All posts for the month February, 2013

By Derek Stoner, Conservation Project Coordinator

To continue a fun tradition begun two years ago, the Delaware Nature Society invites you to participate in the Third Annual Signs of Spring Challenge.   The basic rules are simple:  All Signs must be observed on the grounds of the Ashland Nature Center, in order for this to be a fair contest.  Come visit the center and help us discover the first flowers, the first frogs, and the first turtles of the season!   

We also encourage you to keep a blank form at home where you can record the observations you make in your own backyard or local park.   The most fun part of this contest is that you are primed to be looking and listening at all times for these signs, wherever you are this Spring.  Write down the date and location of your first observations.  You will learn a lot and become a better naturalist by being part of this challenge.

Bloodroot is one of the first wildflowers to bloom in Spring in our region. Look for it to appear in the next month! Image by Derek Stoner.

The selected Signs of Spring include these six flowering plants: Snowdrops, Skunk Cabbage, Bloodroot, Spring Beauty, Trout Lily, and Violet.   The first bloom of these flowers found at Ashland is declared the first of Spring for this contest.

To participate, simply download the entry form:  Signs of Spring Contest 2013

Two Signs have already occurred this week:  the first Groundhog and the first blooming Snowdrops!  These emergence dates are already marked on the entry form and everyone gets these two guesses correct.

Fill out your guesses as to which of the remaining 18 species will occur each week, and send this form back (as an email or fax) to Derek Stoner ( by Monday, March 4. 

If you would like some hints as to possible timing of these Signs of Spring, check out the past two year’s results:  

Signs of Spring Contest 2011 

 Signs of Spring Challenge 2012 Final

Good luck and enjoy observing the Signs of Spring!

By Michele Wales, Farm Program Coordinator

Two weeks ago everyone celebrated Valentines Day.  On the annual day of hearts and affection most folks are wishing for flowers, chocolates, or one of Cupid’s arrows.  At Coverdale Farm Preserve, we were wishing for a four-legged, red haired, 60-pound bundle of bovine.  Although February 14th passed us by without a gift, February 15th was full of love!

Our beautiful 3-year old White-faced Hereford Beef Cow gave birth to her 2nd calf and her first here at Coverdale.  After 9&½ months of pregnancy, she began to show signs of readiness to calve earlier in the week.  With a due date of February 14th, farm staff began to patrol the pasture daily, checking for the pending birth.  By mid-afternoon on Friday, the cow had situated herself in the small barn located out in the pasture and began to push!

Here is our cow about 30 minutes prior to calving.  Photo by Jim White

Here is our cow about 30 minutes prior to calving. Photo by Jim White

Within about 2 hours she had delivered her bull calf (male); cleaned him; nudged him to a standing position; kept a watchful eye as he took his first steps; and stood still as he took his first meal of her milk.

We stood close by as this event unfolded to ensure the safety and health of both the mother and her calf.  Most farm animals can deliver their young without the assistance of humans but it is important to be present as sometimes there are unanticipated complications.  This was a “dream delivery” and we were fully impressed with how quickly our White-faced Hereford’s motherly instincts kicked into high gear.

Right after delivery, the cow hurries to clean the calf.  Photo by Jim White

Right after delivery, the cow hurries to clean the calf. Photo by Jim White

Although it was a “textbook birth” we didn’t fully relax until witnessed the newborn take his first milk, or colostrum.  This inaugural meal is critical for two key reasons: to provide protection against disease and stimulate development of the gut.  During gestation there is no transfer of these key benefits, so the calf is reliant upon colostrum to safeguard their adaptive immune system and immature digestive system.  Colostrum contains pathogen-fighting antibodies and provides concentrated nutrients delivered in low volumes.

Unlike a dairy cow, this mother will only produce enough milk for her calf and will provide him with all of the nutrition he needs until he is weaned at about 8 months of age.  Once weaned he will graze the 4-acre pasture with his mother and very attentive “Auntie” dairy cow eating grass, taking hay from their outdoor barn, and small amounts of grain in the stone barn during morning and afternoon chores.

A second set of eyes in the pasture, our Jersey Cow guards the calf.  Photo by Jim White

A second set of eyes in the pasture, our Jersey Cow guards the calf. Photo by Jim White

We invite you to help us take care of Coverdale’s new addition along with the pigs, chickens, and sheep on March 23rd from 4:30 – 7:30pm at the Family Farm Chores & Dinner program (pre-registration required).

Also, mark your calendars for Wednesday, May 1st from 12:00pm – 2:30pm.  This is the kick-off “Farm Fun Day” for the 2013 season.

The Delaware Nature Society has designated 2013 as the “Year of Coverdale Farm Preserve.”  We look forward to celebrating this “farmtastic” year with YOU!