By Derek Stoner, Education Program Assistant
Delaware is fortunate to have a wealth of waterfowl and wetlands.
The Young Waterfowlers class, an in-depth course offered each fall by the Delaware Nature Society and Red Clay Valley Association, introduces youth to waterfowl, wetlands, and the waterfowling tradition. There are 27 students taking the course this fall, ranging in age from 11 to 16.
On Sunday, we headed afield for our annual Waterfowl Identification Field Trip. Jim White, Associate Director of Land and Biodiversity, co-led the trip. Jim’s son is a second-year student in the class.
At Dragon Run Marsh, a rich freshwater marsh outside Delaware City, all the birds concentrated in an open patch of water amidst the ice.
Gadwalls, Northern Shovelers, and Mallards crowded together in the frigid water. Gracing the flock with a splash of color was a drake Redhead, a gorgeous duck with a rusty head and bright blue beak.
Waterfowl are incredibly hardy. They are actually able to restrict blood flow to their feet when standing on ice, so their blood does not chill. Cold weather is no deterrent to these birds!
On our trip, we learned more about wetlands by visiting a marsh and pond. With nets in hand, students captured Banded Killifish, Mummichogs, Atlantic Silversides, and Grass Shrimp.
The Young Waterfowlers course offers plenty of hands-on activities: carving duck decoys, practicing duck and goose calls, and visiting important waterfowl areas like Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge.
For the day, Young Waterfowlers witnessed tens of thousands of Snow Geese, saw Buffleheads bobbing in a tidal creek, and heard the quirky quacks of Gadwall. Our final field trip of the season provided a memorable experience for all.