Cornelius' Corner:

"Fishing is for the Birds!"
09
Jun

Cornelius’ Corner: “Fishing is for the Birds!”

The Crawford family, who donated the 100th fish of the season!

Hi friends!

I have some really exciting news to share with you – earlier this month, the Crawford family donated the 100th fish of the year for bird rehabilitation! In case you aren’t familiar with this program, visitors who come fishing in the Park’s Trout Ponds have the choice to either take their fish home to eat, or they can donate them to Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research (TSBRR) in Newark, Delaware.

If you want to come fishing for the birds, the ponds are open Saturdays and Sundays from 9am to 3:30pm. My coworkers provide easy-to-use cane poles, but you can bring your own equipment if you want to. We also sell bait at the Visitor Center – it turns out that trout go crazy for Velveeta cheese! Visit our Pond Fishing page for more information.

An Osprey eating a donated fish at TSBRR.

We started the trout donation program in 2014, to help solve problems both for the Park and for the birds. People love to go fishing… but not everybody loves to clean, cook, and eat fish. Luckily, there are birds at TSBRR that prefer eating fish and don’t feel well enough to go fishing for themselves!

Once the freezer in the Visitor Center fills up, my coworkers take the individually-bagged trout (and occasionally sunfish) to Newark. The staff and volunteers at TSBRR use the trout to feed birds that are undergoing rehabilitation for injuries and illness. So far, fish from Newlin’s ponds have helped to keep Osprey and Bald Eagles from going hungry while they heal from injuries. Seventy to 80% of a Bald Eagle’s diet consists of fish, while around 90% of an Osprey’s diet is fish. That’s a lot of fish to keep those birds happy! After the birds have regained their strength, they are released back into the wild to fish for themselves.

Great Blue Heron (photo by Robert Stenseth).

We do see Bald Eagles and Osprey flying over the park regularly, but I thought it might be fun to learn a little bit more about some of the other birds in the park that also enjoy a tasty fish treat! First up is the Great Blue Heron. These tall blue-gray birds can often be found stalking trout in the ponds and along the creeks in the Park. They rely on stealth to sneak up close to a fish before lunging with their long necks and beaks! Besides trout, they also will hunt for any fish big enough to catch easily, including the Park’s Red-breasted Sunfish, White Suckers, and Fallfish.

Belted Kingfisher (photo by Ron Vasser).

The Belted Kingfisher may not be as big as the Great Blue Heron, but it is good at making itself known! They have a loud, rattle-like call that they like to make while flying up and down the creeks. Kingfishers are noisy, but they are small compared to the Great Blue Heron. Because of this, they usually hunt for much smaller fish that are no more than 4-5” long, like Creek Chub and Black-nosed Dace. Look for kingfishers sitting on a branch or other perch that overhangs the water. Once a fish comes close to the surface, they dive in to grab it with their strong beak!

Green Heron (photo by Gerry Herd).

Our last fish-loving bird is the Green Heron. This is a much smaller heron than the great blue, and it is shy and secretive. Not many of our visitors get a chance to see one in the Park because of how well they avoid people! The best place to look for this little heron is around the Frog Pond, the new wetland, and in the Millrace. Like the bigger Great Blue Heron, they hunt by stalking their prey. However, their small size makes it easier for them to hide in grasses and other vegetation growing along the water’s edge. Their favorite fish are also small, and include juvenile Bluegill, Golden Shiners, and small minnow species.

Personally, I prefer mice over fish, but I do love hearing about other predators’ snacks! If you see an animal enjoying a fish in the park, please stop by my tank in the Visitor Center to tell me all about it.

Your friendly neighborhood corn snake,

Cornelius

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