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By Mary Beth Pottratz
With tickets to the Arboretum sold out today, I decide to visit the small pond along Shady Oak Road at Highway 7 in Hopkins – Shady Oak Nature Area.
I was still in the car when shrill calls caught my attention. A young killdeer foraging in the grass! Soft white down still poked through its adult feathers, and its parent kept a watchful eye nearby.
Red-winged blackbirds call “konklaree!” over the wetland, while a young starling perches on a branch above. A tuft of down sticks out between its feathers. Is it afraid to fly, I wonder?
Brown-headed cowbirds poke and peck in the grass. There appears to be many young and one adult. Cowbirds lays eggs in other birds’ nests, and I often wonder what happens after they fledge.
Shrubs and trees surround the pond. A tall old red mulberry tree is in fruit, and its black berries are scattered on the ground. There are a few saplings of hybrid cultivar Accolade Elm. Cottonwood and willows grow here too.
The shoreline has a thick buffer of plants and flowers before it slants to water. I can’t identify a lovely pink-purple flower. If you know it, please let me know at email@example.com!
The air is awhirl with dragonflies and damselflies soaring in all directions and levels. Exercising on a leaf, a bluet damselfly stretches its body up in the air, then curls it under. Very slender and an inch long, it darts off on its odd flight path. Looking up, I realize the shrubs are full of bluets.
A large swath of an unusual sumac with hairy stems and lobed leaflets skirts part of the shoreline. Other non-natives include leafy spurge, a purple variety of crown vetch buzzing with bees, and spires of curly dock setting their seeds. Unaware, a Small White butterfly skips through the fray.
Many other plants exist here, too: golden smooth oxeye, a colony of common yarrow with flat white flowerheads, tiny daisy-like flowers of prairie fleabane, stems of blue flag iris in bloom with dozens of bluets perched nearby, arrowhead leaves, tall sedges and sensitive fern. Goldenrod and other plants will bloom later.
This block-long pond is just a block north of Main Street. What a refuge for so many plants and animals! And for people like me.
Mary Beth Pottratz is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer. More information about the Master Naturalist Volunteer Program is available at www.minnesotamasternaturalist.org.