DEEC

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by Dakin Hewlett, Watershed Education Coordinator

DEEC staff member tags and releases a Monarch Butterfly.

Visitors watch as a DEEC staff member tags and releases a Monarch Butterfly. Photo by John Harrod

Fall not only brings the oncoming burst of changing colors, but also marks the beginning of the monarch butterfly’s incredible migration to Mexico. The DuPont Environmental Education Center highlighted the butterfly’s unique journey at their 4th Annual Marsh & Monarch Celebration on September 23rd. Blue skies and sunshine greeted over 200 people who came out to celebrate the tagging and releasing of 8 monarchs. Leading up to the event, DEEC staff and visitors watched and waited as the reared butterflies transformed from caterpillar to chrysalis and finally to beautiful monarchs ready for release.

When the highly anticipated release date came, eager groups of visitors gathered on the boardwalk with a DEEC staff member to learn about monarchs and their important relationship to the milkweed plant. Adult monarch butterflies lay their eggs on the plant and the caterpillars then eat the milkweed as their sole food source. If you want to attract more monarchs to your garden, planting milkweed is a great way to do just that!

Each butterfly was then tagged with a special tracking sticker for research being done at the University of Kansas. Tagging helps monitor monarch migration patterns and the overall health of the population. Finally, the moment came that we had all been waiting for…A few lucky kids became wide-eyed as a butterfly was placed on their outstretched finger and took a few steps while deciding whether it was ready to take flight. Each time a butterfly took off the crowd clapped and cheered with enthusiasm as the magnitude of the 2,000-mile journey sunk in.

Canoeing the pond.

Canoeing the pond. Photo by John Harrod

Visitors also spent the day enjoying free, interactive activities throughout the marsh. Adults and kids alike enjoyed an on-the-water experience canoeing the pond, learning basic paddling skills, and attempting to navigate the water without getting stuck in the plants.

Many chose to get their feet wet while dip-netting for aquatic animals such as dragonfly larvae, scuds, and small fish. Dip-netting is not only a fun way to explore the pond, but is also a great tool to use when measuring water quality. By studying the biodiversity of the pond, staff members at DEEC can better understand the condition of the water. Guest staff from Stroud Water Research Center echoed that sentiment by providing visitors with a chance to conduct their own water quality tests. Participants turned scientists, learned how to test for pH levels, temperature, turbidity, nitrates, and conductivity with hands on experiments like the one shown below.

A curious visitor uses a turbidity tube to test the clarity of the pond water.

A curious visitor uses a turbidity tube to test the clarity of the pond water. Photo by John Harrod

Inside the nature center many other activities were underway such as “Zuumba like an Animal,” on the 4th floor. If you happened to saunter upstairs you were met with a group of kids hopping around the room like frogs or belting out animal sounds at the top of their lungs.  The 3rd floor stayed jam-packed all day with arts and crafts tables, a bike & kayak raffle sponsored by the Alliance for Watershed Education, and interpreters sharing all things marsh. The “Snapper Lab” on the 1st floor displayed many live animals that call the refuge home such as a black ratsnake, snapping turtle, and green frog. On the way out visitors stopped by to chat with Delaware Nature Society’s Habitat Stewards and left carrying armfuls of free milkweed to plant in their own gardens for the next generation of monarchs. Thank you to all who came out to celebrate and see you next year!

 

Free milkweed plants and art projects to take home after a wonderful day at the marsh.

Free milkweed plants and art projects to take home after a wonderful day at the marsh. Photo by John Harrod

By John Harrod, Manager, DuPont Environmental Education Center

The Russell W. Peterson Urban Wildlife Refuge has a new Osprey nesting platform. DNS worked with Cristina Frank, senior environmental scientist with Pepco Holdings, to install a new platform near the DuPont Environmental Education Center. It can be easily seen at eye level as you cross the bridge to the building. 

Platform photo by John Harrod

New Osprey nesting platform near the DuPont Environmental Education Center. Photo by John Harrod.

This is the second nesting platform in the refuge. The first, which has had an active Osprey pair for eight years, was originally put up as a new home for the birds after they built a nest on transmission lines. The location of the new platform is far enough away that two pair can reside in the refuge without incident. 

Osprey pair Jim White.

Original Osprey pair on the first nesting platform. Photo by Jim White.

To help encourage a second pair of Osprey to take up residence on the new platform, it is seeded with an armload of branches.

nesting platform by Jim White

Seeding the platform with branches to encourage new Osprey residents. Photo by Jim White.

The latest platform was installed as part of a larger project to replace the old, wooden transmission lines passing through the refuge. Pepco will be installing line markers, including spiral bird diverters, to increase the visibility of the new power lines and prevent collision.

Bird Flight Diverter

Spiral Diverter

We look forward to welcoming a second pair of Osprey to the refuge. Join us at DEEC on Saturday, April 21, for the DNS Earth Day Festival to meet Cristina Frank, learn how new transmission lines are built to protect birds, and hopefully see our newest residents.

By John Harrod, Manager, DuPont Environmental Education Center

DEEC has had a resident groundhog this summer. While groundhogs are fairly common, this one is worth noting because of its unique color: black.

dark groundhog by John Harrod

Groundhog with increased levels of melanin. Photo by John Harrod

Its black fur is due to excess amounts of melanin, a pigment that gives skin, hair, feathers and fur their dark color. This occurrence is known as melanism, while the opposite is albinism, which occurs because of a lack of melanin or other types of pigment.

 Visit DEEC and try to spot our unique resident. While there, join us on a free nature walk or register on the spot for a netting in the marsh.