Posts Tagged ‘wildlife’

Every Bird a Star

Monday, May 11th, 2015

To add variety to the blog and to offer a fresh perspective from our visitors, we are inviting guest bloggers to write posts describing their visits and thoughts while at the reserve.  The guest blog and photo today are brought to you by M.L. Christmas and her thoughts on birding.  Enjoy! (Maggie Pletta, DNERR Education Coordinator & Blog Editor)

Every Bird a Star

Even a seasoned newbie birdwatcher—definition: still a newbie, but with traces of jadedness settling in around the edges—gets excited by the glimpse of a new celebrity once in a while. That is why, if one is customarily a backyard birdwatcher, or an around-town birdwatcher, venturing into an unaccustomed setting can make all the difference and result in some new species being marked on one’s Life List.

Credit M.L. Christmas_BlogPost4_Every Bird a Star

Photo Credit M.L. Christmas

On her very first visit to the St. Jones Reserve, back in 2009, an unfamiliar call from a tall, spare tree near the boardwalk drew her attention. Even without binoculars she could see the wren-shaped singer of the unusual song and made a mental note of its coloration. Upon returning home, cross-checks of The Sibley Guide to Birds and Birds of Delaware revealed the performer was none other than a Marsh Wren (or Cistothorus palustris, if you want to get technical about it).

She recently mentioned the encounter to DNERR’s new Education Coordinator, Maggie Pletta, who confirmed their presence at the St. Jones Reserve. “You can see them all over the marsh, in the taller grasses, straddling the air, with each leg on a separate piece of grass.  And man, even if you don’t see them, you will hear them.  They love to yell at you and let you know they are there and mean business if you come near their nest.  They are one of my favorite birds because they are so sassy!”

Marsh Wren_Credit Ryan

Photo Credit Ryan Schain copyright 2012 (

This writer has strolled past that spot at the St. Jones Reserve three or four times since then, and each time she had the thought: “There’s that tree where I saw and heard the Marsh Wren!”

As fame and glamor and musical glory go, it’s not exactly red-carpet-at-the-Grammys, but that Marsh Wren singing its heart out, in a bare tree on the edge of the marshes, still gained one loyal fan–and a Life List check-mark for posterity.

M.L. Christmas

M.L. Christmas, MSM, is a freelance writer/editor living in the Dover area. She has written dozens of articles for newsletters, newspapers, magazines, and websites. Her work has appeared in local, regional, national and international publications and other venues, and she has written in tones ranging from scholarly to humorous, depending on the audience. She is a longtime member of Delaware Press Association and the National Federation of Press Women. Her approach to nature writing, she says, is part Henry David Thoreau and part Dave Barry.

What Does a Fox Really Say?

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

The other day I was out walking around the Reserve capturing photos for our program.  As I walked toward the boardwalk I heard a loud “bark” and knew a fox was nearby.  I began thinking about that fox and the famous song “What does the fox say.”  I have to say I have never heard a fox say “ring a ding ding ding,” but that is just my experience.  I have heard a fox bark, howl, and sometimes scream.  There are two species of fox found in Delaware, the Red Fox and Gray Fox.  To learn more about foxes and the differences between the two species read this great article written by Joe Rogerson in 2011 for the Outdoor Delaware magazine.  And, the next time you are outside and hear a “barking” sound it may just be a fox.   Enjoy the sights and sounds of the great outdoors by visiting the St. Jones Reserve!


Destination: Jobos Bay, Puerto Rico

Monday, January 30th, 2012

It’s been a fairly mild winter; however, I do find myself daydreaming of warmer places.  The National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) has 28 Reserves around the United States and its territories of which the Delaware NERR is apart.    One of the Reserves I have wanted to visit is Jobos Bay in Aguirre, Puerto Rico.  This Reserve was adopted into the national system in 1981.   With approximately 3,300 acres, Jobos Bay NERR encompasses a wide variety of habitats including mangrove forests, subtropical dry forests, sea grass beds, salt flats, and coral reefs.  It is home to animals such as the peregrine falcon, West Indian manatee, brown pelicans, and hawksbill turtles.  Jobos Bay would make a great destination!  For more information about Jobos Bay NERR visit them on Facebook and on the National Estuarine Research Reserve website.  Keep checking back for the next Reserve Destination location.

Rescuing a Feathery Friend

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

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.

Forests decked with “boughs of holly”

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

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). 

Scientist Log #4: Surprise Lurking in the Marsh

Friday, December 9th, 2011

Scientist Log: December 6, 2011

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!” 


Fun Family Festival

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Looking for something fun to do this Saturday, October 22?  Join us at the 4th annual Blackbird Creek Fall Festival at the Blackbird Creek Reserve on 801 Blackbird Landing Road, Townsend, Delaware from 10 am – 4 pm.  Delight in the beauty of the Blackbird Creek by taking a hay ride or enjoying a leisurely canoe trip. Listen to the sounds of great musicians such as Em McKeever, Crabmeat Thompson, The Bog Turtle Band, Mallory Square, and Nice Like Dat.  The kids will enjoy exploring the straw maze, making fall crafts, watching the Retriever Demonstration by the Del Bay Retriever Club, and learning about Native American culture and heritage.  There will also be local artisans, vendors, exhibitors, demonstrations, and food.

And, if you are a runner/walker and are looking for a challenge, the Appoquinimink River Association is hosting the Run for our Rivers 5K at 9 am at the Blackbird Creek Reserve prior to the festival.  For more information about the 5K visit the Run for our Rivers webpage and for more information about the Blackbird Creek Fall Festival visit the Festival webpage.

Reserve staff bands Osprey near Jug Bay

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Last week the Delaware NERR staff had the great opportunity to band osprey with staff from our sister reserve, Chesapeake Bay Maryland NERR.  We began the day learning about their stewardship, education, and research projects followed by an awesome tour of their Jug Bay site.   In the afternoon we assisted Greg Kearns with the Patuxent River Park and the Maryland Reserve staff in banding osprey.  Osprey are large raptors that typically live around bodies of water which makes it easy to catch their favorite food…fish.  They often make their large nests of twigs, bark, and grass on the top of man-made structures such as poles and platforms.  Enjoy the photos of the osprey banding!  For more information about the Chesapeake Bay Maryland NERR or about the Patuxent River Park (including the Live Osprey Cam) visit them on the web.

Green Eggs and Sand Workshops

Friday, January 14th, 2011

What is Green Eggs and Sand? It is an innovative workshop experience and curriculum designed to explore the  unique relationship between horseshoe crabs (HSC) and shorebirds and their management issues along the Atlantic coast. This  curriculum is designed for  middle and high school level students and adults.

The 2011  Green Eggs and Sand Workshop dates are: April 15 – 17 in Savannah, GA; May 13 – 15 in Cape May County, NJ; and June 3 – 5 in Stony Brook, NY.  For more information on Green Eggs and Sand and upcoming workshops click here.

Turkeys in the estuary

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

As we prepare for our Thanksgiving celebration, we often think of turkeys!  But did you know that there are wild turkey here in Delaware?  In fact, years ago we  spotted a small flock of turkeys roaming the St.Jones Reserve.    They are beautiful birds, and, contrary to popular belief, they can fly!  Female turkeys (hens) tend to be less showy than the males (Toms or Gobblers).  In fact the male turkey is quite the site as he fans his tail feathers and struts like a king.   Be on the look out for Delaware’s wild turkeys around the woods and along the edges of farm fields.  For more information about turkey counts in Delaware read this article from the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife. Happy Thanksgiving!