By Derek Stoner, Conservation Project Coordinator
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.
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.
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.
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!