Stop and Go Start to Our Summer Season

By Greg Lecker

At the lawn grass trial area halfway between the visitor center and education center, I spot Killdeer and Canada Geese defending their turf.  The Killdeer has unintentionally named today’s blog entry with its show-stopping performance on the wood chip path. Its darting start and dead stop is an instinctual trait of its sandpiper family, but it does appear that it is posing for its photograph.  Even more intriguing to me, this specific Killdeer exhibits another signature behavioral trait – feigning a broken wing or body to distract predators from its next and young.  Though I had learned this fact from various sources, I had never previously witnessed this activity.  Its motions are accompanied by loud protests that phonetically match its name:  kieell—deeerr-deeer-deeeer.  After snapping a few photographs, I, paparazzi that I am, depart to avoid further disturbing my quarry. 


The same woodland brook that, weeks ago, was brightened by Marsh Marigolds is now flanked by sunny Yellow Lady Slippers and blue-violet Wood Phlox.  What a color combination!

Yellow Ladyslippers and Wood Phlox
Yellow Ladyslippers and Wood Phlox

Speaking of bright colors and capturing the day’s brilliance, consider visiting the Visitors Center Reedy Gallery for an exhibition of works from the organization, Outdoor Painters of Minnesota, now on display through July 31, 2013.  All work is sold through the gift shop.  Several are already marked sold.

In the Arboretum’s gardens last Sunday (June 3, 2013), these artists demonstrated their craft, painting in the gardens and encouraging us to savor the sunny day.  Painting outdoors in all seasons, over two to three hours, they strive to capture the essence of a particular place and time. 

Virginia Waterleaf bloms
Virginia Waterleaf bloms

Back in my April 29, 2013 Nature Notes entry, I noted the emergence of the finely divided leaves of this plant.  Virginia Waterleaf is one of those often overlooked woodland plants.  In fact, many people consider it a weed when they find it in the garden.  I often liken its presence in a forest as analogous to grass in a prairie – a background “field” against which flowers shine.  And, yet, when Virginia Waterleaf blooms in masses, it creates a pale purple haze that appears to float across the forest floor.

Sunday night’s Tony Awards ceremony reminds me of a truly long-anticipated award winner that delighted Minnesota audiences in 2012, but as of today, is still waiting in the wings.  I’m trusting the weather forecasters when they attest that this week’s eighty-degree temperatures are a harbinger that summer that is finally preparing to make its entrance.

Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.


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