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All posts for the month February, 2009

By Jason Beale, Manager, Abbott’s Mill Nature Center

As a naturalist, one of the pleasures of having a favorite “nature spot” is observing changes through the week, month, season, and year.  The weekly Wednesday walk at Abbott’s Mill Nature Center is a great way to check in on what’s going on outside.

Palm Warbler - Photo by Chuck Fullmer

Palm Warbler - Photo by Chuck Fullmer

Having endured a few windy and sleety Wednesdays, this week’s walk, while cold was sunny and windless.  We traveled across the road to the Morton Farm tract.  This area, a mixture of fallow farm fields, park-like stands of trees, and shrubby pond edge is an excellent birding spot to see a variety of species.

Palm Warbler "undertail coverts" - Photo by Chuck Fullmer

Palm Warbler "undertail coverts" - Photo by Chuck Fullmer

One of the most interesting birds that winters here is the Palm Warbler.  This bird typically winters along the southeast coast, though small numbers winter in Delaware.  The bird’s presence is erratic,  but at least a few are found in southern Delaware each winter.  The Palm Warbler has a few behaviors that make finding and identifying it easier.  The first is its association with Eastern Bluebirds.  Both species feed on the ground, though the Palm is more terrestrial than the Bluebird, which hunts from a perch and drops to the ground after small invertebrates.  The striking plumage of the bluebirds coupled with its penchant for power lines makes them fairly easy to find.  Once the Bluebirds are located, scan the ground in the immediate area.  This warbler’s brownish back can blend in with short grass and field habitats, but you may see it bobbing it’s tail as it walks around.  This behavior, along with it’s bright yellow undertail coverts are clues to this bird’s identity.   

Eastern Bluebirds investigating nest box - Photo by Chuck Fullmer

Eastern Bluebirds investigating nest box - Photo by Chuck Fullmer

A pair of Eastern Bluebirds spent a few minutes investigating each of the three nest boxes installed on the property.  The male peeked in first and then the female entered, occasionally carrying a piece of grass.  

The mowed field areas are currently hosting a few dozen Savannah Sparrows, Horned Larks, American Robins, and a female American Kestrel is taking advantage of the plentiful prey.

We finished our walk along the Johnson’s Branch Boardwalk where we found Winter Wren, Hermit Thrush, Golden-crowned Kinglet, and a flock of Yellow-rumped Warblers.  Our resident Pine Warbler stills visits the suet daily and was singing this morning.  Three species of winter warblers within a few hundred yards is certainly a nice primer for spring migration.  We’ll see what this week brings.

Program details:

Weekly Walk at Abbott’s Mill

Wednesdays, 8:00-9:30am

Free to the public

Please note: NO WALK on March 11th.

Call 302-593-0486 for more details

By Joe Sebastiani, Members Program Team Leader

For the past 5 days, I have been taking a short vacation in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  I was hoping for temperatures in the 70’s, but that wasn’t to be.  I had to endure the upper 40’s, but my wife and I made a go of going outside anyway.  Briefly, let me tell you that spring is on its way, based on the evidence I gathered down there.  Dandelions are blooming in the south, as are purple dead nettle.  Yes, they are exotic weeds, but they aren’t blooming in Delaware yet.  Red maples are in full, all-out bloom in the Palmetto State as well.  Oh yeah, the grass is getting green.

Birds are singing down there too.  Pine Warblers, American Robins, Northern Cardinals, Brown Thrashers, and others.  Laughing Gulls are getting black heads and they have started to laugh.  Spring is on the way, I promise.

Pine Warblers are singing in South Carolina.  The loblolly and long-leaf pines of Myrtle Beach are home to many of them.

Pine Warblers are singing in South Carolina. The loblolly and long-leaf pines of Myrtle Beach are home to many of them.

The Brown-headed Nuthatch is another one of my favorite birds.  They are abundant in the pine forests of the southeast and DE is the northernmost part of their range.

The Brown-headed Nuthatch is another one of my favorite birds. They are abundant in the pine forests of the southeast and DE is the northernmost part of their range.

By Judy Montgomery, Overnight and Outreach Coordinator

Volunteers crafted these replica Lenape necklaces and moccasins during a February workshop.

Volunteers crafted these replica Lenape necklaces and moccasins during a February workshop.

Volunteers gathered February 4th and 6th to craft new Native American teaching props for our Lenape programs. Twelve artisans created clothes, toys, tools and games, during our first-annual “Lenape Crafts and Construction Days.”
enape feather dart game made from buckskin and goose feathers.

Lenape feather dart game made from buckskin and goose feathers.

Many fine teaching props were created over our 8 hour work session.  A walnut mortar was gouged and new pestle carved.  A drying rack was tied carefully will be displayed near our wigwam.  Deer scapulas, antlers, hooves and leg bones were collected locally for this workshop.
New "saw"  created from a deer scapula.

New "saw" created from a deer scapula.

Lenape meat drying rack.

Lenape meat drying rack.

 These beautiful new props will be used during school, scout and summer camp Lenape programs.

By Jason Beale, Manager, Abbott’s Mill Nature Center

As environmental stewards and members of a species with high metabolisms, one of the most ecologically responsible things we can do is learn how and where our food is produced in order make informed consumer choices.  The acreage dedicated to agriculture throughout Delaware, the U.S., and the world is staggering.  Eating locally (being a “Localvore”) benefits your community, the local economy, and is generally more environmentally sound.

Grass-fed Cattle on pasture

Grass-fed Cattle on pasture

To kick off our seasonal “Farms to Food” series, we will be visiting the Miller Family Farm adjacent to the Lee Meadow at Abbott’s Mill.  The Millers raise a small herd of cattle using a grass-fed beef model.  This method is less resource intensive, mimicing the natural relationship between the grazer and grass to produce a leaner meat in a more humane manner.  They direct market to their customers strengthening the relationship between the consumer and the land that supports them. 

 

The Miller's direct market to customers

The Millers direct market to customers

The tour begins at Abbott’s Mill Nature Center (itself a former farm) with a short walk to the Miller Farm.  We’ll take a wagon ride tour of the farm to learn about grass-fed beef and the opportunities and challenges of small-scale farming.  The program will finish up at Abbott’s Mill with samples of grass-fed beef products.  Each participant will learn how to purchase beef from the Millers and recieve recipes for grass-fed beef, which is cooked a little differently due to the lower fat content. 

Our farming/agriculture theme will continue on March 18 as Abbott’s Mill holds “Shiitake Mushroom Cultivation.”  Participants will learn about mushroom biology and safety and make a shiitake log to grow your own mushrooms at home!

Shiitake "plug spawn" ready to inoculate chestnut oak logs

Shiitake "plug spawn" ready to inoculate chestnut oak logs

Program Info:

Farms to Food: Grass-fed Beef

Saturday, February 21st

10:00 am – 1:00 pm

Member/Non-Member $10/$15

Please call 422-0847 to register.

Shittake Mushroom Cultivation

Wednesday, March 18

7:00-9:00 pm

Member/Non-Member $25/$35

Please call 422-0847 to register