Seasons of Wildlife
Prairie grasses and flowers begin to bloom; waterfowl return from the south, and take up residence on the refuge. Songbirds migrate back and the refuge provides unlimited photo opportunities for both experienced and novice photographers alike.
Otters frolic in the Minnesota River, eggs begin to hatch, frogs and toads scamper about, filling the nights with their voices. Colorful flowers and grasses sway in the breezes, new life spring forth as deer, fox, coyote, mink, muskrats and other forms of wildlife emerge.
Colors change and there is a crispness in the air. Refuge staff collect seeds from native flowers and plants for later planting. Pheasants fly about and the deer are plentiful. Migratory birds begin their trek through the refuge, stopping to rest and eat, as they travel south.
Cold air descends, treating us to visions of beauty with frost covered trees and grasses. The Minnesota River stops in its tracks, and turns to ice. Snow begins to fall, gently at first, and becoming seemingly heavier with each new snowfall. The birds will have headed south, but there may be an occasional eagle or turkey making an appearance. Deer forage for something to eat, pheasants flitter about and life on the prairie is peaceful and serene.
Present on the granite outcrops, this is one of the rarest plants in Minnesota. Although it exists in a landscape shaped by and dependent upon periodic fires, the ball cactus is very sensitive to fire.
Small flowered fameflower
Present on the granite outcrops, the flowers of this plant open briefly just one day a year.
Uniquely colored, they are the only North American bird with a white back and black front-earning it the description of a backwards tuxedo. An impressive migrant, bobolinks travel 12,500 miles to and from South America every year. Throughout their lifetime, a bobolink may travel the equivalent of four or five times around the circumference of the earth.
A social bird, pairs will nest together in a colony. A male and female pair will select a nest site together and build the nest above the water on floating vegetation.
A large bird, pelican chicks need about 150 pounds of food before they are ready to forage on their own. Pelicans often work together to feed, gathering in large groups and coordinating their swimming to drive fish to shallower water.
Caterpillars of this species require violets, a short plant that blooms in early spring, for a food source. Adults will feed on nectar from a variety of prairie wildflowers, including milkweeds and coneflowers. Populations of this butterfly are declining, in part because violets are becoming an increasingly rare plant to find in the prairie.