Monthly Archives: August 2016

Tympanuchus Prairie

Tympanuchus Prairie

Tympanuchus Prairie is a The Nature Conservancy preserve in Polk County. It was acquired with funds provided by the Outdoor Heritage Fund, which was created by the 2008 Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment. Its 160 acres of mesic and wet prairie protect habitat for the Greater Prairie Chicken, a species of special concern in Minnesota. is bordered on the east and in part on the north by Tympanuchus Wildlife Management Area (WMA). The southeast corner is adjacent to Thorson Prairie WMA.

Visitors to Tympanuchus Prairie this week (8/28 to 9/3/2016) will see many prairie plants at or near their peak blooming time. These include flat-topped, New England, smooth blue, white heath, and white panicled asters; Maximillian and stiff sunflowers; bottle and lesser fringed gentians; and giant, grass-leaved, late, Riddel’s, and stiff goldenrods. If they are lucky, they may even see a Great Plains ladies’ tresses in full bloom.

Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, Coldwater Spring

Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, Coldwater Spring

Photo by Kirk Nelson

Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (MNRRA) is a 72-mile, 53,775 acre corridor along the Mississippi River. It stretches in the north from Weigh Station Highway Park on US Highway 10 in Ramsey to the Dakota County/Goodhue County border in the south. MNRRA, pronounced “minnra”, is a partnership park, a new and unique kind of national park. Aside from the St. Anthony Falls Visitor Center, Coldwater Spring is the only parcel of land within the MNRRA owned by The National Park Service.

The site that is now Coldwater Springs was formerly owned by the Bureau of Mines. In 2011 and 2012 the buildings were demolished, invasive species were removed, trees were planted, and native plants were seeded. The goal was to restore the oak savanna, 12 acres of prairie, and one acre of wetland.

Greenwater Lake SNA

Greenwater Lake SNA

Greenwater Lake SNA is 815 acres of second-growth mixed hardwood and coniferous forest with many small wetlands and the 81-acre Greenwater Lake. It is on the White Earth Indian Reservation and is bordered on the north and west by Becker County Forest land. The lake is fed by a stream to the north and is mostly surrounded by forested hills. It is popular with anglers fishing for bluegill, largemouth bass, northern pike, and walleye. The shoreline is undeveloped. A 1.8-mile section of the North Country National Scenic Trail passes through the SNA.

Thirteen native plant communities have been identified on Greenwater Lake SNA. A survey in 1980 found 34 butterfly species here, including eastern pine elfin, green-veined white, and Appalachian brown. If you plan to visit this month (August, 2016), bring a can of mosquito repellent. You will need it.

Sword-bearing conehead (Neoconocephalus ensiger)

sword-bearing conehead

Photo by Bill Reynolds

Sword-bearing conehead (Neoconocephalus ensiger) is a common, large, meadow katydid. It is often heard at night but seldom seen in daylight. During the day it perches head down on the lower stalk of vegetation with only its wings and hind legs visible, appearing like a grass blade. At night the female can be found near a calling male feeding on the seed head of a grass plant.

Sword-bearing conehead has two color phases, leaf green and dark tan. It is most easily identified by the song of the male. The male has sound-producing organs, a “scraper” at the anal edge of the right front wing and a “file” near the base of the left front wing. By rubbing the file against the scraper the male produces a distinctive song. It is a continuous series of high-pitched lisps, clearly separated, produced at the rate of 10 per second. It is often compared to the sound of a distant locomotive.

Aside from its song, sword-bearing conehead is identified by the long wings and antennae; the rounded “cone” at the top of the head that is separated from the head by a gap; the narrow yellowish edging on the thorax and the front wing; and the curved, sword-like ovipositor on the female.