Tag Archives: spring

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!

Flowers!

By Rebecca Wadman, Education Intern

Spring Beauty - Photo by Dave Pro

Spring Beauty – Photo by Dave Pro

Spring is absolutely full of flowers! As the temperatures warm up and the sunshine gets longer, plants start putting out their leaves and flowers. Spring Beauty flowers are one of my favorite, and they’re blooming everywhere here.

There are many fantastic flowers here at Ashland! Here are just a few of the ones blooming right now.

Common Blue Violet - Photo by Joe Sebastiani

Common Blue Violet – Photo by Joe Sebastiani

Common blue violet is native to North America. Native Americans and early European settlers used it to treat colds and sore throats, and ate the leaves and flowers as food. It comes in many different colors and patterns, ranging from dark purple to white, and solid colored, striped, or even speckled!

Cutleaf toothwort - Photo by Joe Sebastiani

Cutleaf toothwort – Photo by Joe Sebastiani

Cutleaf toothwort is another pretty native wildflower. It lives in places that were never used for fields or houses, and only has leaves and flowers in the spring. The “toothwort” part of the name comes from the root, which looks a little bit like it’s growing teeth, and “wort” which is an old English word for plant.

Bloodroot - Photo by Joe Sebastiani

Bloodroot – Photo by Joe Sebastiani

Bloodroot is a native wildflower with a distinctive, bright red sap.It’s rare, so keep a careful eye out on Treetop Trail at Ashland if you want a chance to see some!  They have finished blooming now, but look for their strange “hand-like” leaves with an upright, pointy seedpod.

Speedbump loves to eat dandelions! - Photo by Rebecca Wadman

Speedbump our captive Yellow-footed Tortoise loves to eat dandelions! – Photo by Rebecca Wadman

Dandelions might be a weed in your yard, but people and animals alike eat them for food. Goldfinches love to feast on Dandelions, and all of our captive education turtles really seem to enjoy them!

Come out out to Ashland on the weekend and join us for a free nature walk with one of our naturalists at 10:00 a.m. or 2:00 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday! No registration is necessary and these walks are free.  Right now, there are flowers blooming everywhere, and the ponds and marsh are full of frogs and tadpoles!

Hoo Goes There?

By Kim Scotto

Hello Nature Lovers!

After a long and snowy winter, spring is finally approaching! Starting in March, many native animals are already preparing a home for their young. Hannah and I love springtime, because we can watch baby bunnies, goslings, and tadpoles grow up! But there are some types of animals that nest this time of year that aren’t so easy to observe.

Have you ever seen an owl during the day before? Most owls are nocturnal, which means that they are active at night! During the daytime, owls will roost in trees to rest, and their brown and white feathers help them camouflage against tree bark.

 

This Saw-whet Owl almost blends into the tree! Photo by Joe Sebastiani.

This Saw-whet Owl almost blends into the tree! Photo by Joe Sebastiani.

Owls have large eyes to help them see at night. Since they are predators, they have binocular vision- just like humans! Look at your eyes in the mirror. Both of your eyes face forward! Prey animals, like mice and rabbits, have eyes on the sides of their heads. While owls have amazing vision, they actually mostly use their ears for hunting! They have extremely powerful hearing, and can detect a mouse rustling through the grass from 100 feet away.

 

e. screech owl.j.sebastiani

My, what big eyes you have! Photo by Joe Sebastiani.

Since they’re tough to spot during the day, the best way to know if an owl is nearby is to listen! Owls are most vocal at night during nesting season. There are several species of owls in Delaware that nest during the months of February and March- the Barred Owl, the Great Horned Owl, and the Eastern Screech Owl.

The Barred Owl is the mostly likely to call during the daytime. It’s easily recognizable by its call: “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?”

Check out this Barred Owl! Photo by Derek Stoner.

Check out this Barred Owl! Photo by Derek Stoner.

Great Horned Owls can live all across the United States, Canada, Mexico, and even in South America! They are the first in Delaware to start nesting. Their call consists of deep, soft hoots.

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I bet you can guess why this owl is called “great horned!” Photo by Joe Sebastiani.

Eastern Screech Owls can sometimes be seen hunting at dawn or dusk. They also like to live in abandoned wood duck nesting boxes. They have a call that sounds almost like a horse!

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An Eastern Screech Owl pokes its head out of a bird box! Photo by Joe Sebastiani.

Think you can ID these owls for yourself? Talk a walk by a wooded area at dusk and try it out!

All sounds from Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs: Eastern Region.

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 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!

Back and Kicking in the Spring!

Hey all you nature lovers! It has been a while since our last post because of the crazy amount of people that have been coming to our DNS sites. But we are back and ready to kick it into high gear! From now on, there will be at least one post a week towards the end of the week about what is happening in nature. Herp Room Animal of the Month will also begin again starting with the video for the American Alligator next week. We will also be posting more information about our school programs and our upcoming members programs. It’s going to get exciting here and we are going to kick it off with this post!

First things first; Spring has exploded! Groundhogs have appeared, along with spring peepers, toads and pickerel frogs. We have also seen a ton of northern brown snakes.

One of three northern brown snakes caught in two days. This one was spotted by teacher/naturalist Cassie Kane.


Many different wildflowers are out as well like spring beauty and trout lilies.

Spring wildflowers are bringing all kinds of insects. This wasp is really enjoying the spring beauties!


And we can’t forget about the birds! Phoebes and also both tree and barn swallows have all been sighted. We also have a great picture taken by Victoria D’Ascenzo, a student from the Star Cyber School! During their visit to Ashland, she took this picture of a tree swallow while participating in our Nature Photography program.

Thanks Victoria for this great tree swallow picture!


Finally, last but not least… the wood frog eggs have hatched!! Thanks to a fancy underwater camera, we were able to get a close-up look att these tadpoles as well as a red spotted newt that were all found in our marsh here at Ashland.

Whew! That was a lot of stuff and there is going to be so much more! Keep checking the blog out for updates. Remember, we are posting at least once a week from now on! Until then my fellow nature lovers… Stay Wild!

Garter Snake!

Attention nature lovers! Spring has really been kicking it into high gear and now even the reptiles are starting to take notice. Bethanie Delfunt, a teacher/naturalist for the Delaware Nature Society, sent me pictures of our first reptile. It is a very healthy looking garter snake that was found in our backyard habitat ponds. It was no doubt looking for some wood frogs to chow down on!

These past few weeks have been full of animals waking up for this gorgeous weather we are having. Toads, pickerel, green, and bullfrogs were all found on a University of Delaware herpetology trip trip led by our own Jim White.

Stay tuned for next weeks update on the signs of spring for the past few weeks.

Delaware Frogs: Wood Frog

Hey nature lovers! Do you like frogs? So do we! It’s now the time of year that you are going to see these noisy amphibians all over the place. What we want to do at Ashland is tell you about all of these species as they emerge this spring. I know, I know, it’s not even spring, but the frogs are here!


The Wood Frog

Wood frogs are the northernmost found amphibian in North America; so far north, that they freeze solid in the winter to stay alive! In late winter, when the temperatures begin to climb above 50 degrees at night, these frogs will come out in swarms. Hundreds of frogs will head to vernal pools and freshwater marshes. These swarms leave thousands of eggs (500 to 3000 by each female) that will hatch in two or three weeks. The wood frogs head back into the forest after only a few days so be sure to check them out before there gone! Stay Wild!

Signs of Spring!

Welcome back nature lovers! It’s been getting rather warm here and there are many new signs of spring that came out this week.

Snowdrops were the first to show up.


Skunk cabbage is now starting to bloom and it is getting ready to smell!


Wood frogs are here!!! You can see there swarms in vernal pools and fresh water marshes. A definite must-see of the spring.

Make sure you check in next week to see what new signs of spring will emerge. Until then nature lovers, Stay Wild!

Who’s the Champ?

Here we are once again nature lovers. It is time to vote! We have some very interesting candidates for this coming month. Who deserves the prize? You decide!