Sunset on Abbott’s Mill Naturalist Certification Class

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

The first Naturalist Certification Class at Abbott’s Mill wrapped up Wednesday evening with a potluck and sunset tour of Haven Lake in Milford.  Johnson’s Branch (from Abbott’s Pond) and Tantrough Branch (Blair’s Pond and Griffith Lake) both form the headwaters of this large and diverse 80-acre lake.  We ventured forth in kayaks supplied by class member and Kayak Krossing (kayakkrossing.com) owner and guide, Barbara Busch.

Paddling to the Haven Lake headwaters
Paddling to the Haven Lake headwaters

Late spring on Delaware’s freshwater ponds and lake features diverse offerings to inspire and excite the naturalist.  Emergent vegetation clusters and islands create a variety of channels and numerous niches for plants and animals.

American Waterlily
American Waterlily

Wildflower and Shrubs blooms included naked witherod (Viburnum nudum),  Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica), swamp rose (Rosa palustris), American waterlily (Nymphaea odorata), golden club (Orontium aquaticum), and swamp azalea (Rhododendron viscosum).  We also enjoyed a few of the first ripe highbush blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum) – delicious!  Haven Lake also features two of Delaware’s carnivorous plant species, which were new to a few members of the class, purple pitcher-plant (Sarracenia purpurea) and roundleaf sundew (Drosera rotundifolia).   Dodder (Cuscuta sp.), a parasite that twines around other plant stems to obtain nutrients, was also in bloom.

Purple Pitcher-plant in flower.  Insectivorous "pitchers" at the base
Purple Pitcher-plant in flower. Insectivorous "pitchers" at the base

Red-winged Blackbirds were abundant through the area and we were able to follow begging calls to locate a nest tucked away a cluster of shrubs.

There is a Red-winged Blackbird nest here
There is a Red-winged Blackbird nest here

 The male blackbird perched near the nest and made high-pitched alarm calls, but the nestlings seemed unconcerned about who was visiting the nest – they just wanted a meal.

Nestling Red-winged Blackbirds
Nestling Red-winged Blackbirds

As the sun set, Eastern Cricket Frogs began calling from the waterlilies and swamp loosestrife patches.  Their clicking calls, like two stones being tapped together, beckoned us forward for a closer look, only to stop as we approached too close.  Finally, we were able to capture one of these tiny frogs (.6-1.4″).  They have a rough, warty skin and are capable of great leaps to elude would-be predators or herpetologists.

Eastern Cricket Frog
Eastern Cricket Frog

Having enjoyed the many wonders of Haven Lake, we headed back to the public boat ramp off of Williamsville Road to say goodbye after ten great months of fellowship and discovering Delaware’s natural history.

We have a busy summer planned at Abbott’s Mill Nature Center with summer camps and trips, but I’m already looking forward to the next Naturalist Certification Class to begin in September.  Thanks to our seven class graduates and have a great summer!

Naturalist Certification Series at Abbott’s Mill Nature Center

September 2009-June 2010

 

For more information: (302) 422-0847 or jason@delawarenaturesociety.org

 

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