Nature Notes

Goldfinches and Insects Galore

Holly Einess explores the Spring Peeper Meadow, and discovers plenty of birds, blooms and bugs.

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By Holly Einess

Hooray! All walking paths, paved and unpaved, are open again at the Arboretum! Where shall I go exploring today? Dog Commons? East Side Trails? Prairie Trails? Green Heron Pond? Oooh, I know—Spring Peeper Meadow.

I park in the little gravel lot west of Hazeltine Blvd and set off on the grassy trails. There is so much life here! Goldfinches are calling to one another, undulating through the air, taking off in groups, swaying in the breeze at the tops of trees, and generally having a good time.

American goldfinch

Great sweeps of yellow and pale purple dominate the landscape. Goldenrod is the most abundant of the yellow flowers, but rising above them are plenty of cup plants and rosinweed, along with a few cheery sneezeweed plants. Fading fast are black-eyed susans and gray-headed coneflowers. Joe-pye weed is the predominant purple flower, joined by blue and hoary vervain, ironweed, and anise hyssop. The blooms of monarda (bee balm) are nearly gone, leaving round brown seed heads behind.

Bee taking off from cup plant

Along the boardwalk the arrowhead is in bloom, its white three-petaled flowers standing out against dark green arrow-shaped leaves. Crickets are chirping loudly, and a grasshopper alights on one of the boardwalk’s interpretive signs. While crickets chirp (or “stridulate” for you word lovers) by rubbing their wings together, grasshoppers do so by rubbing their hind legs against their wings. (Only the males stridulate, as part of the courting and mating process.) And both have ears in unlikely places—crickets’ are located on their front legs, while grasshoppers’ are at the base of the abdomen.

Grasshopper

After resting for a bit in the shade of the shelter, I continue downhill, passing American plum trees loaded with lovely red fruits. Goldenrod blooms are attracting the usual bees, and some less familiar insects as well, including the great black digger wasp. 

Great black digger wasp on goldenrod

Tiger swallowtails and monarchs flit among the flowers. Male monarchs can be distinguished from females by two small spots on their hindwings and by their thinner veins.

Monarch and joe-pye weed

I step out onto the wetland overlook and watch large dragonflies cavorting in the bright sunlight. None seem interested in settling on a plant until a sweet little white-faced meadowhawk finally comes to rest close by.

White-faced meadowhawk

I reluctantly head back toward my car, stopping several more times to savor the overall scene of summer at its bountiful peak, knowing that soon enough all of this life will begin to quiet and then go still in the perpetual cycle of seasons I love so well.

Holly Einess is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.

3 comments on “Goldfinches and Insects Galore

  1. Great stuff, Holly. Love the text and of course the photos. My favorite, the yellow-legged grasshopper.

  2. Pingback: Arb Links, vol. 27 | News from the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

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