By Mary Beth Pottratz
Bright sunshine, a cloudless sky and a concert of birdsong beckon me through the woods. A woodpecker repeats long riffs of its drum solo in a precise staccato, robins chortle, red-eyed vireos repeat their syllabic tunes, and song sparrows serenade.Quaking aspen leaves tremble in the breeze.
The spicy sweet scent of blue phlox drifts on the warm air. Bumble bees land on Virginia waterleaf, bending the stem almost in half. Columbine, wild rose, red osier dogwood and starry Solomon’s seal are all in bloom. Maidenhair ferns ripple gracefully in the breeze.
But I hustle to the boardwalk behind Green Heron Pond. Blue flag iris peek between cattails and bushes. An eastern tiger swallowtail puddles in mud. Jewelweed is already up to my hips!
Suddenly, a ruby-throated hummingbird tries to nectar on their is in front of me then darts quickly away. From the deck overlooking the pond, I watch tree swallows and barn swallows dip in the water and play.
A pair of ducks are nesting in the cattails. Several passers-by take a guess at the species, but the ducks are too far away. Jody stops by with her long lens and helps out. A pair of wood ducks!
Yellow balls dot stems of tufted loosestrife. Sensitive fern, starwort, sedges, grasses and clumps of marsh marigold leaves tumble over each other in the wetland.
Male and female red-winged blackbirds flirt and chase through the marsh. A lone female perches atop a cattail, swaying in the wind. Jody grabs the shot before the blackbird darts away, and shares it with us!
Tall northern bog and green bog orchids sport tiny, greenish blossoms. Marsh vetchling’s cerise-colored petals stand out against the greenery like neon at night.
All the while, common yellowthroats call “wickety, wickety, wickety”. Wild calla– that northern wetland flower without a flower –has a single waxy white leaf protecting a spike of white stamen and green pistils.
Tamaracks with new needles show off fresh, rosy cones. A song sparrow sings sweetly from its branch. Dragonflies dart overhead, catching mosquitoes and flies as they dash about. An eastern phoebe rasps nearby.
Large yellow lady’s-slippers bloom in clumps. Showy lady’s-slippers are eight inches tall, but I see no buds yet. Colonies of horsetail stems are ringed with branches resembling pine needles. Some are tipped with cones that will release spores at maturity.
Bright white petals of Canada anemone rise from the center of is leaves. A bee-mimicking fly nectars there, pollinating as it goes from plant to plant. Smooth Solomon’s seal dangles groups of florets from the axils beneath its leaves.
Marsh marigold’s seedpods have started to pop open, displaying loads of petite seeds. Yellow lotus is in bloom in the Iris Garden pond.
Prairie smoke’s seedheads wave like smoke in the wind. Spiderwort is just starting to show its deep blue petals. Golden Alexanders tint the prairie yellow, punctuated by tall spires of white wild indigo. Large-flowered beardtongue is blossoming as well.
It takes me hours before I wrench myself away. I’ll have to return soon!
Mary Beth Pottratz is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer. More information about the Master Naturalist Program is available at www.minnesotamasternaturalist.org.