Middle Run Natural Area

By Joe Sebastiani, Seasonal Program Team Leader

The birding has been truly fantastic over the last few weeks.  Migrant songbirds like warblers, vireos, thrushes, flycatchers along with more hawks than we have ever seen at Ashland have caused lots of excitement, and sore necks from looking up all the time!  Yesterday I led a morning bird walk at Ashland Nature Center and there were so many birds we barely left the parking lot.  Included in our total of 51 species for the morning, were 12 species of warbler, 3 species of vireo, 6 species of thrush, and others like Red-breasted Nuthatch, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and Ruby-crowned Kinglet.  If you want to see the full list from yesterday, it can be found at ebird.

Hank Davis got good photos of some of the birds we saw at Ashland yesterday morning. This was a nice, bright Blackburnian Warbler.

At the Ashland Hawk Watch, which is open daily through the end of November, we have had some really exciting days recently.  On September 11th, 2,665 raptors flew over.  On the 16th, 6,305 raptors were tallied, which was our single biggest day at the Hawk Watch ever.  On the 19th, 1,195 raptors were counted.  Most of these hawks are Broad-winged Hawks, which migrate through in huge numbers in September, and it is one of the greatest wildlife spectacles to catch in Delaware.  This is a particularly good year for them here.  Full raptor numbers for Ashland Hawk Watch can be found the Hawkcount site.  Come visit the Hawk Watch soon, and help us scan the skies for hawks!

Bay-breasted Warbler is tough to find and yesterday we found two lurking around the Ashland parking lot. Photo by Hank Davis.

There are a lot of free guided bird walk opportunities with the Delaware Nature Society to catch the phenomenon of migration this fall.  Other than the daily Ashland Hawk Watch, here is a list of what you can do…for free…no registration required!  Of course, if you attend, your membership in the Delaware Nature Society is appreciated.  Directions to most of  these sites can be found at www.delawarenaturesociety.org.  Middle Run Natural Area can be found on Possum Hollow Road just before the Tri-state Bird Rescue.

Sundays: Bucktoe Creek Preserve, Kennett Square, PA.  8am.  Year-round.

Mondays: Bucktoe Creek Preserve, Kennett Square, PA.  8am.  Year-round.

Tuesdays: Middle Run Natural Area, Newark, DE.  8am.  September and October.

Thursdays: Abbott’s Mill Nature Center, Milford, DE.  8am.  Through December 20.

Thursdays: Ashland Nature Center, Hockessin, DE.  8am.  September and October.

Saturdays: Burrows Run Preserve, Hockessin, DE.  8am.  September.

 

Black-throated Green Warbler was one of the more common of the 12 warbler species we saw yesterday morning. Photo by Hank Davis.

By Derek Stoner, Conservation Project Coordinator

Jim White leading a bird walk, scanning the skies for birds at Middle Run Natural Area during the Fourth Annual Middle Run Bio-Blitz. Image by Derek Stoner, August 26, 2012.

On  a morning where the weather forecast showed rain was a strong possibility, we had not a drop of precipitation for our Fourth Annual Middle Run Bio-Blitz.  We did have some incredible gray clouds and much-welcomed cool breezes to enjoy on the bird walk that kicked off at 7:00am.   Without even leaving our starting point at the Middle Run Native Plant Garden, we tallied some great birds:  Common Nighthawk, Eastern Kingbird flocks (12 in one tree!), and a family of four Pileated Woodpeckers.  From multiple directions we heard the cu-cuu-cu-cuu calls of Yellow-billed Cuckoos, living up to their nickname of “Rain Crow” as the gray clouds passed by.

Jim White led the group of birders along the Middle Run Birding Trail, with close encounters with Black-and-white Warbler, American Redstart, and Eastern Wood-peewee.  A true surprise was the juvenile Little Blue Heron that flew right over our heads while we stood in the meadow!    

Round Two of the bird walks, led by Jim White and Amy O’Neil, held more good sightings like Blue Grosbeak, Brown Thrasher, and Field Sparrow.   A total of 27 birders joined this walk, including some very avid youth birders.

An excited group of insect enthusiasts joins Sheila Vincent on a foray into the field to capture butterflies, dragonflies, and other “things with wings.” Image by Derek Stoner, August 26, 2012.

Our insect guru Sheila Vincent led a wonderful butterfly and dragonfly walk for an enthusiastic group of families, most of who were first-time visitors to Middle Run.   Right away, they caught a female Black Saddlebags– a large and showy dragonfly.  Green Darners and Blue Dasher dragonflies were flying all over the meadow, but proved hard to capture.   

A Common Buckeye gathers nectar from a Queen Anne’s Lace (Wild Carrot) flower at Middle Run. This is a classic late summer butterfly found in local meadows. Image by Derek Stoner, August 26, 2012.

The butterflies put on a show, and the youngsters captured them with great skill.  Species like Common Buckeye (above), Eastern-tailed Blue, Summer Azure, Sachem Skipper, Tiger Swallowtail, and Clouded Sulphur all made their way into the nets and camera lenses of these “bug enthusiasts.”  Notable butterfly species captured include the Little Glassywing and the Variegated Fritillary. 

Hana gets a close-up look at an egg-laden female European Mantid at the Middle Run Native Plant Garden– the prize find of the Bio-Blitz! Image by Jim White, August 26, 2012.

The creature that “stole the show” was a female European Mantid with an egg-swollen abdomen.  This docile insect climbed on our hands, posed for photos, and found plenty of appreciative admirers in our group of outdoor enthusiasts.  This species of mantid is not commonly seen in our region, and as the name indicates, is native to Europe.

With nearly 50 people participating in the event, and many taking part in their first-ever bird or bug walk, we all enjoyed sharing a wonderful morning outdoors.   Thanks to all the participants! 

If you are interested in visiting Middle Run Natural Area, the parking lot is centrally located in the middle of this 860-acre park and its 12 miles of trails.  The driveway to the parking lot is located on Possum Hollow Road, just before the entrance to Tri-State Bird Rescue.   To get GPS directions to the site, use this address:   110 Possum Hollow Road, Newark, DE 19711.   

Once at the parking lot, you may want to explore the Middle Run Birding Trail.  Use the  Middle Run Birding Trail Map 2012 as your guide as you explore the area.  Enjoy!  

By Derek Stoner, Conservation Project Coordinator

Get out and enjoy some great birds along the Middle Run Birding Trail! These campers in our Young Ornithologists camp enjoy looks at a Baltimore Oriole today. Image by Derek Stoner, August 20, 2012.

The Date: Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Time:  Anytime between 7:00am and Noon (Start early or sleep in a bit!)

The Place:  Middle Run Natural Area in Newark, Delaware 

The Event:  The Fourth Annual Middle Run Bio-Blitz and the First Annual Pledge to Fledge Celebration

The Purpose:  To Have Fun and Enjoy Birds

Eastern Kingbirds are flocking to the hedgerows at Middle Run right now, as they gorge on the fruits of cherry, sassafras, and sumac trees. Image by Derek Stoner.

With bird migration in full swing, venture out this Sunday to Middle Run Natural Area and help us celebrate the joys of watching birds.   Colorful birds like Baltimore Orioles, Indigo Buntings, and Scarlet Tanagers are just a few of the sights you may see.

The Pledge to Fledge component of this event is a global effort to increase appreciation of birds and their habitats.  The mission is simple: introduce more people to the enjoyment of watching birds!  Your assignment:  bring along a friend, relative, neighbor, or anyone else you know that will enjoy a fun nature walk full of interesting birds.   They will thank you!

We will hold two bird walks: one beginning at 7:00am until 9:00am and another going from 9:30am to 11:00am.   A butterfly and dragonfly walk will also be held from 10am until Noon.   Expert leaders will guide the walks, and binoculars and spotting scopes will be available for use.

Come on out and enjoy a morning with the birds– and bring a friend! 

For directions and event details, click here:  Middle Run Bio-Blitz 2012 Flyer

By Derek Stoner, Conservation Project Coordinator

A male Prairie Warbler sings from his perch in an Autumn Olive near Trail Marker 5 on the Middle Run Birding Trail. Image by Derek Stoner, April 28, 2012.

With April almost finished and May on the way, the activity level of birds is really picking up.  Many birds are already nesting, and a visit to the Middle Run Birding Trail this morning showed Tree Swallows gathering nesting material, Carolina Chickadees on seven eggs, and Eastern Bluebirds feeding three fledglings. 

Recently-arrived neo-tropical migrants like Prairie Warblers are on territory and singing, trying to attract a mate for the nesting season.   The “Meadow Mosaic” area on the Middle Run Birding Trail between Markers #4 and 6 had three different male Prairie Warblers singing.

A male Blue-headed Vireo shows himself briefly as he goes about the business of finding food. Image by Derek Stoner, April 28, 2012.

Other birds are passing through the area on their way to nesting grounds further north.  The Blue-headed Vireo is a bird that breeds primarily in the Boreal Forest of Canada, and stops by Delaware on its north-ward migration.  Vireos and all other species of migrant songbirds depend upon an abundance of insects (primarily caterpillars and flies) that are found on native plants.   At this time of year, trees in the Oak, Cherry, and Poplar family are good bets to attract birds.

A Warbling Vireo pauses in a Tulip Tree while feeding on caterpillars. Image by Derek Stoner, April 28, 2012.

The Warbling Vireo is a species of vireo that breeds locally along streams, and is often found nesting in Sycamore trees.  This bird I observed today was gleaning caterpillars from a young Tulip Tree, in the slow and steady manner that is characteristic of vireos.  Perhaps it will stay to nest at Middle Run!

What Spring migrants and bird activity are you seeing in your area right now?