Many people living on the coasts and near oceans have heard of seabirds. Some of these birds are what scientists call pelagic which means that they live mostly in the open sea or ocean; however, they will come to land to breed. That is why it was such a surprise to see one of our researchers bring a juvenile northern gannet into the Reserve. The northern gannet is a seabird known for their remarkable diving capabilities to feed on various fish species. These birds are primarily white with black wing tips, a yellowish head, and greyish eyes. However, the one brought into the Reserve was a juvenile and therefore it was brownish with white spots. This young gannet was found in a salt marsh near the Delaware Bay. An unusual spot to find a gannet as it is a pelagic species; and it’s not breeding season. Unfortuantely, the little gannet might have a respiratory issue and was taken to Tri State Bird Rescue where it is being nurtured back to health. For more information on northern gannets visit the US Fish and Wildlife Service website and for more information on bird rescue work visit the Tri State Bird Rescue and Research website.
Did you know that the American holly (Ilex opaca) is Delaware’s State tree? The holly was adopted as the State’s tree in 1939. This beautiful native plant is commonly used in decorations this time of year. But, I encourage you to take a hike on one of our trails to see the beauty of the American holly as it naturally decorates our woodlands and forests. The bright red berries and the thick green leaves provide a punch of color against the backdrop of late fall and early winter’s browner tones. American holly trees look great planted in a landscape and the berries are a source of food for many bird species. Enjoy a winter hike this year and explore the great outdoors! Our trails at the St. Jones and the Blackbird Creek Reserves are open dawn until dusk 7 days a week. And as always during this time of year, be aware that there is active hunting on portions of the Reserve (except on Sundays when there is no hunting).
“It’s always fun to find a nice surprise when I’m working in the field! While surveying impoundments at the Ted Harvey Wildlife Management Area from a Delaware Fish and Wildlife fanboat, one of the other scientists I was working with noticed some movement in the marsh. He asked, “Did you see that teal?” I replied, “No, I didn’t see anything?” Next thing I know he’s running through the flooded marsh after an injured teal (so much for my great birding skills). When he brought the green winged teal to me I noticed that half of its wing was missing. Luckily, the duck had found a great hiding spot where it was able to recover from its injury. Because its flying abilities were greatly hindered, it was taken to Tri-State Bird Rescue where it will find a permanent home in captivity. Another exciting field day!”