Nature in Transition

Article and Photos by Ed Crew – Delaware Master Naturalist Intern

Photo by Ed Crew

Certain pieces of music can evoke deep emotional responses and can even be an “experience” for the listener. Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is an example of that as the pieces of the composition flow one into the next. You can imagine the transition of the seasons… Spring to Summer then Autumn and finally Winter. Just like in a great piece of music, some of the most enjoyable experiences in nature are periods of transition. Summer…Autumn… Winter…Spring and back to Summer. Daytime… dusk… sunset… night…twilight …sunrise and back to daytime.

The first transition of 2021 that we are all anxiously awaiting is March 20, the first day of Spring. Coincidentally, the first day of Spring this year happens to be a few days before DelNature’s four-part “Evening Walk Series” begins. The walks in this series will start around dusk and take place at Ashland Nature Center, Coverdale Farm Preserve, Flint Woods Preserve, and Bucktoe Creek Preserve. Register for the series here.

DelNature Naturalists leading the “Evening Walk Series”, shown here, will guide you through the woods and get you into the best environments to hear “nature’s spring concert”. You may be fortunate and get to experience what Aldo Leopold called the “sky dance” of the American Woodcock and hear their “peent” call as they take off and land. This time of year, male Woodcocks are active at dawn and dusk and their display is essential as they are establishing territory, courting, and breeding.

While the male Woodcock dances, the female Wood Duck sings. The female Wood Duck’s “oo-eek” call announces her arrival on the scene. When you are around Wood Duck habitat in early Spring, keep an ear out because it’s courtship time.

Not to be outdone by the birds, amphibian species join in and add their voices to the chorus. In the Piedmont region of Delaware, early Spring is a lively scene for Wood Frogs and Northern Spring Peepers. The Wood Frog and the Spring Peeper, both mostly terrestrial species, can be found in a wide variety of habitats but need to lay breed and lay their eggs in shallow wetlands, like those at Ashland.

One male Spring Peeper can emit up to 25 “peeps” a minute via a single inflatable vocal sac. A large group of them creates quite an evening chorus. Because of its tolerance of cold weather, the Wood Frog is usually Delaware’s earliest frog species to breed each year. The Wood Frog can even survive their entire body freezing.

Taking a walk in nature at dusk can be quite a different experience than the same walk at other times of day. As the daylight fades and dusk creeps in, your ability to observe activity around you in the woods diminishes. Your senses begin to transition, and you find yourself using your hearing as much as your sight.

Spring in the Piedmont is an exciting time as nature starts to rev up and get back to business and the woods erupt in song. The more time you spend in the woods around dusk the more “music” you will experience. Next time you are at Ashland, have a seat on the bench overlooking the floodplain and you could be in for a treat.

Photo by Ed Crew

Listen to the following and brush up on some of the sounds you might hear.… the call of the Wood Frog

a chorus of Spring Peepers,

the “peent” call of the American Woodcock  

the ghostly call of an Eastern Screech-owl, right above your head that startles you,

“Who cooks for you?” a Barred Owl may ask.

or a Great Horned Owl wondering “Who’s Awake….”

maybe even the “oo-eek” of the Wood Duck.

Nature is making music all day long, and the woods in late March and early April can be quite the auditory experience. Find the time to take a seat, watch and listen because the concert is about to begin.    

Photo by Ed Crew

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