By Mary Beth Pottratz
Today is a summery treat of a day – an unusually high temperature in the mid 70’s and a robin’s egg blue sky with just enough wispy clouds to soften the shadows. The very first few daffodils and some tiny blue flowers have popped up along Alkire Drive. The tulips are tipping throughout the gardens.
A Painted turtle hangs lazily in the pond behind the Snyder Building, not even bothering to stretch an inch towards the water bugs and striders teasing around him. A mallard pair nest in camouflage on shore and a goose incubates in the open at the base of birch tree.
But I hustle to the trail around Green Heron Pond to check spring’s progress in the wetland. I am richly rewarded!
Two pairs of Hooded mergansers float idly on the pond. The males open their showy white and black helmets as the reddish females dive and bob around them. An American coot and a pair of wood ducks cling to the shoreline for safety.
Where the pond trail joins the boardwalk, I step off onto aspongy bog path. Invisible sandhill cranes call in low tones to each other from all around me, some just a few feet away.
A juvenile cardinal calls “what whatwhat, chew chewchewchewchewchew”repeatedly from a bare treetop. Western chorus frogs sing background with their high-pitched staccato trills. A red-bellied woodpecker drums steadily from the woods while black-capped chickadees call “fee-bee” back and forth. The low giggle of a wood frog and the “konklaree” and “chek” calls of red-winged blackbirds complete the wetland symphony.
Pussy willows are morphing into catkins, glowing in the gossamer sunlight. Moss is not the only thing growing in the wooded edge of the wetland. Ferns, sedges and rusty green marsh marigolds are refreshed from yesterday’s rains and lift their stalks toward the sun.
I examine the first tamarack and red maple buds opening when a small, olive-green bird flits into a thicket nearby. It is solid olive from head to tail, save for darker wings with a few white wing bars. It curtseys and flicks its tail, daring me to identify it, before it darts away.
Time escapes me in the wetland. The woodland spring ephemerals are calling me, but the sun is already low in the sky. The flowers won’t wait; I’ll have to come back very soon.
Mary Beth Pottratz is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer. More information about the Master Naturalist program is available at http://www.minnesotamasternaturalist.org.