Tag Archives: birds

Animal Travelers

By Rebecca Wadman, Education Intern

Every animal needs to be able to find its way from one place to another for food, shelter, and reproduction. But animals can’t make maps or use GPS like we can, so how do they find their way across large distances?

Pigeon pair - Photo by Derek Stoner

Pigeon pair – Photo by Derek Stoner

Pigeons will fly hundreds of miles to make their way back to their nests, and so people have been using them to carry messages from one place to another for thousands of years. Ancient Greeks used them to announce the winners of the Olympics, doctors used them to deliver medication, and soldiers in both World Wars used them to send messages back to base.

In order to find their home nests from wherever they are, pigeons rely on a complicated combination of all their senses. They use the sun as a compass to help point themselves in the right direction, and then they use hearing, sight, and even smell to direct them home. Not only that, but pigeons have the ability to sense magnetic fields, which can tell them which way is north, and also how far up or down their flight is tilted.

Bees on Purple Coneflower - Photo by Katie Harrison

Bees on Purple Coneflower – Photo by Katie Harrison

Honeybees not only know how to find their way through their environment, they also know how to give other bees directions!

A honeybee can tell the others in her hive where to find a location. This can be the location of flowers, water, or even a new hive site. She does this by dancing. If she dances straight up towards the top of the hive, the location that she’s trying to point the others to is straight towards the sun. If she dances straight down, she’s trying to point the others directly away from the sun.

Bees also use scent to communicate. As they dance, they spread the scent of whatever flower they just visited to the other bees in the hive. This helps the other bees find the flowers by looking for a similar scent.

Come find your way around Ashland Nature Center every weekend! Our teacher naturalists lead a free hike at 10:00am and 2:00pm on both Saturday and Sunday!

Happy Spring!

Snow at Ashland - Photo by Rebecca Wadman

Snow at Ashland – Photo by Rebecca Wadman

It was late in the winter, but a couple weeks ago we finally had a spectacular snowfall! Here at Ashland, we had an absolutely perfect opportunity for finding evidence of some of our winter animals (and for sledding!)

Junco - Photo by Rebecca Wadman

Can you find the Dark-eyed Junco? – Photo by Rebecca Wadman

Birds are everywhere! Many birds migrate away from Delaware for the winter, but the ones that stay have to figure out what to do when there’s so much snow on the ground. It’s harder to find food, and much harder to stay warm. If you do see any birds when it’s this cold, they’ll be sitting in the trees with their feathers fluffed up to hold in heat.

Dog Paw Print - Photo by Rebecca Wadman

Dog Paw Print – Photo by Rebecca Wadman

On snowy days, it’s easier to see where animals and people have been walking. It’s amazing just how many people walk the trails here at Ashland Nature Center, alone or with their dogs. When I was out on a walk, I saw footprints, dog paw prints, ski tracks, and sled tracks. Every footstep makes a mark in the snow, and if you grab a field guide and keep your eyes open, who knows what animals you’ll find evidence of!

Whose Tracks Are These? - Photo by Rebecca Wadman

Whose Tracks Are These? – Photo by Rebecca Wadman

But springtime is coming, and the snow can’t stick around forever. As the snow melts, some of the season’s first flowers are starting to show, and animals are starting to come back from their winter homes.

Tree Swallow - Photo by John Harrod

Tree Swallow – Photo by John Harrod

Tree swallows are small, iridescent birds that migrate down to Central America during the winter, and travel as far north as the Arctic Circle to breed in the summer. Below is an example of tree swallow sounds. See if you can find any of these birds outside this week!

Come on over to Ashland Nature Center during the week and stop in at the visitor’s center for trail guides to help you learn more about the plants and animals you can find here!

Young Naturalists Go Winter Birding!

The Young Naturalists Club wasted no time kicking off 2013 with an awesome outdoorsy adventure! Our Young Naturalists leader and favorite guest author, Kristen, wrote about their experience last weekend. Check out what she had to say about it!

On Sunday, January 27th the Young Naturalist Club took a trip to Tri-State Bird Rescue.  We were lucky enough to arrive just in time to see a Bald Eagle being freed!  We learned that it had arrived at Tri-State in a very sleepy state, and that tests revealed he had ingested chemicals that are used to put animals to sleep.  He was lucky to have been sent to Tri-State, because within a week he was healthy and being set free!

Check out....

It was incredible seeing a Bald Eagle so close! Look how big and powerful his wingspan is! Photo by Kristen Sensabaugh.


After getting to see the release of the Bald Eagle, we went inside and Tri-State’s Volunteer & Office Manager, Julie, taught us about what Tri-State Bird Rescue does and took us on a tour of the facility. Outside, there were several bird feeders and we caught a glimpse of Carolina Chickadees, Cardinals and a Downy Woodpecker. 

The Young...

Young Naturalists taking a look at the facility and bird feeders at Tri-State Bird Rescue. Photo by Kristen Sensabaugh.

We also got to meet Ishta, the resident Peregrine Falcon at Tri-State.  On our way back inside, we saw a Black Vulture sitting on top of the building and learned that a pair of vultures tend to nest there.  After our tour, we took a hike along the birding trail at Middle Run Natural Area and saw a Red-bellied Woodpecker!

Thanks for sharing about your exciting day Kristen! I’m so jealous the Young Naturalists got to see a Bald Eagle take flight right in front of you. That must have been amazing! The Young Naturalists have many more fun adventures planned for their next meetings too, check it out!

Sunday, February 17th  1-4pm – Come make your own maple syrup from the maple tree sap at Ashland Nature Center. Then, taste test different “syrups” and make pancakes. Sounds delicious, doesn’t it?

Saturday, March 23rd  6-9pm – Learn about the bats and amphibians that call Ashland Nature Center home and go for a hike to find some of them! Afterwards, build a campfire and roast marshmallows while looking for bats flying overhead! [Note: Time and date change from original schedule.]

Sunday, April 28th from 1-4 pm –  Head off-site to look for cool rocks and minerals! Location is to be determined, most likely the location will be Iron Hill or Woodlawn Trustees Preserve. [Note: Time and date change from original schedule.]

Sunday, May 19th, 1-4pm – It’s time to go fishing at Coverdale Farm Preserve! Directions will be provided before the outing.

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

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!


Introducing Anna and Carrie and Their Favorite Herp Room Friends!

Hellooooooo fellow nature lovers! We are the Environmental Education Interns for 2012-2013 – Carrie Scheick and Anna Lounsbury. We are so delighted that you have found the Delaware Nature Society’s nature blog for kids! Here’s the place you can “Ask a Naturalist” any nature questions you have, stay updated on current nature events, and check out our “Program Spotlight” to see what kids like you have been up to when they visit our sites!

We will be updating the blog from now on and just wanted to give you a quick introduction of who we are. We’re going to spice it up a little by also introducing you to our favorite Ashland Herp Room friends! We thought we would ask ourselves questions that our reptile friends could also answer (we know they can’t talk, so we had to imagine what they would say!)


This is Anna and her favorite animal – the Leopard Gecko!

This is Carrie and her favorite animal – the Yellow-footed Tortoise!

Let’s get to know the interns!

Q: What is your favorite food?

Carrie: Ice cream! I eat a lot of junk food…

Anna: Pizza! Especially dipping the crust in garlic sauce, yum, yum!

Q: If you had to pick a favorite spot at Ashland Nature Center, where would it be?

Carrie: The top of the Succession Trail in the woods. It has a great view and is such a peaceful place! I like to sit on the bench along the trail and just look and listen to the nature around me.

Anna: The old Sycamore tree on the Floodplain Trail. I have always loved climbing trees and that tree is absolutely perfect for sitting in and reading a book or looking for birds!

Q: What is your favorite outdoor activity?

Carrie: I love backpacking! It’s very rewarding to know I’ve hiked for miles in the woods surviving with only what I can carry on my back!

Anna: I love to kayak! While moving slowly down the river, you can see Great Blue Herons and Kingfishers, as well as large fish.  Plus it’s great exercise and going down rapids is exciting!


Anna’s favorite Herp Room friend is the Leopard Gecko.

This is Ashland’s Leopard Gecko!

Did you know that leopard geckos live all the way on the other side of the world in India and that their tail can grow back if it falls off? Wild!


Carrie’s favorite Herp Room friend is the Yellow-footed Tortoise, affectionately named Speedbump, who was once a pet and was donated to Ashland Nature Center.

This is Ashland’s Yellow-footed Tortoise – Speedbump!

Did you know that yellow-footed tortoises live in the rainforest of South America and live to be 50 – 60 years old? Pretty cool stuff!


Now let’s get to know the reptiles!

Q: What is your favorite food?

Yellow-footed Tortoise: I’m an omnivore! I like to eat salads – full of lettuce, fruits (especially strawberries!), and vegetables. But I also like an occasional worm!

Leopard Gecko: I’m a carnivore! I only eat crickets and mealworms.  I get so excited to eat them that I shake my tail like a cat before I pounce on my prey!

Q: If you had to pick a favorite spot at Ashland Nature Center, where would it be?

Yellow-footed Tortoise: I like the front lawn next to the picnic tables! There are a lot of greens for me to eat!

Leopard Gecko: I really like the geology floodplain. There’s lots of sand and it gets a lot of sun, which I love because I’m from the desert!

Q: What is your favorite outdoor activity?

Yellow-footed Tortoise: I like going on long walks, like Carrie, but instead of carrying a backpack, I carry my shell. I carry my home with me everywhere I go!

Leopard Gecko: Well, I don’t like kayaking like Anna does because I hate the water. But I would go rock climbing at night because I am nocturnal. I’m a great climber, I can climb up vertical surfaces!


Thanks for getting to know us and our reptilian friends! Be sure to often check back to see what other fun things have been happening at the Delaware Nature Society!