All posts for the month October, 2011

By Joe Sebastiani, Seasonal Program Team Leader

Photos by: Eric Roberson

Last Friday, I led a bird-filled walk at Coverdale Farm Preserve complete with colorful trees, and lots of migrant sparrows, warblers, and a few raptors.  Yellow-rumped warblers were swarming everywhere, eating poison ivy berries as if they were a delicacy.  The bane of a pleasant summer walk, poison ivy berries are relished by these late-season warblers as well as woodpeckers and other songbirds.  Birds were cooperative through the forest edge and abundant thicket at the preserve and we got great looks at many species in good light and in the scope. 

Coverdale Farm Preserve is a 352-acre property owned by the Delaware Nature Society.

At one point, a male and female Sharp-shinned Hawk, both juveniles, toyed with a small group of Blue Jays.  They swooped at the jays, chased them, scared them, and then would chase each other.  It really seemed like play, or practice hunting was the main objective.  Whatever it was, it went on for 10 minutes and was a real treat to witness. 

A Sharp-shinned Hawk wheels around, chasing Blue Jays for practice or maybe play?

Again and again, we located thick vines of yellowing poison ivy with abundant berries.  Yellow-rumped Warblers gorged themselves to fuel their migration south, and yes…spreading this native vine.  In my opinion, poison ivy is a wonderful bird attracting plant in the fall.  Look but don’t touch!

A fall plumage Yellow-rumped Warbler will eat insects when available, but they LOVE poison ivy berries.

It was a perfect autumn morning with long, soaking looks at many species of birds, colorful trees, and fading asters in the crisp air.  Link up with one of our bird walks sometime soon before winter sets in and the migrants leave us.  Free bird walks are offered at the Bucktoe Creek Preserve each Sunday and Monday at 8am, and Thursdays at Ashland Nature Center and Abbott’s Mill Nature Center at 8am.  See for directions to these locations.  Don’t forget to look at the sidebar on this blog for other events that are happening soon! 

A full list of the 39 species found on the bird walk at Coverdale Farm on October 21 can be found here.

By Derek Stoner, Conservation Project Coordinator

A "Field of Dreams" awaits at Middle Run: a beautiful hay field waiting to be planted with hundreds of native trees by dozens of dedicated volunteers. Image by Derek Stoner, October 20, 2011.

Yesterday a tractor trailer backed down Smith Mill Road in the heart of Middle Run Natural Area.  When the rear doors opened, a wall of trees met our eyes.  Ten-foot tall oaks, Sycamores, and Tulip Trees stood stacked in neat rows, and a rush of exta-oxygenated air greeted our lungs!  An eager crew of helpers quickly unloaded this precious cargo, destined to become a future forest.  We placed 650 trees at this site, and off-loaded another 500 trees and shrubs on the other side of the valley for a special planting along the Middle Run Birding Trail.

The trees are the main ingredients for the Fall Tree Planting at Middle Run Natural Area.  Add in a crew of dedicated volunteers to the mix, and you have the recipe for a great conservation event.   After the dust (topsoil, actually) settles, there will be a fantastic forest of young trees in place, ready to grow!

We invite you to join us for the tree planting tomorrow morning, starting at 9:00am.   For details and directions, click on the  Fall 2011 Middle Run Tree Planting flyer .

By Sally O’Byrne, Teacher Naturalist 

On October 11, I led a group of intrepid Delaware Nature Society members to the REcommunity Recycling center in Camden, NJ, which is where all of the curbside recycling in Wilmington is taken.  We donned our hard hats, vests, and safety glasses and entered the world of human refuse.

Prepared for hazards, we entered the recycling plant.

First stop was the area where trucks unload the single stream (combined) recycling.  

Truck unloading recycleables at the plant.

A monstrous front end loader picked up the trash and dumped it onto a steep conveyor belt which, through the ‘angle of repose’, controlled  the quantities.  It then went through a series of drums with discs that separated the glass, plastics, papers and cardboard; heavy things fell through and the lighter items floated across the top.  After each separation, a quality control team hand-sorted what the machines missed on non-stop belts. 

You may notice that the workers are wearing (or should be wearing) dust masks and gloves.  We all wondered how much they were being paid for this very intense, but very unglamorous job (the tour guide didn’t know).

Here, workers sort recyclables by hand. This is what happens to your recyclables from Wilmington!

The trash is separated until it has a 96% purity of type, and then it is conveyed to a baling machine and made into a bale that is about 1,400 pounds in weight.  Watching the conveyor belts move through the system was mesmerizing, and the finished bales of colored plastics or metal were almost artistic.

Recyclables are baled for shipping at the plant.

Markets are found for each product; the plastics become carpet fibers, crushed cans go to Anheuser Busch, and when the market is right, the glass becomes part of asphalt – a product sometimes called glasphalt.  Paper and cardboard go to China, and the small percentage of remaining refuse goes to a landfill in Ohio.  One lesson we learned – keep those bottle caps on the bottle, otherwise they will fall through the conveyor belts onto the floor and end up with the trash going to Ohio.

Please see our sidebar for upcoming adult programs through the Delaware Nature Society.

By Joe Sebastiani: Seasonal Program Team Leader

This was a great week at the Ashland Hawk Watch.  The weather did not look that promising with winds out of the southeast, thick clouds brewing, and periods of rain, but that didn’t stop lots of raptors from flying south.  Cyrus Moqtaderi, our official counter, and his dedicated staff of volunteers tallied 1,317 hawks pass Ashland this past Monday through Friday.  Highlights include our first Golden Eagle and Northern Goshawk of the season plus over 200 Osprey, which is certainly the best 5-days for Osprey in the history of the Hawk Watch.

Kim Steininger has been our most dedicated volunteer at the Ashland Hawk Watch this year. She captured this image of the Golden Eagle that flew by, 142 meters up.

It was also a great week for Sharp-shinned Hawk with 341, and 208 American Kestrel is excellent. Broad-winged Hawks also made a reappearance on Friday with 247 cruising by.  Finally, 15 Peregrine Falcons in 5 days at Ashland is pretty good for this usually coastal migrant.  We usually only get around 25 in an entire season.

Kim Steininger also got great photos of this Merlin, which dive-bombed our fake owl near the Hawk Watch.

For one of the best wildlife viewing experiences around, visit the Ashland Hawk Watch, any day now through November.  Early October is usually really alive with hawks, so come soon!  For all the totals of the season so far, visit our HawkCount site. Also, October 9 is the Big Sit at the Ashland Hawk Watch, where the Twitching Talons team will try to identify as many species from the site as possible…all day long.  Lots of good food and good people will be there, so don’t miss it!