Each season brings changes along the Boardwalk Trail. In spring, many low plants grow and reproduce before leaves appear on the trees making this an excellent time for sighting songbirds. During the late spring and summer months, shady woods along the trail provide a home to many wildlife species that alert visitors may notice. The fall brings brilliant foliage displays while winter bestows quiet solitude.
Near the brackish pond wood duck boxes provide man-made nesting. Notice the cone shirts under the boxes. These prevent predators such as snakes or raccoons from getting into the nest and destroying eggs or young ducklings.
Many trees in this area are persimmon trees, an important food source for wildlife such as raccoons, foxes, and opossums. Persimmon fruit is round, smooth and yellowish orange. Tasting much like a banana, Native Americans relied upon this natural food source. Other woodland species include sweet gum, cherry, bayberry, and wax myrtle.
Plant life along the trail includes Japanese honeysuckle, introduced into the United States in 1898. The flowering vine and its berries are a good food source for game birds, songbirds, rabbits and deer. Another plant, Phragmites, is a common reed that crowds out the more beneficial native plants such as cattails, pond lilies, and smartweed. Refuge managers are controlling Phragmites with water level manipulation and herbicides. From the boardwalk, you may see poison ivy. Even though a nuisance for man, its white berries are enjoyed and provide food for pheasants, bobwhite, catbirds, flickers, finches, and sparrows.
In the high marsh, look for the variety of grasses dominating the scape. If the tide has gone out, you may see small fiddler crab holes in the mud during the warmer seasons. Marsh crabs may also be found here along with many different species of water birds and shorebirds that use the marsh for feeding and resting. The mounds you see in the salt marsh are muskrat houses, made of mud and vegetation. Some visitors mistakenly think they are beaver lodges.
The pond provides the best area for viewing waterfowl. Often sighted include black ducks, gadwalls, blue-winged teals, and mallards. Willets, yellowlegs, and dowitchers are the mostly common spotted shorebirds.
In 1973, the Youth Conservation Corps build the Boardwalk Trail.
Directions: From Dover, DE, Head north several miles on U.S. Highway 13. Turn right (east) onto State Route 42. Travel several more miles turning right (north) onto Route 9. Travel about 1 mile to Whitehall Neck Road. Turn right to reach the Refuge Headquarters / Visitor Center. Head south on the Auto Tour Route. A parking lot between Tour Stops 2 and 3 is the trailhead.
Distance: 0.2 miles
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Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware
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