Ripples 3/21/24

Written by Kennedy Zittel, naturalist

As each day passes, it is looking and sounding more like spring every day here at Woodland Dunes! Animals are returning and plants are budding… Hello spring! 

Near the Nature Center:
Cardinals and robins perch at the top of trees and sing their springtime songs for audiences below. The woodchucks have woken up, and now spend each sunny day sprawled out on the boardwalk behind the barn – soaking up the sun. Red squirrels sit at the bird feeders and chatter away at one another… and everyone else that goes by of course. 

In the Marsh:
Bald eagles can be seen soaring over the West Twin River, scanning the water below for a bite to eat. Killdeer call out their name across the marsh, announcing their return. Cattail stalks swish back and forth in the breeze while the muskrat uses its tail like a boat rudder to steer around them. The “vote-for-me!” call of the red-winged blackbird echoes across the marsh once more. The river otters that scamper and slide across the boardwalk are full of extra mischief it seems, leaping off of the boardwalk into the marsh like kids playing at a pool. 

By the Prairies:
The ants that form large mounds in the prairies have become more active, they spend their days marching across the grassy trails on the search for food. Sandhill cranes fly overhead, with their loud calls making their presence known long before they come into sight. Little bluestem grasses swish and sway in the breeze. On sunny days, garter snakes bask in the sun on the edges of the prairie. 

Out in the Forest:
Skunk cabbage emerged weeks ago, its unusual shape dotting the wetland landscape and causing giggles from kids when they hear why it’s called that. Speaking of, spring brings more field trips – the sounds of kids laughing and learning can be heard out in the forest. Along with staff and students competing over who can make the best chickadee sound… the real “cheeseburger!” call of the black-capped chickadee can be heard throughout the forest too. Blue-spotted salamanders cross the forest on the search for an ephemeral pool to lay their eggs. The loud laughing calls of the pileated woodpeckers ring out through the tree canopy. Some trees have begun to bud, new leaves waiting for warmer sunny weather. Wood frogs and spring peepers have begun to sing from the swales. 

Spring always feels like the fastest season, with many programs and many changes with what animals and plants are around, it seems that each day something new and exciting is happening. Try to come on out here to see what new things are happening here at the Dunes, as you never know what fun surprises can be seen or heard across the preserve.

photo by Kennedy Zittel

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