Native American

By Robert Fisher, Abbott’s Mill Nature Center Intern

Southern Delaware’s lingering drought received a brief respite on July 19th.  At 2pm severe thunderstorms rolled into the Milford area, bringing heavy rainfall. This steady inundation brought much needed moisture to stressed plants. While the rain was a blessing for most plants, the storm’s associated lightning and wind had a dramatic effect on some of the Milford Millpond Nature Preserve’s  trees.

This Tulip Tree was struck by lightning during the July 19th storm.

Abbott’s Mill naturalists prepping for a Native American program in the Lindale Tract encountered an abundance of tree debris and also discovered an impressive lightning strike on a large tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipfera), also known as yellow poplar.  The trees appears to have survived, but it will bear the marks of the strike for the rest of its days.


Path of the lightning through the tree.

The long scar, which runs the length of this impressive tree, tells us about lightning attraction and how trees handle it.  Tulip trees, being one of the tallest and fastest growing hardwood species in the eastern United States, have a  high biomass.  The combination of height and girth make these trees excellent conductors of lightning in the forest.  However, sap is a poor conductor and in a lightning strike, is superheated, becoming steam.  From this rapid expansion of liquid to a gas, an explosion occurs. The photo below shows fragments of bark and sapwood blown off of the tree, accounting for the exposed wood.  Shards of wood were found over 50′ from the tree and throughout the sub-canopy forest layer.

Debris from the strike covers the surrounding area.

The high visibility location of this tulip tree on the Lindale Loop Trail will serve as a teaching point for years to come.  If you are interested in seeing the tree for yourself, stop by Abbott’s Mill Nature Center and pick up a trail map highlighting our miles of hiking trails.  However, you might want to check out the chance of thunderstorms in the area before you venture afield!


Shard of the tree spiked in the ground.

By John Harrod, Manager, DuPont Environmental Education Center

Though we have not had much snow yet in Delaware, I have had the opportunity to observe other white wonders of nature in the marsh at the Russell W. Peterson Urban Wildlife Refuge. On a recent walk, I saw some wildlife that boast white on their bodies.

I was delighted at the unexpected sighting of a piebald White-tailed Deer among the grasses. Piebald animals lack pigment on portions of their bodies.

A piebald deer at the Russell W. Peterson Urban Wildlife Refuge

A piebald deer at the Russell W. Peterson Urban Wildlife Refuge. Photo by John Harrod

A Northern Harrier was seen skimming over the marsh hunting for small mammals. It was easily identified by the large white patch on its rump.

Northern Harrier by Bob Webster.

Northern Harrier. Photo by Bob Webster.

I also caught a glimpse of an Opossum wandering into the reeds. When the weather gets cold and food is scarcer, nocturnal animals can often be found looking for sustenance during the day. The word “opossum” is derived from Algonquian, meaning “white beast.” 

Opossum. Photo by Derek Stoner.

Opossum. Photo by Derek Stoner.

Visit us at the DuPont Environmental Education Center over the winter holiday break and see what wildlife you can find. Use DEEC’s balcony to overlook the marsh or join us on one of our free or low-cost walks into the marsh.

By Judy Montgomery, Overnight and Outreach Coordinator

Volunteers crafted these replica Lenape necklaces and moccasins during a February workshop.

Volunteers crafted these replica Lenape necklaces and moccasins during a February workshop.

Volunteers gathered February 4th and 6th to craft new Native American teaching props for our Lenape programs. Twelve artisans created clothes, toys, tools and games, during our first-annual “Lenape Crafts and Construction Days.”
enape feather dart game made from buckskin and goose feathers.

Lenape feather dart game made from buckskin and goose feathers.

Many fine teaching props were created over our 8 hour work session.  A walnut mortar was gouged and new pestle carved.  A drying rack was tied carefully will be displayed near our wigwam.  Deer scapulas, antlers, hooves and leg bones were collected locally for this workshop.
New "saw"  created from a deer scapula.

New "saw" created from a deer scapula.

Lenape meat drying rack.

Lenape meat drying rack.

 These beautiful new props will be used during school, scout and summer camp Lenape programs.