All posts for the month September, 2011

By Derek Stoner, Conservation Project Coordinator

Joel Rice looks at the trail markers for his Eagle Scout project at Middle Run Natural Area. Image by Derek Stoner, August 26, 2011.

On Sunday, September 4th, the culmination of more than eight months of hard work and volunteer effort will be celebrated with the Grand Opening of the Middle Run Birding Trail.  Eagle Scout candidate Joel Rice planned and organized the project which enhanced the early-successional habitat at Middle Run and created a specially-designed trail that showcases the very best locations for viewing birds and other wildlife.

Tours of the Trail will be offered at 9:30am and 11:30am, and a Ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place at 11:00am.  Throughout the whole morning, visitors will be taking part in the Third Annual Bio-Blitz as they document the birds, butterflies, dragonflies and other creatures to be found along the trail. 

Here is a preview of what is around right now to be found:

A White-eyed Vireo loads up on fruit (Autumn Olive) at Middle Run Natural Area, at Trail Marker #5 on the Middle Run Birding Trail. Image by Derek Stoner, August 30, 2011.


Fall migration is in full swing right now for a variety of songbirds and raptors.   Hikes along the Middle Run Birding Trail in the past week brought sightings of birds like American Redstart, Magnolia Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Eastern Wood-peewee, Bobolink, Blu-gray Gnatcatcher, and this….

An adult male Scarlet Tanager molting from breeding (red) plumage to non-breeding (yellow) plumage. Image by Derek Stoner, August 30, 2011.

… a gorgeous male Scarlet Tanager in a very interesting transitional plumage.  Brilliant red mottled with patches of yellow, this bird is in the process of molting out of its breeding plumage to its non-breeding colors that it will wear through the winter it will spend somewhere in South America. 

A Great-Spangled Fritillary and a Tiger Swallowtail enjoy the nectar of a Bull Thistle at Middle Run. Image by Derek Stoner, August 26, 2011.

Butterflies are out in force at Middle Run right now, taking advantage of the many sources of late summer nectar: Bull Thistle, Goldenrod, Aster, Butterflyweed, and Milkweed.  In the past few days, butterflies like Buckeye, Red-banded Hairstreak, and Wild Indigo Duskywing are the notables among the more common species like Monarch, Great-spangled Fritillary and Tiger Swalowtail. 

Come out and help us find more butterflies, birds, and other interesting animals along the Middle Run Birding Trail!

The Grand Opening of the Middle Run Birding Trail will take place at the main parking lot of Middle Run Natural Area off of Possum Hollow Road in Newark, DE.  Look for the yellow signs and follow the gravel driveway to the parking area at the end of the driveway. 

By Sally O’Byrne:  Teacher Naturalist and Board Member of the Delaware Nature Society and Hawk Mt. Sanctuary

In the last week of the DNS summer camp calendar, I took a group of kids, aged 11-15 to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, on the Kittatinny Ridge of the Appalachians.  It was the first week of their fall raptor migration count, so we hiked to the North Lookout to look for migrating birds, met some of the resident raptors used for education, and helped in a major conservation activity – building an erosion control check on a trail.  We also met with Keith Bildstein the Sarkis Acopian Director of Conservation Science, who was just back from the Falkland Islands where he studied the Striated Caracara, and we were treated to a personal presentation of this ‘cutting edge’ research.

Here we are on our hike to the North Lookout.

We stayed in Adirondack Shelters for three nights and cooked our meals at a stone fireplace.  All water was hauled to the site – with the rocky soil on the path, we appreciated the need to repair the trail.

Here is the Adirondack Shelter where we made camp at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary.

On the last morning, we took a different trail to the North Lookout where we found historic shotgun shell remnants from the days that raptors were shot by the hundreds from the mountaintop.  When we got to the top in early morning, we were greeted by a juvenile turkey vulture – a fitting end to a great week.

Here we are working on rebuiding a trail for Hawk Mountain Sanctuary.

This is a popular camp for 11 to 15 year olds that fills up every year.  Keep this one in mind if you know a child of this age who might enjoy this kind of experience next year. 

At the end of the week, we had observed lots of raptors, talked with scientists, enjoyed camping on the mountain, and contributed to the organization through a conservation project. Several of our campers this year were repeats from last year.