Nature Notes

Birds, Blossoms, and Bees

By Holly Einess

On my last visit to the Arboretum in mid-April, several inches of heavy wet snow covered Green Heron Trail. What a difference today! Instead of a blanket of white, green is everywhere, punctuated by splashes of color. On my way to the Wurtele Boardwalk I pass a gray catbird. Normally secretive, this one perches obligingly in plain view.

gray catbirdGray catbird

The first thing I check upon arriving at the boardwalk is the lady’s slippers—are they in bloom yet? No; their furry leaves are still coiled tightly and only a few inches high. But plenty of other plants are blooming, including blue and yellow violets, large-flowered bellwort, marsh marigold, and meadow rue. Water horsetail is a magnet for dewdrops.

water horsetailWater horsetail

Multiple groups of children are exploring nearby, their enthusiastic voices floating my way: “Guys! Quicksand!” and “This is a good place to find frogs!” and “We’re a mammal!” I make my way toward the pond overlook and stop midway to watch a yellow warbler contorting herself every which way to preen her feathers.

yellow warblerYellow warbler

I don’t see any waterfowl on the pond, but plenty of red-winged blackbirds are calling and flying from cattail tips to tree branches and back. Barn swallows swoop acrobatically over the water, snatching insects from the air.

Finishing my walk around the pond I pass a stand of highbush cranberry bushes beginning to bloom. The larger, brighter outer blossoms are sterile and open first, soon followed by the smaller, fertile inner blooms.

highbush cranberryHighbush cranberry

I stop for a while under the exuberant canopy of pink crabapples in the Sensory Garden, the buzz of many bees clearly audible as they busily gather nectar and pollen. Bees are also making their way into the trumpet-like blossoms of Virginia bluebells, pollen baskets bulging on their hind legs.

bee visiting virginia bluebellsBee visiting Virginia bluebells

I make my way slowly through the Wildflower Garden, where yellow (celandine poppy) and lavender (wild blue phlox, Jacob’s ladder, and Virginia waterleaf) flowers are growing in profusion. The lushness of the forest floor coupled with the rustic wooden fence along the merrily gurgling creek has me utterly enchanted, and I sit for a time soaking in the Shire-like scene.

wildflower gardenWildflower Garden

I hear a rustling and look up to see a chickadee industriously gathering nesting material from a wooden post. I rouse myself from my reverie and take my leave, feeling rejuvenated from my time among so much eager new life.

black-capped chickadee (1)Black-capped chickadee

Holly Einess is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.

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