Between the Storms…A Morning at Flint Woods

By Sally O’Byrne, Teacher Naturalist

Even though much of the snow has melted and what is left are gray and black piles in parking lots, a Wednesday walk at the Delaware Nature Society’s Flint Woods Preserve revealed the beauty of winter and a few hints at spring.

A view of the Delaware Nature Society's Flint Woods Preserve. Photo by Sally O'Byrne.

It was obvious that animals were finding food – we found evidence of eating and the eaten.  A crabapple tree had the remnants of eaten fruits and discarded seeds beneath – the birds had been busy.

At the edge of a field we found where a fox had been digging into the snow.   A fairly deep hole made us wonder if the fox had chased a rodent or maybe smelled it through the snow.  Did he catch it?  You bet.   We found the guts of the little guy close by.  Why did it leave that part behind?

A fox was busy digging for a meal. Photo by Sally O'Byrne.
A small gut pile was next to the hole dug by the fox. We wondered why it didn't eat this part. Photo by Sally O'Byrne.

We hear about squirrels burying nuts, but a pile of nut shells let us know that one squirrel had dug through the snow to find them.  Bill the Land Manager has an active bird feeder.  A Carolina Wren was sitting beneath the feeder and must have been hungry since he let us get quite close. 

A Carolina Wren is reluctant to flush from below a bird feeder, even though we approached closely. Photo by Sally O'Byrne.

The sun came out and the we were struck by the beauty of the woods, even if most folks are getting sick of the white stuff.   The melting was obvious and many wet areas were exposed which held one of the first flowers of the year, a skunk cabbage, which was in bloom.

A skunk cabbage in bloom. Photo by Joe Sebastiani

We also found a few invertebrates that were active on this winter day.  We ran into a web that had an active spider.  The spider moved onto the web when we brushed it.  We also found an insect that flew and looked like a mosquito, but turned out to be a Winter Crane Fly.  I chased it down until it landed on the snow.

A Winter Crane Fly was out and about on our walk. Photo by Sally O'Byrne

The ground was so wet that several mature trees that seemed perfectly healthy had fallen over – their roots were not deep enough to hold them.  With upcoming storms and remaining winter winds, how many more might fall?  One beauty – a tuliptree (liriodendrum tulipifera) – looked stable and very grand – a giant in this forest.

Bill stands next to a tuliptree in the Flint Woods Preserve. Photo by Sally O'Byrne.

With corn stubble poking through the snow, the landscape still looked in the grip of winter.  The calendar tells us that spring is less than a month away.  The changes will be coming soon….. promise!

Flint Woods bird surveys take place each Wednesday morning and are free.  If you are interested in helping, please call (302) 239-2334 ext. 115.  The preserve is closed to the public except for guided walks such as this.

Register for the Spring Migration Birding Series, which will include a visit to the Delaware Nature Society’s Flint Woods Preserve.  The series begins on March 12 and includes 6 walks in March and April.  For more information, click here.

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