Nature Notes

East Side Trails Explorations

I’ve heard gray catbirds calling since arriving at the Arb, and have caught glimpses of them as they rustle about in the undergrowth. Finally one is in plain view perched in a tree, tail lifted as it calls its characteristic “mew.”

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By Holly Einess

It’s a gorgeous, fall-like morning as I set off down Ridge Trail. Squirrels and chipmunks scamper through the dry leaves on the forest floor. Acorns crunch underfoot. Chickadees, nuthatches, and eastern wood-pewees call near and far. Spiderweb filaments span the trail until I (reluctantly) break them with my passage. Jewelweed, in full bloom and dew-covered, glistens in the sun.

Jewelweed

The white, star-like blossoms of wild cucumber shine out against a background of green. Goldenrod is abundant, the Canada variety in full bloom, while the buds of stiff goldenrod are just about to open. Black-eyed Susan flowers are past their prime but still eye-catching. The blossoms of rattlesnake master don’t look like “flowers” in the usual sense. In Minnesota, this native plant (a member of the carrot family) is at the northern edge of its natural range. It was used medicinally in the 18th and 19th centuries to address any number of maladies, including snake bites, though there is currently no scientific evidence to support this use.

Rattlesnake master

Planning to next explore Spring Peeper Meadow, I find my usual route blocked by a tall deer fence, and quickly realize some changes have been made since I was last here. I manage to find a way in (don’t ask!), but will definitely drive to the official Spring Peeper Meadow parking lot next time I want to visit this area. [Editor’s Note: Our Spring Peeper Meadow trails no longer link up to the Ridge Trail System on Arboretum grounds. We recommend that you enjoy them on separate trips. The Spring Peeper Meadow’s parking lot is accessible off West 82nd St., and entrance to the Spring Peeper Meadow is free. The Ridge Trail system is accessible with gate admission to the Arboretum.]

I’ve heard gray catbirds calling since arriving at the Arb, and have caught glimpses of them as they rustle about in the undergrowth. Finally one is in plain view perched in a tree, tail lifted as it calls its characteristic “mew.”

Gray catbird

I emerge from the woods and enter the meadow area. An osprey soars overhead. Monarchs and tiger swallowtails and great spangled frittilaries flutter and cavort among the joe pye-weed blossoms. On the boardwalk I sit for a time and observe a small dragonfly (I’m thinking white-faced meadowhawk) as it gazes about with its amazing compound eyes. Head tilted up, it appears to be grinning.

White-faced meadowhawk

A small flock of goldfinches twitter as they bob through the air. Several settle in among the meadow flowers, their yellow plumage making them hard to spot among all the yellow blossoms. Minnesota is home to six other finch species—purple and house finches, evening grosbeaks, pine siskins, and white-winged and red crossbills. Most, including the goldfinch, have rather heavy, cone-shaped beaks that aid in cracking seeds. (The pine siskin’s is more slender, and the crossbills have, yes, bills that cross!)

American goldfinch

I pass just three other visitors in the meadow as I head back the way I came, then opt to take the newly named Oak Trail. I have it entirely to myself, and only see people again as I approach Green Heron Pond. If you’re looking for a peaceful and beautiful hike, check out these East Side Trails!

Holly Einess is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.

2 comments on “East Side Trails Explorations

  1. I felt like I was right there with you. Another wonderful hike.

  2. Holly Einess

    Thank you, Larry!!

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