the weather and pack a lunch. Snacks will be provided.

Wednesday, April 3rd 8:30am – 3:30pm
No School? Caring for Animals – Spend time with Ashland’s animal collection and exploring the grounds for some animal’s favorite food! Build a toad abode or “enrichment” for one of the animals at Ashland Nature Center or at home. Dress for the weather and pack a lunch. Snacks will be provided.

Don’t miss out just because your parents have to work when you have no school! Before-care and after-care are available for all our day camps.

If you are interested in registering for our day camps or would like more information, please visit us at www.delawarenaturesociety.org or call us at (302) 239-2334.

 

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!

 

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!

 

Out and About: Week of April 27

Hey nature lovers! I hope you’re ready for another exciting round-up of the week, because it’s coming at you quick! We almost need two posts for this week.

Our first two photos comes to us from teacher/naturalist Bethanie Delfunt. They were both taken during programs with Penn London Elementary School. The first is of two different species of dragonfly niaids (babies). It is really cool to get two compare two dragonflies in their larval state. The second picture with Penn London is of an adorable baby snapping turtle. He looks a bit different from the 25 pound goliath that we saw a couple weeks ago (see: Out and About: Week of April 15).

They certainly don't look much an adult dragonfly!


They are so cute until they get big enough to take off a finger

Our next photo is from a guide training at Flint Woods Preserve. Migrant birds are coming in full force right now and this is a shot of a common yellowthroat; a type of warbler that comes back to the area this time of the year.

Check out his black mask

Thanks to Greenwood Elementary School, I was able to get this cool photo. Leafcutter bees were taking shelter under a cherry tree during a morning rain. We were there to do an On School Grounds program for their first graders. They have an awesome nature trail!

There were about thirty bees hiding under this tree

Our last photo was actually taken about an hour and a half before this post! Steve Jonas caught this cool milk snake when he was doing land maintenance on the grounds. It was not very happy to be caught; in fact; it bit him!

This snake had a real attitude!


It had such gorgeous coloration

Whew! I am out of breath! That’s it for this week but The May Herp Room Animal of the Month will be up by this weekend! Keep checking in. Until then this is Austin Conley saying…Stay Wild!

Out and About: Week of April 22nd

Welcome back nature lovers! There was a lot of stuff to see here at Ashland Nature Center once again. Check out these cool pictures of some cool animals that can all be found in your backyard!
Our first photo comes from teacher/naturalist Bethanie Delfunt and has not one but two animals! During a Forest and Field program for Bancroft Elementary School a red-backed salamander and a North American giant millipede were located by the students.

Thanks Bancroft Elementary for the cool critters!

Wood frogs have left the ponds! A gorgeous male wood frog was also found in the forests. He was one of the many found this past week.

Adults have left the ponds put they left many tadpoles

Our next photo comes from yours truly of a pretty big bullfrog that was found out the pond at Ashland. Bullfrogs have been out in masses this week. If you go out to marshes and ponds at night, there is a good chance that you will see bullfrogs and green frogs.

These guys are everywhere here at Ashland

And finally some quality family time. Teacher/naturalist Jeff Haas found a squirrel nest in a tree cavity down at the marsh at Ashland. We believe that there are two babies with the mother. I saw the mother head in there today so they must all be doing well.

The mother is at the top of the hole. More pictures are sure to follow as the babies grow up!

We don’t have a video this week but I’m sure that there will be something worth filming soon! Hope you enjoyed it! Austin Conley signing off. Stay Wild!

Out and About: Week of April 15th

Howdy nature lovers! Are you ready for another dose of wildlife from our DNS sites. We had a lot of interesting events happen this week including one very large event.

Our first and most adorable happening was a deer mouse that was caught in the intern house at Ashland Nature Center. He was corralled into a box by education intern Kelly Schaeffer and released out into the fields.

This guy was enjoying the warmth of the intern house


We have also been seeing a lot of cool birds. A few pairs of waterfowl have been hanging out in the marsh. Geese, mallards, and also a pair of wood ducks have all been seen multiple times. A green heron was even spotted flying around the area.

Perusing the Red Caly Creek for food


Time to Identify! Conservation Project Coordinator; Derek Stoner found a pupa that is actually moving when it is picked up! Do you think you know what it is? Comment on this post with your answer and we will tell you what it is when it hatches!

Who do you think will emerge from this?


And finally time for the big news. This Monday we had a very big visitor. A common snapping turtle was brought to us that came from a private pond. He had to be removed from it because he was eating the geese!

That is a yard stick that he is laying next to...


His shell was 16 inches long by 13 inches wide and he weighed in at 25 pounds!

He was not a big fan of having his picture taken


After he was measured and recorded by Associate Director for Land and Biodiversity Management; Jim White, the Snapper was released into the Red Clay Creek so he can find a new home. Check out this video of the big guy’s release.

There’s your scoop on another great week. I hope you all enjoyed the post. Be sure to send us things that you have seen around. Herp Room Animal of the Month will continue in May, so stay tuned. Check in new week to see what else is happening! Until then, this is Austin Conley saying… Stay Wild!