A visit to Delaware’s cypress swamp region is a must for any naturalist. The majestic trees lend a distinctive southern feel while the numerous flowering shrubs, reptiles, amphibians, and birds are sure to capture the interest of even the most casual observer. To celebrate this unique habitat, Delaware Nature Society is offering “Cypress Swamp Canoeing” on Saturday, April 17th with groups from both Ashland and Abbott’s Mill Nature Center. Abbott’s Mill Nature Center volunteer Steve Childers and I headed down south to check the access and water conditions at Trap and Trussum Pond preparation for the trip.
Bald Cypress trees just beginning to leaf out at Trussum Pond, Delaware
Both ponds are excellent spots to see and hear early spring migrant birds. Northern Rough-winged Swallows and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers have already returned. Pine Warblers trilled from the pond edge. Though we didn’t see one, the raucous call of the Red-shouldered Hawk is a common canoeing accompaniment. Ovenbirds, Northern Parulas, Prothonotary Warblers, Eastern Kingbirds, and many other birds should be returning soon.
Highbush Blueberry shrubs are flowering from many of the cypress "islands"
The flowers of the Shadbush or Serviceberry fringe the pond edges while Highbush Blueberries and their bell-like flower clusters are common in the numerous pond islands. Both species produce delicious berries enjoyed by both wild animals and humans alike.
A Red-bellied Cooter pulls itself up a fallen cypress log to bask
Many amphibians and reptiles are out and about taking advantage of the warming weather. Painted and Red-bellied Turtles are basking by the dozens on any available log. An Eastern Cricket Frog clicked from some lily pads and Fowler’s Toads work the pond edges for prey.
A Common Watersnake basks in a cluster of shrubs
Though generally hard to see, American Beaver and River Otter both call the cypress swamp home. Beavers leave their calling cards all over their aquatic homes in the form of cut stumps, debris dams, and of course, beaver lodges.
This massive beaver lodge at Trussum Pond stands roughly six feet tall!
If you are interested in attending the Cypress Swamp Canoeing program, click here.