Young Waterfowlers

By Derek Stoner, Conservation Project Coordinator

The fresh-fallen snow contrast with the flaming yellow leaves of the Tuliptrees on Sunday, October 30, 2011. Image by Derek Stoner.

Welcome to the Month of November!  Here at the Delaware Nature Society, this is our Membership Month, when we celebrate our wonderful members and continue to grow the ranks of Delaware Nature Society supporters.

Here at The Nature of Delaware blog, we are going to offer up a unique opportunity to get to know the Dealware Nature Society better: a Blog Blitz for Membership Month!

Every weekday for the whole month, we will feature stories and images that highlight the many facets of the organization.   There are so many great things going on at our various sites and through our literally hundreds of programs. 

The planted Sunflowers in the foreground mirror the bright foliage of the forest in the background at Flint Woods on Halloween Eve. Image by Derek Stoner.

Delaware is a beautiful place and we will take you to some of our favorite natural areas in the First State, as well as expanding your horizons with stories from more distant destinations. 

A classic Brandywine Valley Scene: Split-rail fence, a pasture, and beautiful woodlands. Image by Derek Stoner, October 31, 2011.

So strap on your seat belts and get ready for a great ride as we take you on a tour of the Delaware Nature Society. Membership Month is here and we thank you for joining us!

As part of the Blog Blitz for Membership Month, there will be special prizes and opportunities.  Stay tuned every day so you don’t miss out!

By Derek Stoner, Education Program Assistant 
Swarms of Snow Geese swirl into Raymond Pool at Bombay Hook NWR.
Swarms of Snow Geese swirl into Raymond Pool at Bombay Hook NWR.

Delaware is fortunate to have a wealth of waterfowl and wetlands. 

The Young Waterfowlers class, an in-depth course offered each fall by the Delaware Nature Society and Red Clay Valley Association, introduces youth to waterfowl, wetlands, and the waterfowling tradition.  There are 27 students taking the course this fall, ranging in age from 11 to 16.
Young Waterfowlers students and parents scan for waterfowl at Dragon Run Marsh.

Young Waterfowlers students and parents scan for waterfowl at Dragon Run Marsh.

 On Sunday, we headed afield for our annual Waterfowl Identification Field Trip.  Jim White, Associate Director of Land and Biodiversity, co-led the trip.  Jim’s son is a second-year student in the class.
At Dragon Run Marsh, a rich freshwater marsh outside Delaware City, all the birds concentrated in an open patch of water amidst the ice.
Gadwalls, Northern Shovelers, and Mallards crowded together in the frigid water.  Gracing the flock with a splash of color was a drake Redhead, a gorgeous duck with a rusty head and bright blue beak.
A flock of Mallards(and a couple Black Ducks) rest on an icy pond.

A flock of Mallards(and a couple Black Ducks) rest on an icy pond.

Waterfowl are incredibly hardy.  They are actually able to restrict blood flow to their feet when standing on ice, so their blood does not chill.  Cold weather is no deterrent to these birds!
Using dip nets, Young Waterfowlers search for aquatic life in a brackish pond at Woodland Beach Wildlife Area.

Using dip nets, Young Waterfowlers search for aquatic life in a brackish pond at Woodland Beach Wildlife Area.

On our trip, we learned more about wetlands by visiting a marsh and pond.  With nets in hand, students captured Banded Killifish, Mummichogs, Atlantic Silversides, and Grass Shrimp.  
The Young Waterfowlers course offers plenty of hands-on activities: carving duck decoys, practicing duck and goose calls, and visiting important waterfowl areas like Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge. 
Buffleheads(two drakes and a hen) swim in a tidal creek at Bombay Hook NWR.

Buffleheads(two drakes and a hen) swim in a tidal creek at Bombay Hook NWR.

For the day, Young Waterfowlers witnessed tens of thousands of Snow Geese, saw Buffleheads bobbing in a tidal creek, and heard the quirky quacks of Gadwall.  Our final field trip of the season provided a memorable experience for all.