winter

All posts tagged winter

By Matt Babbitt, Director of Abbott’s Mill Nature Center:

As Mother Nature ushers in the warmth and rain of spring, we’d like to take a moment to reflect on the winter here at Abbott’s Mill Nature Center.

A view of Abbott’s Mill from across the Pond.

A view of Abbott’s Mill from across the Pond.

This year’s winter held a tight grip on southern Delaware, bringing a few feet of snow, and steady dose of cold, crisp air. Despite the Old Man’s best efforts though, we had several visitors that helped ease the freeze. Abbott’s Pond was frozen until early March, but hosted quite a large flock of Ring-necked Ducks diving for vegetation to prepare them for the migration to their northern mating grounds.

Ring-necked Ducks paddling across Abbott’s Pond.

Ring-necked Ducks paddling across Abbott’s Pond.

There was a Red Shouldered Hawk that kept constant watch over the forest surrounding Johnson’s Branch.

A Red Shouldered Hawk perches in wait for prey.

A Red Shouldered Hawk perches in wait for prey.

Even the trees and plants, barren of leaves and succumbed to winter’s cold blow, were able to share their beauty.

The sun breaks through the swampy tree line of our Issacs-Greene Preserve.

The sun breaks through the swampy tree line of our Issacs-Greene Preserve.

Our giant 5 in 1 Tulip Poplar stretches for the heavens, gleaning the day’s fading rays of sun.

Our giant 5 in 1 Tulip Poplar stretches for the heavens, gleaning the day’s fading rays of sun.

Our giant 5 in 1 Tulip Poplar stretches for the heavens, gleaning the day’s fading rays of sun.

One of our first signs that spring was on its way was the little purple and green heads of Skunk Cabbage popping up through the snow, literally and figuratively melting the snow away.

Skunk Cabbage, Symplocarpus foetidus, is able to heat itself to almost 60° F through an internal chemical process.  This heat not only melts the snow as it emerges, but provides a warm hiding spot for insects.

Skunk Cabbage, Symplocarpus foetidus, is able to heat itself to almost 60° F through an internal chemical process. This heat not only melts the snow as it emerges, but provides a warm hiding spot for insects.

Lastly, this year’s winter also brought a new Manager to Abbott’s Mill Nature Center. Matt Babbitt joined us in December 2014 and brings with him a passion of teaching and exploring by way of Virginia, California, New York, the islands of Chesapeake Bay, and most recently, Washington, DC. Now that Old Man Winter’s grip has finally loosened, we invite you to come visit us at Abbott’s Mill Nature Center and explore our 500 acres of forest, swamp, meadow, pond, stream, and wetland ecosystems. The wonders of spring wait for your arrival!

Abbott’s Mill Nature Center, located at 15411 Abbotts Pond Road, Milford, DE, is open Monday through Friday from 9 am – 4 pm, with public trail access 7 days a week from dawn until dusk. Starting this April, the Visitor Center will also be open on Saturday and Sunday from 12 – 4 pm.

Abbott’s Mill Nature Center, located at 15411 Abbotts Pond Road, Milford, DE, is open Monday through Friday from 9 am – 4 pm, with public trail access 7 days a week from dawn until dusk. Starting this April, the Visitor Center will also be open on Saturday and Sunday from 12 – 4 pm.

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 all of this snow we are getting, it is a good time to keep the bird feeder stocked and to actually watch what is going on.  Birds are more tame at the feeder during bad weather, and it makes for an excellent photography session.  Enjoy the photo collage of birds I photographed at my feeding station recently.

Northern Cardinals zip in and out of the feeding station throughout the day during bad weather.

Northern Cardinals zip in and out of the feeding station throughout the day during bad weather.

Carolina Chickadees are our local chickadee species.  Black-capped Chickadees visit Delaware in some winters, but this winter, I have only seen one of them.

Carolina Chickadees are our local chickadee species. Black-capped Chickadees visit Delaware in some winters, but this winter I have only seen one of them.

Carolina Wrens will visit the feeder as well, especially if you put out a suet cake.  However, they will also eat some seeds.  This species has historically had population crashes during severe winters with deep snow.  We will see what Carolina Wren populations look like in our area after this winter.

Carolina Wrens will visit the feeder as well, especially if you put out a suet cake. However, they will also eat some seeds. This species has historically had population crashes during severe winters with deep snow. We will see what Carolina Wren populations look like in our area after this winter.

You can actually see the red belly of this Red-bellied Woodpecker!

You can actually see the red belly of this Red-bellied Woodpecker!

This Fox Sparrow had not visited our feeder all winter until the big snowstorm last weekend.  We also had an Eastern Towhee and a Field Sparrow that made a first-time appearance after the snow.  Birds will find your feeder from the surrounding countryside when weather conditions make it tough to find natural food.

This Fox Sparrow had not visited our feeder all winter until the big snowstorm last weekend. We also had an Eastern Towhee and a Field Sparrow that made a first-time appearance after the snow. Birds will find your feeder from the surrounding countryside when weather conditions make it tough to find natural food.

After the snow stops falling, look in your yard for prints they have made.

After the snow stops falling, look in your yard for prints birds and other animals left behind.

Participate in the upcoming Great Backyard Bird Count this Friday through Monday, February 12-15.  Bird in your yard or a nearby park and report your sightings at the above link.  

Join us Friday, February 12th for the Breakfast and the Great Backyard Bird Count program at Ashland Nature Center.  Enjoy a diner-style breakfast, then go out to look for birds with us.  At the end, we will report sightings for the count.  It is $15 for DNS members and $22 for non-members.  Sign up at the link above or call (302) 239-2334 ext. 115 to let us know you are coming by Thursday afternoon.

By Derek Stoner, Family Programs Coordinator

Snowfall.CoveredBridge.Ashland.12.19.09.derekstonerSleds in hand, these visitors trek to Sledding Hill takes through the Ashland Covered Bridge during the middle of the snowstorm on Saturday, December 19.

Cardinal.LumsPond.12.20.09.derekstonerA bright male Northern Cardinal provides a classic splash of color against a snow-covered bush near Lums Pond State Park.

LumsPond.frozen.12.20.09.derekstonerA frozen Lums Pond sits icy and gray against a blue sky, during the Middletown Christmas Bird Count on Sunday, December 20.

Sunset.DragonRun.12.20.09.derekstonerThe sunset shimmers Sunday against millions of granules of snow at Dragon Run Marsh, looking like the grains of sand on a beach.  

Sunrise.RedClay.12.21.09.derekstonerThe sun rises on Monday at the Red Clay Reservation, illuminating the blue and purple fields of snow.