All posts for the month December, 2011

By Helen Fischel, Associate Director, Education

After posting the blog about insects in my backyard habitat I was asked several questions about my yard. Every season has color, interest, and surprises for me which I will share over the next several months.

Nocturnal scene in my neighborhood of Thornberry.

Daytime in Thornberry: A sweep of winterberry holly berries add color from the street with the Southern Gentleman (male of this species) being tucked into the back of the garden.  The male produces no berries, but is necessary for the female to produce hers.

Winterberry add color to the winter garden and is a native plant found in wet woods. Many species of birds, including Eastern Bluebird and American Robin feed on the berries.

Over the next few months the birds will enjoy the bounty of berries. It depends on which species you plant whether or not the birds devour the berries early or late in the season. For some interesting texture in the winter garden, try River Birch, whos peeling bark adds interest to the leafless tree and nooks and crannies for overwintering insects and spiders. 

River Birch is another native Delaware Species that is found in wet woods and streamsides, especially on the coastal plain.

By Joe Sebastiani: Seasonal Program Team Leader

Final post in a 4-part series about the Delaware Nature Society trip to Costa Rica in November, 2011.

We finally made it to the west coast of Costa Rica.  After a long day in the bus, we were rewarded with a gorgeous beach, new wildlife and looked forward to a few more days in this green and wonderful country.  With the Pacific Ocean in view, we stayed at Punta Leona, a quiet beach resort which is smack in the middle of the best place in the country for a very rare bird…Scarlet Macaw.  The simultaneous sounds of waves crashing and macaws screeching as they winged by will not be forgotten soon. 

Manuel Antonio National Park was a day-trip while we stayed here.  Picture a mountainous tropical forest flanked by sand and rock beaches with clear blue water.  On the beach, White-faced Capuchin monkeys walk right by, looking for a forgotten sandwiches left behind.  These monkeys have no fear of humans here, as you will see in the video below.  We stood within 5 feet of some of them, resulting of some pretty scary face to face monkey photographs.

Finally, check out the end of the video which features the highlights of our crocodile boat tour where we saw many birds, and a crocodile breakfast.  I am not a big fan of feeding wildlife for show, but I must say, my tip for the boat tour operator went up drastically after watching his dangerous skill.  I still have wonderful dreams and memories of our trip to Costa Rica with Collette Vacations.  Come join the Delaware Nature Society on a trip someday…you won’t regret it.  Enjoy the video, and check out the complete list of wildlife seen on the trip below.    


Birds seen on the trip:
Black-bellied Whistling Duck
Blue-wiged Teal
Gray-headed Chachalaca
Crested Guan
Black Guan
Great Curassow
Wood Stork
Magnificent Frigatebird
Neotropic Cormorant
Brown Pelican
Bare-throated Tiger Heron
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Tricolored Heron
Cattle Egret
Green Heron
Yellow-crowned Night Heron
Boat-billed Heron
White Ibis
Green Ibis
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
King Vulture
Gray-headed Kite
Double-toothed Kite
Crane Hawk
Common Black-hawk
Roadside Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk
Gray Hawk
Short-tailed Hawk
Swainson’s Hawk
Crested Caracara
Laughing Falcon
American Kestrel
Bat Falcon
Peregrine Falcon
Black-bellied Plover
American Oystercatcher
Black-necked Stilt
Northern Jacana
Spotted Sandpiper
Solitary Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Royal Tern
Rock Pigeon
Pale-vented Pigeon
Red-billed Pigeon
Short-billed Pigeon
White-winged Dove
Inca Dove
Ruddy Ground-dove
Crimson-fronted Parakeet
Scarlet Macaw
Orange-chinned Parakeet
White-crowned Parrot
Red-lored Parrot
Mealy Parrot
Squirrel Cuckoo
Mangrove Cuckoo
Groove-billed Ani
Short-tailed Nighthawk
Common Pauraque
White-collared Swift
Chimney Swift
Costa Rican Swift
Gray-rumped Swift
Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift
White-necked Jacobin
Bronzy Hermit
Long-billed Hermit
Stripe-throated Hermit
Purple-crowned Fairy
Green-breasted Mango
Black-crested Coquette
Green-crowned Brilliant
Long-billed Starthroat
Purple-throated Mountain Gem
Magenta-throated Woodstar
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Violet-headed Hummingbird
Violet Sabrewing
Violet-crowned Woodnymph
Stripe-tailed Hummingbird
Coppery-headed Emerald
Steely-vented Hummingbird
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
Blue-throated Goldentail
Green Violetear
Slaty-tailed Trogon
Gartered Trogon
Orange-bellied Trogon
Blue-crowned Motmot
Keel-billed Motmot
Broad-billed Motmot
Turquois-browed Motmot
Ringed Kingfisher
Belted Kingfisher
Amazon Kingfisher
Green Kingfisher
Green-and-rufous Kingfisher
American Pygmy Kingfisher
Collared Aracari
Fiery-billed Aracari
Black-mandibled Toucan
Keel-billed Toucan
Black-cheeked Woodpecker
Hoffman’s Woodpecker
Pale-billed Woodpecker
Spotted Barbtail
Streak-headed Woodcreeper
Northern-barred Woodcreeper
Barred Antshrike
Black-hooded Antshrike
Chestnut-backed Antbird
Yellow Tyrannulet
Yellow-bellied Elaenia
Paltry Tyrannulet
Common Tody-flycatcher
Olive-sided Flycatcher
Western Wood-pewee
Eastern Wood-pewee
Tropical Pewee
Least Flycatcher
Black Phoebe
Long-tailed Tyrant
Bright-rumped Attila
Great Crested Flycatcher
Great Kiskadee
Boat-billed Flycatcher
Social Flycatcher
Gray-capped Flycatcher
Streaked Flycatcher
Tropical Kingbird
Eastern Kingbird
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
Purple-throated Fruitcrow
White-collared Manakin
Masked Tityra
Cinnamon Becard
Rose-throated Becard
Yellow-throated Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Lesser Greenlet
White-throated Magpie-jay
Brown Jay
Blue-and-white Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Southern Rough-winged Swallow
Gray-breasted Martin
Mangrove Swallow
Barn Swallow
Rufous-naped Wren
Black-throated Wren
Stripe-breasted Wren
Bay Wren
House Wren
Gray-breasted Wood-wren
Tropical Gnatcatcher
Black-faced Solitaire
Swainson’s Thrush
Wood Thrush
Clay-colored Thrush
Gray Catbird
Louisiana Waterthrush
Northern Waterthrush
Blue-winged Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Prothonotary Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Gray-crowned Yellowthroat
Masked Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Tropical Parula
Bay-breasted Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Three-striped Warbler
Buff-rumped Warbler
Wilson’s Warbler
Slate-throated Redstart
Passerini’s Tanager
Cherrie’s Tanager
Blue-gray Tanager
Palm Tanager
Silver-throated Tanager
Bay-headed Tanager
Golden-hooded Tanager
Spangle-cheeked Tanager
Green Honeycreeper
Shining Honeycreeper
Red-legged Honeycreeper
Buff-throated Saltator
Blue-black Grassquit
Variable Seedeater
Yellow-faced Grassquit
Orange-billed Sparrow
Black-striped Sparrow
Rufous-collared Sparrow
Common Bush-tanager
Summer Tanager
Scarlet Tanager
Red-throated Ant-tanager
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Red-winged Blackbird
Melodious Blackbird
Great-tailed Grackle
Bronzed Cowbird
Black-cowled Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
Montezuma Oropendola
Yellow-crowned Euphonia
Olive-backed Euphonia
House Sparrow
Common Opossum
Hoffman’s Two-toed Sloth
Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth
Red-backed Squirrel Monkey
White-faced Capuchin
Mantled Howler Monkey
Central American Spider Monkey
Variegated Squirrel
Central American Agouti
Greater White-lined Bat
Neotropical River Otter
White-nosed Coati
Northern Raccoon
White-tailed Deer
Reptiles and Amphibians:
Spectacled Caiman
American Crocodile
Black River Turtle
Yellow-headed Gecko
Green Basilisk
Striped Basilisk
Spiny-tailed Iguana
Green Iguana
Northern Cat-eyed Snake
Hognosed Viper
Giant Toad
Smooth-skinned Toad
Tink Frog
Green-and-black Poison Dart Frog
Strawberry Poison Dart Frog
I am sure I am forgetting to include some, but you get the point…we saw lots!

By Joe Sebastiani, Seasonal Program Team Leader

Third post in a series about the Delaware Nature Society Costa Rica Trip in November, 2011.

Arenal Volcano looms above the surrounding forest and farmland. Photo by Joe Sebastiani

For the 24 hours before it erupted, the ground shook violently and cows stopped drinking because the cool spring water had turned hot.  On July 29, 1968, Arenal released its energy with huge explosions and lava flows, filling the sky with ash and hurling rocks the size of cars 5 km away.  Toxic volcanic gas settled into surrounding valleys…80 people and 45,000 cattle were killed, and 3 towns were destroyed. 

On our visit to Arenal with Collette Vacations, the volcano did little more than emit a little steam at the top, but its perfect conical shape and black rock sides were a beautiful sight.  We spent three nights here at the luxurious Arenal Springs Resort, where the volcano sets a magnificent backdrop from your doorstep as well as the hot-spring fed pool with a swim-up bar. 

One of the rarest birds on our trip was the Keel-billed Motmot we found while touring a dairy farm near Arenal. Photo by Marilyn Henry

With Arenal in the background, we continued our nature excursions, birding everywhere we went.  The landscape in this area is beautiful.  Forest-covered hills, the volcano, and lots of farms in the lowlands.  While touring a dairy farm and learning the art of Costa Rican cheese making, we spotted one of the rarest birds on the trip, a Keel-billed Motmot.  With a spotty distribution in Central America, and considered a rarity in Costa Rica, and we were lucky to stumble upon it.

The other Keel-billed creature we found in the area was a beautiful Keel-billed Toucan. A rainstorm approached behind it, and when it called, it sounded like a chirping frog. Photo by Joe Sebastiani

Our guide, Jose Saenz, warned us about Monteverde.  “Bad does not describe the condition of the road from Arenal to Monteverde.  It is going to take all day, and we might not make it.”  Despite these dire predictions, when Jose asked for hands to see who still wanted to make the trip, all but one went up.  Into our bus we went at 5:30 a.m then next morning.  We boarded a boat to cross Lake Arenal at 6:15 a.m.  Into an0ther smaller bus and a 4-wheel drive vehicle we scrunched at 7:00 a.m.  Up the muddy, potholed jeep track we meandered slowly until 7:30 a.m. when the small bus got stuck.  Out of the vehicles we climbed.  Good thing we had the 4-wheel drive vehicle to pull the bus up a steep slope and out of trouble…not once, but twice.  Out and in, out and in.  Standing on a foggy mountainside, watching the bus being pulled out of trouble someone said, “And we are doing this because…??”  When we got to Monteverde at 9:30 a.m. we found out.

The dripping, foggy, moss-covered forests at Monteverde made us forget about the cramped, long drive to get there. Photo by Joe Sebastiani

For the next 4 hours, we lost all sense of time in the Monteverde Cloud Forest.  Crossing canopy walkways, being swarmed by 100 hummingbirds of 7 species at a feeding station, finding new birds, butterflies, and orchids and soaking up the pure beauty of this world-class location made us forget all about the crazy ride up the mountain.

A Coppery-headed Emerald and six other species of hummingbird swarmed the feeders here. There were probably 100 hummingbirds all around us zipping around, fighting, feeding, and nearly touching us. Photo by Joe Sebastiani

We couldn’t tear ourselves away from the incredible hummingbird feeder station here.  Coppery-headed Emeralds, Violet Sabrewings, Green-crowned Brilliants, Green Violet-ears, Stripe-tailed Hummingbirds, Purple-throated Mountain Gems, and Magenta-throated Woodstars formed a buzzing cloud around us.

A male Purple-throated Mountain Gem visits a feeder. There were dozens swarming around us. Photo by Joe Sebastiani

We slowly walked the path at Monteverde and lingered on long canopy walkwaybridges in the treetops.  Migrant Broad-winged Hawks, which nest in eastern North America circled overhead and reminded me of the connection the tropics have with forests at home.  A Black-throated Green Warbler, another North American migrant, fed in the trees with a Spangle-cheeked Tanager, assuring me I was still in the great mountain forests of Central America.  Where to next?  The coast of the Pacific Ocean…stay tuned!

A lasting memory for all of us on the trip to Costa Rica will be walking just under the clouds on the canopy bridges in Monteverde. Photo by Joe Sebastiani

By Joe Sebastiani, Seasonal Program Team Leader

This amazing photo of an immature Golden Eagle was taken by Hawk Watch volunteer Kim Steininger in November as it flew past Ashland Hawk Watch.

Ashland Hawk Watch, in its 5th autumn, began on September 1 this year.  As of the end of November, it has proven to be one of the best years yet, with 13,548 raptors counted…so far.  Cyrus Moqtaderi, in his third year as the Hawk Watch Coordinator, is staying on to count a bit more in December.  We couldn’t be happier!  Migration is continuing, and we expect to see more Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks, and possibly more Golden and Bald Eagles, and perhaps a few surprises.  The Hawk Watch will be operating sporadically over the next few weeks, usually on days fit for raptor migration.  Cyrus will announce when the Watch will be open the day prior on the de-birds list-serve.  If you don’t subscribe to this e-mail list-serve, you can look up posts here.  Just sort the posts by date and pick the latest post from Cyrus.

Here are the numbers for the season through November:

Black Vulture – 742

Turkey Vulture – 1,621

Osprey – 469

Bald Eagle – 306

Northern Harrier – 144

Sharp-shinned Hawk – 3,169

Cooper’s Hawk – 538

Northern Goshawk – 4

Red-shouldered Hawk – 375

Broad-winged Hawk – 4,455

Red-tailed Hawk – 806

Golden Eagle – 11

American Kestrel – 680

Merlin – 80

Peregrine Falcon – 27

Short-eared Owl – 1

The Ashland Hawk Watch is a joint project between the Delaware Nature Society, Delmarva Ornithological Society, and the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife