Posts Tagged With: parks

Hunting for the rare dwarf trout lily

The Minnesota dwarf trout lily is a federally endangered wildflower that grows in only three Minnesota counties (Rice, Goodhue, and Steele) and nowhere else in the world. Nerstrand Big Woods is the only state park, and perhaps the only public location, where visitors can see this rare flower.

One late Saturday afternoon in April 2012, I was traveling through the Nerstrand area and decided to try to find this special wildflower. Even though it was getting dark so the blooms were closed for the night, I was excited to find lots of white trout lilies:

white trout lilies, petals closed

…until I got home and did some more research, only to learn that the park is also home to regular white trout lilies. Since I’m familiar with yellow trout lily, which is about the same size as what I found, my heart sank to realize that I had not found the dwarf variety.

The next spring, after a visit to Faribault, my husband and I headed just 10 miles northeast to the state park. This time, I knew that the white flowers we saw were not dwarf, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying them:

white trout lily with petals open

Fast-forward to 2014. Surely, the third time would be the charm, right? But it was mostly cloudy with a few scattered sprinkles the one day we could head to Nerstrand Big Woods − not exactly prime trout lily weather, so none of the flowers were open. It was nearly impossible to see any buds, but we searched anyway. Finding one by identifying its leaves wasn’t an option since they are identical to the leaves of the regular trout lily, so we would need to find a bud.

We found several closed buds that could have been dwarfs. But “they” say that if you find one, you’ll know, so almost certainly this is not one:

white trout lily bud

In its closed state, with a shorter stem than ones that were definitely regulars, I’d call it a “medium trout lily.” If it were open, it would be more clear. But because we didn’t know, it probably wasn’t what we were looking for, so we kept walking. There were plenty of leaves to study:

trout lily leaves

Any other day, I would have been thrilled to see all of the other wildflowers: my personal favorite, bloodroot, plus Dutchman’s breeches, marsh marigold, wild ginger, cutleaf toothwort:

Bloodroot, Dutchman's breeches, marsh marigold, wild ginger, cutleaf toothwort

But this day, nothing but the dwarf trout lily would do. Fortunately, the sun was beginning to shine, so the flowers were starting to open. We remembered seeing a DNR camera on the boardwalk, likely pointed at one of the dwarf lilies. Sure enough, after retracing our steps to the camera, we found one. The petals weren’t fully open, but it was definite:

dwarf trout lily

Cheating? Maybe. But it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Next year, we’ll try again.

More about wildflowers

Visited: May 9, 2014

Categories: Rice County | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

Eagle watching at the Red Wing checkpoint

several trees with an eagle nest at the left and a bald eagle flying at the right

A lone eagle ready to land in a treetop.

Last Saturday we decided to take a short trip, hoping to have an outdoor adventure before the impending polar vortex drove us back inside. We had a good time visiting Paul Bunyan last month when we stumbled across the CheckpointMN winter scavenger hunt, so we thought we would try another destination. One of the options is a location in prime eagle-viewing territory in Red Wing, so we headed south on Highway 61, just needing an hour to drive from the Twin Cities.

The DNR recommends looking for eagles anywhere from Bay Point Park and Colvill Park, so we started at the checkpoint at the south end and headed back north. If you’re not paying attention, you will miss the turn for Colvill Park because the park is not easily visible from the highway, and you need to go west and cross under 61 to reach the park. I have been to this park before, and we still missed the turn.

a faraway view of three bald eagles in one tree and one eagle in another tree

The busiest section of trees we saw. Too bad I didn’t have a zoom lens!

This was at least our third joint trip to Red Wing, one of our favorite Minnesota cities. It was allegedly 19 degrees above zero, but a strong wind made it feel like at least 19 below. I struggled to smile for the official pose, and my husband struggled to take a photo without removing his gloves!

a smiling woman in a purple winter coat with her arms outstretched

Soaring like an eagle for my CheckpointMN pose.

I’m typically not one to complain about the cold, but the wind was strong enough that we didn’t last long outside and we’re already talking about returning when it’s a little warmer. It would be a lot of fun to walk along the river or relax on a bench to watch the action. The last weeks of February and first weeks of March are typically good times to view eagles in Red Wing or a little farther south in Wabasha.

Lots of ducks — mallards and what we think were common mergansers — weren’t afraid of the cold water, but of course eagles are the stars here. This photo was taken from the comfort of our car. I imagined one bird saying to the other, “Cold enough for ya?”

a bald eagle and another bird sitting on an ice sheet in the middle of a river, with a dock and grasses in the foreground

A bald eagle chatting with a friend.

We planned to also visit Barn Bluff Park, but since it requires a long climb on snow-covered stairs, we’ll save that one for a warmer day. Instead we headed to the third park, Bay Point, for our last look at the eagles, near a lot of ice fishing houses on Ole Miss Marina. At this location the eagles were too far away to watch for long, but this bird made the stop worthwhile:

raptor flying to the left with a view of the underside of its left wing

We got a closeup look at the flight of this beautiful bird.

We didn’t realize that Saturday would also be a good day for watching trains. In the short time we were in the parks, three different trains moved through Red Wing.

three trains: Soo Line, Canadian Pacific, Amtrak

Three parks, three trains.

Red Wing is also notable, of course, for pottery, antiques, and shoes, but we didn’t do any of those this time — just lunch and a stop at the uniquely fun Scandinavian Uffda Shop. A fun end to a fun afternoon of eagle watching.

More about Red Wing

Visited: January 4, 2014

Categories: Goodhue County | Tags: , | Leave a comment



Location: Ritter Farm Park (Lakeville)
Date: February 13, 2010

Categories: Dakota County | Tags: , | 1 Comment

The Wild River

St. Croix River in winter

St. Croix River
Location: Wild River State Park
Date: January 15, 2012

Categories: Chisago County | Tags: , | Leave a comment

No Lifeguard On Duty

Swimming beach in the winter

Location: Flandrau State Park (New Ulm)
Date: March 6, 2010

Categories: Brown County | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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