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
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
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!
Greetings nature lovers! We are Kim Scotto and Hannah Greenberg, the environmental education interns at the Delaware Nature Society for the 2013-2014 year! Here’s your place to “Ask a Naturalist” nature questions, keep updated on seasonal activity in the natural world, and check out what kids like you have been doing at our Delaware Nature Society sites. Our “Program Spotlight” lets you know of ways that YOU can get involved with US!
But first, allow us to introduce ourselves with some fun facts:
Fun fact #1: We love snakes!
Here is Kim with Ashland’s Corn Snake! Photo by Hannah Greenberg
Here is Hannah with a garter snake that she found while out on a hike! Photo by Carrie Scheick
But wait- aren’t snakes dangerous? No, not usually. Neither of the snakes that we are holding are venomous, but some snakes can have bites that range from plain painful to deadly! The only venomous snake in Delaware is the Copperhead, but it is rarely encountered. Remember; don’t pick up a snake you find out in the wild unless you’re with an adult who knows their snakes! Both Hannah and Kim have been trained in how to handle these cold-blooded creatures. We think they’re just fascinating!
Fun fact #2: We love the fall!
We love taking hikes in autumn and looking at the beautiful changing leaves. Now is the perfect time of year to take a walk around Ashland Nature Center and look at the gorgeous colors. Here are some pictures from Ashland this autumn!
The gorgeous view from Ashland’s Hawk Watch Hill. Check back soon to learn about our Hawk Watch program! Photo by Joe Sebastiani
Hannah playing in the leaves! Photo by Kim Scotto
Fall is also a great time of year to observe Kim’s favorite native wild animal- the Eastern Gray Squirrel! In November, these acrobatic mammals are hard at work burying nuts and acorns to eat later on in the winter when food isn’t as easy to find. Did you know that many oak trees are grown from acorns that squirrels buried and then forgot about?
Kim’s favorite native animal is the Eastern Gray Squirrel! Photo by Joe Sebastiani
Fun fact #3: We just LOVE nature! And we hope we have that in common with YOU!
Kim just LOVES nature! Photo by Hannah Greenberg
We can’t wait to get to know you as we share our adventures in nature! In the comments section of this blog, tell us your favorite thing about the fall, and be sure to check in often to see what’s happening at the Delaware Nature Society.
Hey kids! How much time do you spend outside each week? According to a recent study, the average child spends 54 hours in front of screen per week – that’s more than two full days! Our life is so tuned into technology, but the Delaware Nature Society wants to challenge you to “Get Unplugged!” by getting outside and having fun in nature. We made it really easy for you by creating a family program for each of the 10 activities listed on the Delaware Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights. What’s that you ask? Keep reading to find out, and don’t forget to check out the awesome family programs at the bottom of this blog!
Delaware Governor Markell wants to see kids outside too! Governor Markell and other adults like him care so much about kids having a positive outdoor experience that they have launched an initiative called Children in Nature. This program is made up of a number of task force groups and committees who promote kids’ development, healthy lifestyles, and academic achievement through spending time outside. They created the Delaware Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights to help achieve these goals. This Outdoor Bill of Rights is a list of activities created to get kids outside and have fun in nature, and it’s a pretty awesome list if I say so myself.
Anna, Christy, and I took a look at the list of activities in the Outdoor Bill of Rights and decided to see if we have accomplished everything on it between the three of us. (Just because it’s technically for kids, doesn’t mean we can’t try to complete this list as well!) In this post and another to come, we will share some gems from our past and recent outdoorsy adventures with you. Check it out!
Go Outside and Play! Grab a friend and go for a walk through a field or a forest and see what you can find. Tracks? Holes? Nests? Scat? Wildlife? The possibilities are endless. Since I started working for the Delaware Nature Society and living at Ashland Nature Center (just one of the perks being an intern!), I’ve hiked each of the trails here many times. I love that no matter how many times you can hike a trail, you never see the exact same things twice!
Taking a walk with a friend is the best way to spend an afternoon!
Another fun thing to do outside is spend some time watching the clouds float by. Find an open spot in your backyard and lay on your back in the grass. Count the clouds or see if the clouds are making any cool shapes! Anna loves searching for fun shapes in the clouds.
On a nice day at Ashland, Anna likes to watch the rolling clouds.
Catch a Fish. Grab a net or a fishing pole and see how many fish you can catch. I’ve caught fish before just using a stick and some fishing line! Each summer, the Delaware Nature Society offers a number of different fishing camps. Each year, the interns on that trip must participate in a special tradition – they must kiss the fish they catch! Both Christy and Anna have upheld this tradition, check out these silly pictures!
Maybe Christy was hoping it would turn into a prince? Anna REALLY loves fish. Photos by Derek Stoner.
Camp Under the Stars. If you’re feeling adventurous, grab a tent and spend the night outside. Never been camping before? Start simple by setting your tent up in your backyard! Spend some time looking at the beautiful night sky, see if you can find any constellations or count the stars that are out that night. Catch fireflies and make some s’mores. Lay in your sleeping bag and listen to the sounds of the night and see if they sound different from what you may hear during the day. Did you know that you can determine the approximate air temperature outside by the number of times the katydid says its name? Count how many times the katydid says its name in 15 seconds and then add 40 to that number – you should get the approximate air temperature.
Christy camped under the big western sky in Guadalupe State Park in Texas. Photo by Nate Maier.
After you’ve become a seasoned camper and feeling super adventurous, you can strap everything you need to survive to your back and go backpacking! I was backpacking for a weekend on the Appalachian Trail in northern New Jersey when this picture was taken. It was too goofy not to share with you.
I’m rockin’ the headlamp look on the Appalachian Trail, don’t you agree?
Climb a Tree. This is one of my favorite activities! I love scrambling up the twisty branches and checking out the view. It’s amazing how much more of the forest you can see just a few feet above the ground. Sometimes on a hike, it’s more fun to just “hang around” in the trees…
Christy is a monkey hanging around at Middle Run! Photo by Derek Stoner.
Trees are not only great for climbing, but also for jumping in their fallen leaves! A favorite fall time tradition of Anna’s is to gather a big pile of leaves and jump on in. Let’s be real, you can’t simply walk by a big pile of leaves without jumping in, it’s hard to resist!
Anna couldn’t resist jumping into this big piles of leaves at Ashland!
Play in the Waves. I love going to the beach, it’s one of my favorite places. Whenever I would go down the shore as a kid I would spend almost the entire time in the ocean. What am I talking about? I STILL do that now! Anna loves the ocean too. This past summer she played in the Pacific waves another way, she went surfing! She loved the experience, even though she did end up swimming with some Leopard sharks…
Anna and her friend Jill caught some mad waves when they went surfing in California!
Try a New Nature Activity! It’s always fun to try something new! Ever been kayaking? Grab a friend and get on the water!
Nothing but smiles on the reservoir!
Or grab a dive buddy and get in the water and go scuba diving!
Christy dove right in!
Or if you’re not interested in being anywhere near water, try going on a bird walk! Grab some binoculars and a field guide and count how many different kinds of birds you see. Anna enjoys birding because she says there is no other activity where you see such pretty colors in nature.
Anna loves birding!
The Delaware Nature Society has written a program for each number on the Delaware Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights. If you complete 7 out of the 10 you’ll get a Nature Family Outdoor Fun Kit. Check out the descriptions of the programs below, they sound awesome!
Saturday, March 23rd 1-4pm – Go Outside and Play! Take a fun nature walk through fields and forests and play nature games as you look for wildlife. Program meets at Ashland Nature Center.
Sunday, March 24th 2-4pm – Discover Wildlife in Your Neighborhood. Invite House Wrens and Chickadees to your yard to nest by building a bird box with your family. Help reduce insect populations as you enjoy watching parents busily feed hungry babies. Craft your own bird house using simple tools. (Cost includes materials for one box per family). Program meets at Ashland Nature Center.
Saturday, April 6th 1-4pm – Explore Delaware’s Culture. Take a hike around the historic Cooch-Dayett Mill where the Battle of Cooch’s Bridge was fought in the Revolutionary War. See what lives in the Christina River that flows here. Tour the inside of the old grist mill and see how they used the river to grind flour and other products. Program meets at Cooch-Dayett Mills.
Saturday, April 13th 1-4pm – Play in the Mud. Look for animal tracks and learn how to find signs of animals. Make some tracks of your own in the mud and make a track snack and take-home craft. Program meets at Ashland Nature Center.
Saturday, April 27th 4:30pm – Sunday, April 28th 10:30am – Camp Under the Stars. Camp out at the Bucktoe Creek Preserve near Kennett Square, PA. Bring your own tent, use one of ours, or sleep in an Adirondack Shelter (first come-first served). Bring your own dinner, take a night hike, morning walk, and enjoy a campfire. Program meets at Bucktoe Creek Preserve.
Sunday, April 21st 1-3pm – Plant a Seed. Help us plant seeds around the farm, from sunflowers to spinach. Sow the seeds of multiple gardens on the farm, and end with a potting a plant in a pot that you decorate yourself that you can take home. Program meets at Coverdale Farm Preserve – entrance on Way Road.
Saturday, May 4th 1-4pm – Climb a Tree. Take a walk at Ashland Nature Center to learn about some of the different trees here and collect leaves to “press” so you can keep them in your own tree book (one per child). Climb up onto the “Climbing Sycamore tree of Ashland”. Program meets at Ashland Nature Center. (Hey, I climbed this tree last weekend!)
I climbed the Ashland Sycamore! It’s one of the BEST climbing trees.
Saturday, May 18th 1-4pm – Catch a Fish. Use our fishing poles at the Coverdale Farm Preserve to go fishing in the farm pond. Try to catch bluegills and bass with an expert. Program meets at Coverdale Farm Preserve – entrance on Way Road.
Saturday, June 1st 9am-3pm – Play in the Waves. Family Horseshoe Crab and Shorebird Trip. Take a trip to the Delaware Bay to discover horseshoe crabs and the shorebirds that depend on their eggs for food. Hold horseshoe crabs, learn about how they live and their body parts, look at migrant shorebirds through a scope and binoculars. Afterwards, have some beach time to play in the sand and the waves! Meet at Ashland Nature Center – van transportation provided.
Saturday, June 15th 10am-3pm – Try a New Nature Activity. Family Nature Fun Day! Come to Ashland for a day of trying new things in nature. Choose between going on a bird walk, catching insects to identify them, pond dip-netting, and nature photography. We supply all of the equipment. Bring a lunch and have a family picnic at Ashland at noon. Here a story from a professional story-teller at 12:30pm. Program meets at Ashland Nature Center.
Don’t be left inside! Register for the “Get Unplugged!” series at http://www.delawarenaturesociety.org/seasonal_progs.html or call us at (302) 239-2334.
Look for part two of the “Get Unplugged” post coming up later this spring, where I will feature the rest of the activities on the Outdoor Bill of Rights!
February is in full swing, and that means it’s Maple Sugaring season at the Delaware Nature Society. This is the time we have a number of families, school students, and even Young Naturalists that come to Ashland Nature Center to learn about the exciting process of turning maple sap into maple syrup!
The Young Naturalists love maple sugaring…do you!? Photo by Kristen Sensabaugh.
Have you ever wondered where the syrup you put on your pancakes comes from? You need maple trees and the right weather that allows sap to flow. Sap only flows during freeze-thaw cycles, when overnight temperatures dip below freezing and the days are sunny and warm, with temperatures between 40-50 degrees.
So what exactly is sap and how does it flow? Sap is actually sugar water. Most people (myself included until I taught this program) thought all sap was very thick and sticky like syrup. While some tree sap does have a thick consistency, like pine sap, maple sap is 97% water. How is that possible? Trees make sugar in their leaves during the summer and then store it in their roots in the fall. During warmer winter days, the roots begin to thaw and water moves from the soil into the roots and flows up the tree through “pipes” called xylem vessels. As the water moves through these “pipes” it picks up the sap as it moves upwards.
So how do we extract the sap from the tree? The first step to making maple syrup is tapping the maple tree. You must drill a upward-angled hole about 1 1/2 inches deep into the tree, just enough to tap into the xylem “pipes”.
This Young Naturalists drills a practice hole into a dead Red Maple. We only tap alive trees because sap only flows in trees that are alive. Photo by Kristen Sensabaugh.
A metal spile is then inserted into the hole in the tree and the sap flows out of the spile on warm and sunny winter days. We always taste the sap as it’s flowing out of the tree!
Have you ever tasted the sap directly from a maple tree? Photo by John Wessels.
We collect the sap in big blue bags. Every couple of days we collect the sap and then use it for our programs.
Do you see how full the blue bag is? It was really heavy! Photo by John Wessels.
Now, the sap that we collect directly from the tree is not what we put on our pancakes. If we did that, our pancakes would be really soggy and taste pretty awful. The sap must be boiled so the water evaporates and the sugar is concentrated. We boil just enough to let everyone in the program sample the syrup because it takes a very long time. We would need to boil 40-60 gallons of sap to make enough maple syrup to put on our pancakes!
We have to concentrate the sugar in the sap to make maple syrup. Do you see the steam coming off the pan? That’s the water from the sap evaporating into the air! Photo by John Wessels.
Phew! After all that work we finally made maple syrup, but I haven’t even told you the best part! The best part about the maple sugaring season is eating a lot of pancakes! After we spend some time outside learning about the process of maple sugaring, we head back into the nature center to make some breakfast. It’s fun comparing the tastes of the maple syrup to the pancake syrup (like Mrs. Butterworths or Aunt Jemima). Those syrups are made from corn syrup. Next time you eat pancakes, try to compare the two different syrups. You will definitely taste the difference!
Have you taken a look at our beautiful winter sky lately? There is so much to see, and January is a great time to see stars! So what are you waiting for? Grab your coat, your binoculars (and your parents!) and get outside to look at the sky!
I think looking at the night sky is like a big “Where’s Waldo?” kind of game, but instead of only finding Waldo, you get to find much, much more! Try picking one planet, star, or constellation (a group of stars that scientists have named) that are visible during the time you’re outside and try to find as many as you can! I always start with the moon because that’s the easiest to find in the sky. The moon is really cool because the moon’s shape doesn’t look exactly the same all the time; it cycles throughout each month. My favorite shape is the crescent moon when the moon looks like a thin letter “C”, I like to think it looks like a thumbnail!
The beautiful crescent moon sitting above the Earth’s horizon. I told you it looks like a thumbnail!
One of the easiest star groups to find is the Big Dipper. It looks like a big ladle or drinking gourd stretched across the sky!
Can you connect the dots to see the “drinking gourd” shape of the Big Dipper?
You can then use the Big Dipper to find the North Star, one of the most important stars in the sky. The two stars on the end of the bowl of the Big Dipper are called “pointers”, because they point right to the North Star. Even though this star is not very bright, don’t be fooled! The North Star is the most important star in the sky besides the sun! That’s because it’s the only star that doesn’t appear to move. All other stars look like they are traveling in a circle around the North Star, isn’t that neat?
After you find the Big Dipper, turn around to face the south and try to find the mythological hunter, Orion. In January, Orion is really bright! You can easily find Orion’s belt within the constellation; there are three stars that are very close to one another. Orion has a blurry “sword” hanging from his belt, a dim curve of stars that make up his “shield” (made of lion skin), and a raised arm with a “club” in his hand. Also, see if you can find Sirius, the brightest star in the sky! Look below and to the left of Orion’s left foot. Sirius is known as the “dog star”, because it’s part of the constellation Canis Major (the Big Dog). It looks like a dog trying to leap up at Orion’s leg!
Can you find Orion’s belt and Sirius in this picture?
Right now, the bright planet Jupiter is located right above the reddish star Aldebaran, which is part of the constellation Taurus. In the upper right corner of the photo below is another part of Taurus: the pretty star cluster Pleiades, also known as the “Seven Sisters”.
Do you see Aldebaran? This picture is a great map of the winter night sky! Can you find the other constellations I mentioned in this picture?
Join the Delaware Nature Society at Buena Vista this Friday, January 18th from 7:30 – 9:30pm to check out what is in the January skies. We will have telescopes and binoculars available for use as we look at Orion, Jupiter, and other brilliant constellations of winter. We will finish the evening with a warm cup of cider and some delicious gingersnaps!
If you’re interested in attending this program, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (302) 239-2334 and provide your name, phone number, and number of people attending.
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? (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.
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! 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? Take the quiz below!
Photo 2: What animal made these tracks? Take the quiz below!
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.
Extra, extra, read all about it! The Young Naturalists had a great time outside last weekend! Our returning guest author and Young Naturalists leader, Kristen, wanted to share what they did with you!
The Young Naturalists Club met on Sunday, December 16th to learn how to identify signs of animals that stay at Ashland Nature Center over the winter. We learned how to identify deer, rabbits, fox, raccoon, and skunks by their scat, tracks and fur!
These Young Naturalists are studying the tracks and other animal evidence they may see on the trail! Photo by Kristen Sensabaugh.
We set out on a hike to try to find signs of these animals. Along our way, we stopped to build a campfire and roasted marshmallows. We found deer and raccoon tracks along the creek side.
Young Naturalists roasting marshmallows over a campfire at Wildflower Brook, they look delicious! Photo by Kristen Sensabaugh.
The soft mud along the side of the creek is a great place to find animal tracks! Photo by Kristen Sensabaugh.
After we had our fill of warm, sugary marshmallows – we hiked up Sledding Hill to find more deer tracks and scat, as well as fox scat.
Fields, like the one along Sledding Hill, is a great place to find animal scat! Photo by Kristen Sensabaugh.
As we walked along the Red Clay Creek floodplain, we found raccoon scat and tracks – and even some signs of rabbits gnawing at the base of a tree!
After our long hike, we warmed up inside with some hot chocolate and made a special ornament using our own hand print!
Thanks for sharing Kristen! I think it’s super cool you guys found so many different kinds of tracks and scat!
Last weekend was the last Young Naturalists Club for the year, stay tuned to hear about what the Young Naturalists will be up to when the warmer weather returns! If you’re interested in joining the Young Naturalists Club on their adventures, sign up now! Members can register online at delawarenaturesociety.org or you may call us at (302) 239 – 2334.
This is our last blog post of 2012! Anna, myself, and the entire Delaware Nature Society staff wish you a wonderful holiday season and a Happy New Year!
Hey there! The Young Naturalists Club had another great adventure a couple weeks ago! The Young Naturalists leader and our returning guest author, Kristen Sensabaugh, wrote about their experience. Check it out!
On Sunday, November 25th the Young Naturalists club met at Ashland Nature Center to learn about the Lenni-Lenape Native Americans that lived in Delaware! We started our adventure by walking along the flood plain to learn how the Lenape would have used the different plants, like cattails – and animals, like painted turtles, that live in the marsh. We stopped along the banks of the Red Clay Creek and talked about how they would have used a weir to catch fish!
This fishing weir in the Red Clay Creek is just like one the Lenape would have built when they lived on this land. This photo was snapped in the summer time when the water wasn’t too cold to stand in!
We hiked to the replica longhouse and got to touch artifacts like a drum & bow and arrow. We also touched deer fur, deer hide and compared them to hides of other animals like the beaver and rabbit. We talked about how the different furs would have been used.
After our hike we warmed up inside and designed our own clay pots! We played Lenape games while our pots dried!
Thanks for sharing Kristen, that sounded like a great day! Teaching about the Native Americans has been a long standing tradition at the Delaware Nature Society. Here are some pictures from our archives!
Students get to dress in Native American clothing and spend time learning about the Lenape culture in the longhouse!
These are some Lenape artifacts! The Young Naturalists made clay pots similar to these!
This summer camp spent time in the old Lenape Longhouses at Ashland Nature Center. This one is long gone, but we have two more longhouses that kids play and learn in year round!
The Young Naturalists have one more adventure planned for this year:
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 delawarenaturesociety.org or you may call us at (302) 239 – 2334.