Trees

All posts tagged Trees

By Ian Stewart, Ornithologist

“I think that I shall never see, a poem lovely as a tree” (Joyce Kilmer, 1913).

Trying to identify trees is a lot of fun and can be done by anyone with both patience and a good field guide because almost all trees belonging to the same species have the same general appearance in terms of their size, bark, and leaf shape and arrangement. Still, sometimes one comes across a specimen that stands out from the others, perhaps because of its unusual appearance or location. These are my four favorite trees found on DelNature lands.

1) This massive American Sycamore is affectionately known as “Old Mr Knobbles” and is a much-visited centerpiece of the Ashland Nature Center floodplain. Although there are several huge Sycamores growing along the creek they all have a single vertical trunk whereas this specimen has two equally thick trunks, one of which seems to defy gravity by growing almost horizontally!

American Sycamore, Ashland Nature Center

“Old Mr Knobbles” American Sycamore, Ashland Nature Center

2) This Gray Birch stands alone in the corner of the hilltop behind Coverdale Farm. There was a pair of Gray Birches standing side by side here for many years but one was blown down by a storm in the spring of 2016, leaving this distinctively-colored tree standing forlornly against a dramatic backdrop of sweeping fields.

Gray Birch, Coverdale Farm Preserve

Gray Birch, Coverdale Farm Preserve

3) The great majority of trees have just one trunk but this monster Bitternut Hickory hidden away in the woods of Coverdale Farm Preserve has no fewer than six! Although one of the trunks is fairly small and another two are joined at the base it is still an unusual tree as the six trunks form a neat crown that supports the many branches.

Bitternut Hickory with Six Trunks, Coverdale Farm Preserve

Bitternut Hickory with Six Trunks, Coverdale Farm Preserve

4) Swamp Oak. This striking pale gray tree is tucked away in a dark corner of Burrows Run Preserve. As with White Oaks the trunk is relatively smooth near the base but begins to peel and flake further up the tree. However the peeling is so pronounced on Swamp Oaks that the bark seems to hang in sheets like plates of armor!

Swamp Oak, Burrows Run Preserve

Swamp Oak, Burrows Run Preserve

The Plate-Like Bark of a Swamp Oak, Burrows Run Preserve

The Plate-Like Bark of a Swamp Oak, Burrows Run Preserve

There are many beautiful trees scattered around our properties. Next time you walk our trails be sure to look carefully into the woods – you may find your own favorite tree!

By Sally O’Byrne, Teacher Naturalist

Even though much of the snow has melted and what is left are gray and black piles in parking lots, a Wednesday walk at the Delaware Nature Society’s Flint Woods Preserve revealed the beauty of winter and a few hints at spring.

A view of the Delaware Nature Society's Flint Woods Preserve. Photo by Sally O'Byrne.

It was obvious that animals were finding food – we found evidence of eating and the eaten.  A crabapple tree had the remnants of eaten fruits and discarded seeds beneath – the birds had been busy.

At the edge of a field we found where a fox had been digging into the snow.   A fairly deep hole made us wonder if the fox had chased a rodent or maybe smelled it through the snow.  Did he catch it?  You bet.   We found the guts of the little guy close by.  Why did it leave that part behind?

A fox was busy digging for a meal. Photo by Sally O'Byrne.

A small gut pile was next to the hole dug by the fox. We wondered why it didn't eat this part. Photo by Sally O'Byrne.

We hear about squirrels burying nuts, but a pile of nut shells let us know that one squirrel had dug through the snow to find them.  Bill the Land Manager has an active bird feeder.  A Carolina Wren was sitting beneath the feeder and must have been hungry since he let us get quite close. 

A Carolina Wren is reluctant to flush from below a bird feeder, even though we approached closely. Photo by Sally O'Byrne.

The sun came out and the we were struck by the beauty of the woods, even if most folks are getting sick of the white stuff.   The melting was obvious and many wet areas were exposed which held one of the first flowers of the year, a skunk cabbage, which was in bloom.

A skunk cabbage in bloom. Photo by Joe Sebastiani

We also found a few invertebrates that were active on this winter day.  We ran into a web that had an active spider.  The spider moved onto the web when we brushed it.  We also found an insect that flew and looked like a mosquito, but turned out to be a Winter Crane Fly.  I chased it down until it landed on the snow.

A Winter Crane Fly was out and about on our walk. Photo by Sally O'Byrne

The ground was so wet that several mature trees that seemed perfectly healthy had fallen over – their roots were not deep enough to hold them.  With upcoming storms and remaining winter winds, how many more might fall?  One beauty – a tuliptree (liriodendrum tulipifera) – looked stable and very grand – a giant in this forest.

Bill stands next to a tuliptree in the Flint Woods Preserve. Photo by Sally O'Byrne.

With corn stubble poking through the snow, the landscape still looked in the grip of winter.  The calendar tells us that spring is less than a month away.  The changes will be coming soon….. promise!

Flint Woods bird surveys take place each Wednesday morning and are free.  If you are interested in helping, please call (302) 239-2334 ext. 115.  The preserve is closed to the public except for guided walks such as this.

Register for the Spring Migration Birding Series, which will include a visit to the Delaware Nature Society’s Flint Woods Preserve.  The series begins on March 12 and includes 6 walks in March and April.  For more information, click here.

By Joe Sebastiani, Members Program Team Leader

During the past two weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time outdoors in windy, snowy, cold weather looking for birds on Christmas Bird Counts in PA, NJ, and DE.  One of the highlights was a close encounter with something “mewing” from a tree.  Was it a kitten high up in need of rescue from the local fire company?  It certainly sounded like it, but a closer look revealed a bird that does a pretty good kitten imitation.  No, it wasn’t a Catbird, but a winter resident with a strange and unusual name…the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker "Mews" from a Red Maple near Elmer, NJ.

A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker "Mews" from a Red Maple near Elmer, NJ.

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is an unusual woodpecker that spends the winter in Delaware.  Unusual in that a large portion of its diet is sap from trees.  Apparently, Sapsuckers will drink the sap from over 1,000 species of woody plants, but in this area, I usually see their sapwells on maples, elms, hickories, and walnuts.  These birds get the sap by drilling into tree bark.  Sapsuckers maintain and visit their sap wells daily to eat the sap that has collected in the well and any insects that may be nearby.  The sapsucker drills a round hole to get xylem sap and a rectangular slit to get phloem sap.  In our area, I normally see the round holes used for extracting xylem sap.

Rows of wells drilled by a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in a Sweetgum tree.

Rows of wells drilled by a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker to extract the xylem sap of a Sweetgum tree.

Other animals utilize the wells during winter and early spring.  Squirrels, other woodpeckers, and insects like Mourning Cloak butterflies find sapsucker wells to their liking.  The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is a heavy user of sapsucker holes, especially if they find themselves in an area with little flower-bloom.  Sapsuckers will defend their sap wells from these nectar-stealers.

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker blends in very well against treebark as it visits its sap wells.

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker blends in very well against treebark as it visits its sap wells.

Next time you hear what sounds like something “mewing” up in a tree, don’t rush for the phone to dial the fire department.  Take a closer look…it might be a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.  Also, look for Sapsucker holes near where you live.  See if this woodpecker with the strange name pays a visit during the winter. 

Sign up for the Breakfast and Birds at Coverdale Farm taking place on Friday, January 15.  Enjoy a delicious and healthy breakfast including Coverdale Farm chicken eggs, and a walk around the farm and Burrows Run Preserve to find wintering species, and maybe, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

To hear the sound of the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, click this link to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Yellow-bellied_Sapsucker/sounds.

By Derek Stoner, Middle Run Reforestation Coordinator

Red Maples along the edge of a pond at Brandywine Creek State Park. (photo by Derek Stoner 10.25.09)

Red Maples along the edge of a pond at Brandywine Creek State Park. (photo by Derek Stoner 10.25.09)

When asked what is my favorite time of year, I am often torn between the months of May and October.  Both have profusions of color, wildlife spectacles, and great scenery.  But the magical days of October when trees reach peak fall color are hard to beat.

The reds, oranges, and yellows of Sassafreas line a hedrwo at Woodlawn Preserve(photo by Derek Stoner 10.25.09)

The reds, oranges, and yellows of Sassafras line a hedgerow at Woodlawn Preserve(photo by Derek Stoner 10.25.09)

Today was one of those perfect October days.  After a gray and rainy day Saturday, a front cleared the skies for abundant sunshine and fantastic lighting on Sunday.  Travelling the backroads of northern Delaware, one stunning vista after another greeted my eyes.  Maples, tulip polars, sassafras, sycamores, oaks, witch hazels, and other spectacular native trees poured forth with color as a signal of the death of their leaves. (Technically, the shortening photoperiod forces a stoppage of chlorophyll production, causing leaves to reveal their true pigmentation “underneath” the green.)

Sycamores and Ash lend brown and yellow to the vibrant red of the Smith's Bridge over the Brandywine River (photo by Derek Stoner 10.25.09)

Sycamores and Ash lend brown and yellow to the vibrant red of the Smith's Bridge over the Brandywine River (photo by Derek Stoner 10.25.09)

While May is a season of re-birth and the start of the growing season, October brings us the death and end of a growing season.  While it is tough to see all the leaves finally fall to the ground, they provide a magnificent curtain call to honor another season of growth. 

Maples, Ash, and Spicebush color up the banks of the Red Clay Creek (photo by Derek Stoner 10.25.09)

Maples, Ash, and Spicebush color up the banks of the Red Clay Creek (photo by Derek Stoner 10.25.09)

 Bravo for the great show!