joulukuu 17, 2023

Mississippi Dunes Reserve

Mississippi Dunes Reserve
Cottage Grove, Washington county, MN
20 acres; shoreline, small pockets of basswood and mesic oak, grasses

Reserve Notes

This fairly new reserve (opened to the public in Sep 2023) is a property in transition. Once part of a 200 acre golf course, the area along the river has been set aside to create public access to Mooers Lake (a backwater channel of the Mississippi River).

Site History
The 18 hole golf course permanently closed the fall of 2017 at which time the land went up for sale. Considered to be a prime location for real estate development, some citizens advocated for turning the property into a nature park. With the future of the land still undecided, the old clubhouse burned to the ground early August of 2021. (for any with insatiable curiosity, the burned clubhouse is currently visible on Google Maps satellite view and the golf course while in operation is visible on Google Earth.) In June 2023, the city closed on a deal to purchase a 20 acre portion adjoining Mooers Lake.

Current Status
Access to the site is achieved along a public road easement (which is slated to become a housing development). There are 3,455 linear feet of paved and unpaved walking trails. The paved trails are holdovers from the golf course. They provide a fairly stable walking surface but are buckled enough that anyone with wheeled mobility aids might have difficulty navigating them. These paved trails travel out of Reserve land into privately held land and boundaries are indicated by minimal "No Trespassing" signs.

The parking lot can easily accommodate 4 dozen or more cars. I can't remember if there was a port-a-john at the SE corner of the parking lot. There are currently no other amenities.

Future Plans
It sounds to me like some of these plans are in flux and sources I referenced came from various points of the planning and may be out of date. Some of the plans depend on future funding that will be decided in 2024. Potential goals for the site include a boat launch, additional 500 feet of paved trails and 4,200 feet of rock/grass hiking trails, and a more developed section that would house buildings, playground, and picnic area.

Additionally, there is currently a small band of land that separates this property from Grey Cloud Dunes SNA. There are plans for the SNA to acquire part of that land that adjoins the Reserve so that the two nature areas abut each other. At the moment, it has been noted that "the vegetation in the
Grey Cloud Dunes SNA has a distinct and different quality of natural vegetation than the [Mississippi Dunes] Project Area" [source 1, pg 26]

Potential Wildlife
The golf course wouldn't have been conducive to much native wildlife other than rabbits, squirrels, deer, birds, and some birds.

Since this site is located next to Grey Cloud Dunes SNA, so some of the wildlife found on that property may also be discovered in the Reserve or make its way from the SNA to the Reserve. Wildlife found at the SNA include "Blue Racer Snake, Prairie Skink, Lark Buntings and Henslow’s, Clay-colored, and Grasshopper Sparrow." [source 1, pg 26]

It also sits along the Mississippi (Migration) Flyway and the backwaters nature of the area make it good habitat for various wildlife.

Assessment of the site included a list of rare species that had been found in an approximate one-mile radius of the project. That list [source 1, pg 27] included Seaside Three-awn, Hill's Thistle, Louisiana Broomrape, Purple Sandgrass, Henslow's Sparrow, Rusty-patched Bumble Bee, Lark Sparrow, North American Racer, Leonard's Skipper, Regal Fritillary, Loggerhead Shrike, and Bell's Vireo. The Northern Long-eared Bat has been found 'in the vicinity' of the Reserve and the site has the potential to house "the Rusty-patched Bumble Bee, the Higgens Eye pearly mussel, the Sheepnose Mussel, the Snuff Box Mussel." [source 1, pg 30].

Nearby Features
Grey Cloud Dunes SNA: The land is just east of Mississippi Dunes Reserve. But, at the moment, one would need to drive to one of two parking areas for the SNA. The north parking lot would be the closest. If the SNA expands, as planned, a trail between the two properties will like be created.

100th St Marsh: This is a small marsh where one can pull over on the road to observe birds in or proximate to the marsh. It is 3 miles east of Mississippi Dunes Reserve and 2 miles east of Grey Cloud Dunes SNA north parking lot. Prime viewing is in the spring, March through May, although the summer months can be fruitful, as well.


30 Nov 2023
We were trying to grab a decent weather day to get out and decided to check out this new nature area. As could be expected in an area previously used for a golf course in late Nov, there wasn't a lot to see. We did observe American Crows, Blue Jays, Cedar Waxwings, Pine Siskins, Dark-eyed Juncos, American Goldfinch, Northern Flicker, Red-bellied Woodpecker and a Bald Eagle on the ice as well as two doing aerial acrobatics with each other over the slough.

I'm not sure if this will quickly become a site where lots of species can be observed. But it would be really easy to pair a visit to this site with one to Grey Cloud Dunes SNA. And I think it would be interesting to track this site over time to see how nature can (hopefully) reclaim this space.

Useful links/info

parking lot address: 10351 Grey Cloud Trail S, Cottage Grove, MN 55016
google plus code: Q2VG+2W Cottage Grove, Minnesota

[1] Former Mississippi Dunes Golf Course; ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT WORKSHEET (22 Nov 2021)
Cottage Grove website | Mississippi Dunes Reserve page (links to Master Plan and Property Boundary and Trail Map)
Bring Me The News: Clubhouse at now-closed Mississippi Dunes golf course destroyed in fire (2 Aug 2021)
StarTribune: Former Cottage Grove golf course to reopen as riverside city park (15 Jul 2023)
Cottage Grove Journal: Local riverfront access soon to be reality with Dunes Reserve Park (20 Jul 2023)
Friends of the Mississippi River: Mississippi Dunes; Cottage Grove's great missed opportunity (15 Dec 2023)
eBird Hotspot reports: Mississippi Dunes Reserve
eBird Checklist: Mississippi Dunes Reserve (as of Dec 2023, a checklist hasn't yet been created)
iNaturalist: approximate bounding box of Mississippi Dunes Reserve Some of this bounding box lies outside the Reserve's boundaries. If one expands the bounding box to the north, one can see that others are observing in the area marked 'No Trespassing' as of Nov 2023. At this time, the area is undeveloped and I'm not sure there is any patrolling of the area to keep individuals out but we can't advocate ignoring the signs.

Julkaistu joulukuu 17, 2023 02:39 AP. käyttäjältä mmmiller mmmiller | 20 havaintoa | 0 kommenttia | Jätä kommentti

elokuu 20, 2023

Hedge-Parsley ID details

Minnesota observations of Hedge Parsley (Torilis) at iNat that have species level ID suggestions fall within two species:
iNaturalist: Upright Hedge-Parsley (Torilis japonica) aka Japanese Hedge Parsley
iNaturalist: Common Hedge Parsley (Torilis arvensis) aka Spreading Hedge-Parsley

As of Aug 19, 2023, there were (at iNat) 137 observations of T. japonica and 44 observations of T. arvensis.

While researching one of my own observations (back in Aug 2020) and trying to determine whether it was Torilis arvensis or T. japonica, I uncovered some information that is pertinent to many observations of Hedge Parsley, but specifically - for my part - those in Minnesota.


In a 2020 email conversation with the MN DNR, I was told that "There are currently no records for Torilis arvensis in Minnesota. We are finding that T. japonica is fairly widespread." [1] In that email, links were provided to pertinent pages at EDDMapS (Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System) I rechecked those records in Aug 2023 and that statement remains true.

EDDMaps: Torilis arvensis
EDDMaps: Torilis japonica

I also can't find any other source listing T. arvensis as being present in MN other than the observations here at iNat. The Minnesota Wildflowers website does not have an entry for that species nor does it mention it on the species page for T. japonica.


[I focused on using the flowers for identification. See @csledge's comment below for info on how to use the fruit for identification.]

I'm providing sources for this information but the information was found on multiple sites and all sites I found were in agreement with the details.

Minnesota Wildflowers website

For T. japonica: "At the base of an umbel are 2 or more very narrow bracts that may be slightly spreading. Up to 8 bracts are at the base of each umbellet, though they are very small and hard to see."

pictures of these bracts can be seen at:
Minnesota Wildflowers website
University of Wisconsin Herbarium
iNaturalist: one of my observations

Wisconsin DNR website

"(Torilis arvensis; invasive) is not currently known in Wisconsin, but nationally is more common than T. japonica. It looks very similar to Japanese hedge-parsley but lacks the pointed bracts at the base of each umbel."
Wisconsin DNR: Japanese Hedgeparsley (Torilis japonica)


"(Torilis japonica; invasive) has two or more pointed bracts at the base of each umbel. Otherwise the two plants are very much the same."
Wisconsin DNR: Spreading Hedgeparsley (Torilis arvensis)

Illinois Wildflowers website:

"For a long time, Common Hedge Parsley was incorrectly identified as Torilis japonica (Japanese Hedge Parsley). However, this latter species has about 8 linear bracts at the base of each compound umbel, and the bristles of its seeds have hooked tips. While Japanese Hedge Parsley occurs in Illinois, it far less common than Common Hedge Parsley. As a result of this misidentification, the distribution records within the state include observations of both species." For T. japonica "The bristles are straight to slightly curved; they do not have hooked tips."
Illinois Wildflowers: Common Hedge Parsley (Torilis arvensis)

Upright Hedge-Parsley (Torilis japonica):

  • has bracts at the base of each flower umbrel even after it has gone to seed
  • bristles on seeds are up-curved [2]
  • bristles on seeds have hooked tips

Common/Spreading Hedge Parsley (Torilis arvensis):

  • does NOT have bracts at the base of each umbrel
  • bristles on the seeds are straight to slightly curved
  • bristles on seeds have NO hooks on the tips

Unless a Torilis observation shows the underside of the umbrel such that the absence of bracts can be documented or a note has been made that the umbrels were examined in the field and found to absent of bracts, I don't think the observation can be identified as T. arvensis.

UPDATE: 3 Dec 2023

After reviewing all the Minnesota (MN) observations identified as T. arvensis, I was not able to find one that had defining features that proved it to be that species. Some observations had a defining feature that proved it to be T. japonica. Some weren't Torilis at all. Many didn't have flowers. Many that did have flowers were blurry and details weren't evident. And the rest had great photos of the top of the flower but not of the bottom. As of this writing, there are zero observations of T. arvensis here at iNat for Minnesota.

This is not to say that T. arvensis isn't present. It's impossible to prove a negative. T. japonica is considered an invasive plant in MN and was being monitored by the MN DNR. But by 2020 this was no longer the case. “DNR land managers on sites with Torilis japonica are finding it not to form dense cover or spread beyond disturbed area and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s noxious weed advisory committee risk assessment for Torilis japonica recommended not regulating it.” [1]

If Hedge-parsley is that invasive, then it is possible that T. arvensis may eventually make its way to MN. It is possible that the first record may be made by an observer at iNaturalist. Taking good, sharp photos of underside of the flower or the fruit will be important for monitoring whether a Torilis specimen is arvensis or japonica.

And, for what it’s worth, there are currently 42 observations identified as T. arvensis in Wisconsin. Since the Wisconsin DNR states it has not been found in that state, it may be worth reviewing those observations in the future.


[1] Aug 6, 2020 email from
Laura Van Riper
Terrestrial Invasive Species Program Coordinator | Division of Ecological and Water Resources
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

[2] Friends of (Eloise Butler) Wildflower Garden website

EDDMapS info:
Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System ( was designed to provide a more accurate picture of the distribution of invasive species. (from:

Minnesota state agencies such as the departments of Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Transportation use EDDMapS to track and share invasive species occurrence information. EDDMapS does regular downloads from iNaturalist and if the EDDMapS verifiers concur with the reports, they enter EDDMaps. (Laura Van Riper, email cited above)


While researching information on this subject, I found seemingly reliable websites (government or academic) that had photos for either of these two species that I suspect were misidentified. I am personally taking the information presented above as the 'facts' but not necessarily holding images identified as one species or another as 'proven factual'... if you catch the difference.

Julkaistu elokuu 20, 2023 04:45 AP. käyttäjältä mmmiller mmmiller | 6 havaintoa | 2 kommenttia | Jätä kommentti

heinäkuu 3, 2023

Plover Prairie Preserve

Plover Prairie Preserve
Odessa, Lac qui Parle county, MN
1134 acres; wet lowland, mesic and dry prairie with granite outcrops

Park/Area Notes

The Nature Conservancy’s Plover Prairie Preserve is a mosaic patchwork of prairie amongst active farmland. The property contains wet lowland prairie feathering into mesic and dry prairie on higher ground with scattered boulders and granite outcrops.

Apparently an attempt is being made to reintroduce the Greater Prairie Chicken to the area and the prairie is home to Loggerhead shrike, Wilson’s phalarope, short-eared owl, several nesting waterfowl, and two species of concern according to the state: the upland sandpiper and marbled godwit. A large number of mammals live on the preserve, including northern grasshopper mouse, plains pocket mouse, prairie vole, western harvest mouse, coyote and badger. White lady’s slippers can be found, as well as prickly pear cactus, Carolina foxtail, slender milk vetch, lotus milk vetch, water hyssop, mudwort, mousetail and soft goldenrod. (source: The Nature Conservancy website)

A rough bounding box around this area at iNaturalist (as of July 2023) shows observations of: 77 plant species, 17 insect species, 2 fungi inc lichen species, 1 bird species, 1 frog species, and 1 skink species.

Other than some signage and rough pull offs parking areas, the site is minimally maintained and there are no amenities. The preserve is close to the Lac qui Parle and Pyramid Wildlife Management Areas (WMA), two Waterfowl Production Areas, and Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge.

The Preserve can be thought of as having three units: East, Central/Addition, and West. The Nature Conservancy treats the East and West as one Main Unit and the central part as the Addition Unit. and eBird treat them as three separate units with eBird calling the Addition the Central Unit. Because that area of the state has sparse online map information and the names of roads seem to vary from web service to web service (Google, Bing, etc), figuring out where one might park to visit the site took a bit of work. By far, the best information on parking and maps was found at They have a pdf map of the complete area on their East Unit page.

Caveat: Referencing the map (link above) will help with awareness that the preserve shares many boundaries with private land and it will take care to avoid trespassing on that private land. Since this preserve is not heavily trafficked nor maintained, the parking pull offs are likely to be overgrown. There are no shoulders on the narrow roads so just ‘pulling over’ without entering the field pull offs is not feasible. From “The roads bordering this site are very narrow gravel roads with no shoulders. Meeting a vehicle traveling in the opposite direction would be an adventure. There is no room anywhere to park on the shoulder.”

EAST UNIT parking/links:

A field pull off is on the NW corner of the 370th St (e/w) & 201st Ave (n/s) intersection.
There is a wood sign near this pull off.
The preserve lies to the NE and NW of this intersection.

Google Copy Plus Code: 5QW2+VM Odessa, Lac qui Parle County, Minnesota
45.19694481806881, -96.2478712944992
Google only shows the name of 201st Av at its extreme south end where it intersects with 370th St.
Bing only shows the name 201st Ave - not CR15 at all.
The intersection is two miles east of US75 Plover Prairie East
eBird Hotspot reports: Plover Prairie - East Unit
eBird Checklist: Plover Prairie - East Unit


A field pull off [1] is on north side of 370th St, .38 miles east of US75.
A possible pull off [2] is on north side of 370th St, just west of 191st Ave (.95 miles east of US75).
The preserve is to the north of 370th St.

Pull off [1]
Google Copy Plus Code: 5PW9+PMV Bellingham, Lac qui Parle County, Minnesota
45.196867, -96.280817
Pull off [2]
Google Copy Plus Code: 5PWJ+Q8H Bellingham, Lac qui Parle County, Minnesota
45.196950, -96.269150 Plover Prairie Addition
eBird Hotspot reports: Plover Prairie - Central Unit
eBird Checklist: Plover Prairie - Central Unit

WEST UNIT parking/links:

A field pull off is on the east side of US75, .6 miles north of 370th St and 3.77 miles south of MN7.
The pull off is just north of a wood sign for the preserve which sits to the east.

Google Copy Code: 6P46+5HW Odessa, Lac qui Parle County, Minnesota
45.205483, -96.288533 Plover Prairie West Unit
eBird Hotspot reports: Plover Prairie - West Unit
eBird Checklist: Plover Prairie - West Unit

Additional Links:

The Nature Conservancy: Main Unit (East & West)
The Nature Conservancy: Addition Unit Plover Prairie Complete
MN River Valley Nat'l Scenic Byway: Plover Prairie


After all the digging and investigating I did, we ultimately did not visit this preserve. But I sure wasn’t going to dump all the work I did. Even if we never make it back to this area, someone else might benefit from the work I did and what better place to offer it up than here?

Julkaistu heinäkuu 3, 2023 08:01 IP. käyttäjältä mmmiller mmmiller | 0 kommenttia | Jätä kommentti

heinäkuu 2, 2023

Lac qui Parle WMA - Marsh Dam area

Lac qui Parle Wildlife Management Unit (WMA)
Chippewa, Swift, Big Stone, and Lack qui Parle Counties
24,802.61 acres; native prairie, wetland basins, two large lakes (Lac qui Parle and Marsh)

Focus on: Marsh Lake Dam area, SW of Appleton, Swift county, MN

Marsh Lake is part of a chain of lakes that lie along the upper Minnesota River. It is home to the largest American White Pelican rookery in Minnesota, one of just two nesting colonies in the state. Birds traveling through the area during migration include Tundra Swans, Snow Geese, Greater White-fronted Geese and Sandhill Cranes. The lake contains many species of fish.

We had hoped to drive to the dam (having dual interests in our party of engineering and nature) but the current status of the road leading to it was unclear. There was only sparse information on the area, some of it seemed conflicting, and information on Google Maps for the area was non-existent or very old. So we set out to explore.

Route Taken from Appleton, MN - heading south into the WMA
From the Swift County Fair Grounds in Appleton, MN, travel County Road 51 west and south. Instead of following County Road 51 when it heads west along 95th St SW, continue south (straight) on 240th Ave SW.

100th St SW - which, on maps, appears to be a road that heads west from 240th Ave SW - is closed permanently (an update on this situation has been submitted to Google Maps so how it appears on that site may change at some point). The turn off for that road is now a parking area and one can either hike or bike along the old road 1.75 miles to the old north-side old parking area for the dam.

240th Ave SW continues south (past the old 100ths St SW parking area) till it bends to the west as it approaches a railroad track. Shortly after, one can either go a little further west to a parking area or take a sharp turn south onto 115th St SW which crosses the railroad track. Almost a mile later, there is another parking area on the north side of the road. Just past that parking area, the road intersects MN-119. At this point, we chose to turn around and take the same route back through the WMA and towards Appleton.

The parking lot at the old 100th St SW road was clear and not overgrown. The other two parking lots were mostly overgrown as I don't think they're used much outside of hunting season. You could park there but one should be prepared for ticks if you get out of the car. There were no bathrooms in the area we visited. There was no shoulder on the road but very little traffic so we traveled as slowly as we liked and occasionally stopped for closer looks at something.

I've since found information that indicates there may be an alternate way to get to the Dam from the north. I wasn't aware of this before our visit but I'll quote here what I found:

North access to the Marsh Lake Dam: From Hwy 59/7 in Appleton, go south on Hwy 119, turn west (right) onto Hwy 51/90th St SW. Stay on Hwy 51 until the pavement ends, continue going west on 95th St SW for 0.5 miles then take a left onto 255th Ave SW. NOTE: A section of 255th Ave is a new road and Google maps does not yet show this section that connects to the old portion of 100th.

One can also walk in to the dam from the south in Lac qui Parle County. Find info on that HERE. You essentially come upon the dam almost immediately upon parking the car.


Lac qui Parle State Park is 15 miles* to the SE
Big Stone NWR is 10-15 miles* to the NW
Plover Prairie SNA is 8 miles* to the west
*mileages are from the dam as the crow flies, it would be longer by car as one nagivates country roads around the lakes and river.


June 6, 2023; (90 degrees, skies hazy with Canadian wildfire smoke)
Finding we could not drive to the dam (via 100th St SW), we decided against hiking to it. (Too far, too hot, not kitted for ticks). But we enjoyed a drive along the back roads through the WMA taking the route described above. Notable observations: Bobolinks, Eastern Kingbirds, Red Saddlebags Dragonflies, lots of Yellow Warblers.

Observations submitted to iNat:
25 species: birds - 11; insects - 3; spider - 1; plants - 10

Useful links

MN DNR: Lac qui Parle WMA: Main Unit
eBird Hotspot reports: eBird Hotspot reports: Marsh Lake Dam; Swift Co (northern side)
eBird Checklist: Marsh Lake Dam; Swift Co (northern side)
eBird Hotspot reports: Marsh Lake Dam; Lac qui Parle Co (southern side)
eBird Checklist: Marsh Lake Dam; Lac qui Parle Co (southern side)
iNat: observations in a bounding box for the area discussed
Minnesota River Virtual Tour: Marsh Lake
MN River Valley National Scenic Byway: Marsh Lake Dam
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and MN DNR: Marsh Lake Habitat Enhancement Project
John A. Weeks III website: Marsh Lake Dam

Julkaistu heinäkuu 2, 2023 03:28 AP. käyttäjältä mmmiller mmmiller | 0 kommenttia | Jätä kommentti

kesäkuu 29, 2023

Carley State Park

Carly State Park; Wildflower Trail (daily or annual park permit required)
Plainview, Wabasha county, MN
209 acres; Bluffland landscape, river valley floors, Algific Talus Slopes*, hardwood forest

Park/Area Notes

Carley is known for its profusion of Virginia Bluebells as well as numerous other wildflowers. The north branch of the Whitewater River, a designated trout stream, winds through the park creating a tight oxbow. A grove of tall White Pines prompted the creation of this park and numerous bird species can be found throughout the area. A rough iNat bounding box shows a current species count for: plants-127, fungi-41, insects-32, birds-22, common lichen-6, mammals-5, spiders-4, turtles-2

Park literature warns that some areas of the park have steep drop offs and one should wear good hiking shoes and keep children close at hand. There are picnic tables and a pit toilet in the picnic area as well as a few benches.

*Although literature for Carley State Park mentions it is home to Algific Talus Slopes, I can't find any iNat observations of any of the rare organisms that can be found in these habitats. This might be because hiking on Algific Talus Slopes is highly discouraged if not outright banned in many places. Or it could be that, even if not banned, the terrain is too difficult for most people to traverse. I don't know where one might find these slopes at Carley nor if they are accessible to the public.

Wildflower Trail
Although the park literature mentions a 'Wildflower Trail', it's not clear to me what exactly constitutes the full length of the Wildflower Trail. I know that it travels on north side of the park and along the inside of an oxbow created by the Whitewater River. That trail section is part of the designated Hiking Club trail and it's possible the entire length of the Hiking Club Trail (shown on this trail map as a shaded dotted link) is also the Wildflower loop or it's possible only that inner part of the oxbow section is considered the Wildflower Loop. You can access the trail at either end (north or south) of the picnic area at the inner east bank of the oxbow.

Terrain: I can only speak to the trail along the inner side of the oxbow. The trail, heading north from the picnic area was very level and easy footed. There's a T-intersection on the western inner bank of the trail where one can turn west/southwest, cross the river and loop north to traverse the outer edge of the oxbow or turn east/southeast and stay closer to the road leading into the picnic area. The terrain on that turn towards the east climbs quite a bit. I took a path connecting the trail to the road that was likely the steepest climb one could choose. I did not choose this knowingly and the climb was difficult for me (an aging person with poor knees and a hearty fear of heights). I made it. But I wouldn't choose that path again. Instead, I would travel the path as described till I got to the steeper terrain and then double back on the section I had just traveled to return to the picnic area. My hiking partner (ahead of me on the trail) made the choice to stay on the trail a bit longer and came up on the road further south than I did. Their climb was not as steep.

The trail at the south end of the picnic area is also level for a little ways before it crosses the river. There was a lot of a bird activity there and we wished we'd budgeted more time to spend there. If we revisit, we would.

From what I can tell, the trail on the outer banks of the oxbow - which sits higher up on a ridge - is likely a more challenging hike than staying on the flat part of the inner bow would be. I don't think it's as well traveled and trail conditions might be a bit rougher or less maintained and would include changes in elevation and two river crossings.

At 209 acres, Carley is one of the smaller state parks in the state. But it is quite close to Oronoco Prairie SNA and Whitewater State Park so one could combine a hike on the Wildflower Trail with visits to those locations. And the trout stream could be an added bonus for anyone who wants to fish.


May 22, 2023; mid to late afternoon, temp: ~ 80 degrees
After visiting Oronoco Prairie SNA [journal post] in the morning, we headed to Carley State Park to check out the Wildflower Trail.

Traveling along the level part of the Wildflower Trail (as described above) was very pleasant. The sun filtered through the trees, the river babbled alongside the path, the birds twittered, flowers were blooming. It was warm but not overwhelming so and there were no nuisance insects. That's as close to idyllic as I tend to experience. I don't think we saw anything especially unique but we did see a nice variety of plants and birds. I'm guessing hitting the peak of spring wildflowers and/or spring bird migration would be even more fruitful. I'm not sure I'd drive to this park solely for the Wildlife Trail but it is close to other natural areas and, if one is in the area, I could highly recommend it as a stop.

Useful links/info

Park Entrance: 50366 Wabasha County Rd 4, Plainview, MN 55964
MN DNR: Carley State Park
eBird Hotspot reports: Carley State Park
eBird Checklist: Carley State Park
Wikipedia: Carley State Park
"The Escape Shroom Perspective" hiking video

Julkaistu kesäkuu 29, 2023 04:25 IP. käyttäjältä mmmiller mmmiller | 32 havaintoa | 0 kommenttia | Jätä kommentti

toukokuu 29, 2023

Oronoco Prairie SNA

Oronoco Prairie Scientific and Natural Area (SNA)
Oronoco, Olmstead county, MN | 80 acres; kame oak savanna, dry gravel prairie, bluff prairie, and restored prairie, exposed limestone bedrock, intermittent streams

Park/Area Notes

This rectangular site sits in a small valley with low hills and steep-sided slopes. Intermittent streams which flow to the Zumbro River run through the area. There are spots of exposed limestone bedrock scattered around the site.

At least six rare plant species have been found on the site and native grasses carpet the valley. Referencing the Open Space section of iNaturalist, of 230+ species observed at the site, 163 were for plants, 61 for insects, 12 for birds, and 4 for spiders

There are no maintained trails but there are traces of old vehicle tracks that can function somewhat as footpaths. In late May, the vegetation was low enough we had no trouble navigating the SE corner of the site we explored. We did not travel further into the site where I suspect the steeper slopes were.

There are no facilities. Parking is off road and should accommodate at least two cars. I don't think there's adequate shoulder space for parking on the street. We didn't encounter any nuisance flying insects (flies, gnats, mosquitoes) in our late-May morning visit and the open nature of the eastern half of the site may discourage them at different times of the day/year. We did not pick up any ticks but we were wearing clothing sprayed with permethrin.


May 22; mid-morning to noon
We followed an old vehicle track from the parking area toward a grassy mound. We circled this mound, skirting the tree-lined south border of the SNA and followed the vehicle track back to the car. This resulted in us exploring the SE quadrant of the site. I think I was a little turned around and thought we were heading west when we were actually heading southwest. From what I can tell from satellite views, heading straight west would likely have led us to a creek and the ' steep-sided slopes' described at the DNR's webpage for the SNA.

The grass was only about shin high and not hard to navigate. We observed 11 species of blooming wildflowers, a few more plants that were identifiable by their foliage, some ferns, and some shelf fungi on an old tree stump. There were quite a few spiders but most were scurrying under the low vegetation and last year's leaves and I only got photos of 1 Wolf Spider. Also observed: Prairie Mound Ants, Sweat Bee, Plume Moth, and a Sawfly. Birds seen/heard: Lark Sparrows, Grasshopper Sparrow, Field Sparrow, and Indigo Bunting.

I liked this site and, if we were in the area, I would enjoy visiting it again although likely not if the grass got too high (we're moderately tick-phobic). Sites in the area that we also visited and are worth revisiting: Carley State Park, Whitewater State Park, and Kellogg Weaver Dunes SNA.

Useful links/info

small parking area on the west side of 18th Ave NW (County Rd 112), south of 100th St NW
Oronoco, Olmstead county, MN
44.139678, -92.488654
Google Plus Code: 4GQ6+VF Oronoco, Minnesota

MN DNR: Kellogg Weaver Dunes SNA Oronoco Prairie SNA
iNaturalist: Oronoco Prairie SNA Open Space page
iNaturalist Oronoco Prairie SNA Point of Interest page
iNaturalist 2022 BioBlitz: Oronoco Prairie SNA
eBird Hotspot reports: Oronoco Prairie SNA
eBird Checklist: Oronoco Prairie SNA
my iNat observations at Oronoco SNA | May 22, 2023
all iNat observations at Oronoco SNA
Flickr album: "Oronoco Prairie", photos by Joshua Mayer | includes some photos of the general prairie terrain

Julkaistu toukokuu 29, 2023 12:43 AP. käyttäjältä mmmiller mmmiller | 33 havaintoa | 0 kommenttia | Jätä kommentti

kesäkuu 7, 2022

Minnesota River - Western Minnesota

Yellow Medicine, Chippewa, Redwood, and Renville counties

This is a summary of places we visited on a trip to the Minnesota River Valley in western Minnesota in the area loosely between Granite Falls and Morton. Carved by the massive Glacial River Warren the landscape in this area contains outcrops of rocks formed over 3 billion years ago. This rocky landscape provides a unique habitat that is being lost to granite mining, housing, and recreational use making these Scientific and Natural Areas (SNA) and Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) vitally important. The Minnesota River Basin Data Center contains a load of info pertaining to the Minnesota River. The areas we visited were within the Hawk Creek, Yellow Medicine, and Middle Minnesota Watersheds.

Our May 2022 visit to the area involved a combination of pursuits and we were willing to just explore the area without focusing for a long time in any one place. Additionally, we both found ourselves without our tick-prepared clothing and, therefore, weren't highly motivated to wade too far into taller grasses. The order below is the order that we traveled. Starting at Blue Devil Valley Scientific and Natural Area (SNA), we headed south through areas west of the Minnesota River. We then swung east to Morton Outcrops SNA and made our way north along the eastern side of the Minnesota River, hitting a number of SNAs and Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) and finally ending the tour loop at Gneiss Outcrops SNA. . My observations for 16 May 2022

Blue Devil Valley SNA | Granite Falls, Yellow Medicine county, MN | 27 acres

The habitat of the site hosts Prickly Pear Cacti and one of the state's largest known populations of the Common Five-lined Skink. Any wooden or metal cover boards that are present on the site should not be disturbed as they are used to assess the distribution, habitat use, and movements of the Skink. There is a small parking area (for 1, maybe 2 cars) off the road. Like all SNAs, there are no maintained trails or facilities. Parking: N44 48.097, W95 32.994

Visited 16 May 2022; 8:30 am : We walked a few yards in and birded there for 15-20 minutes. Observed : Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, House Wren, Yellow Warbler. Saw in ponds nearby: Tree Swallow, Hooded Merganser, Canada Goose, Wood Duck, Blue-winged Teal.

Links for Blue Devil SNA: MN DNR | MinnesotaSeasons | eBird Hotspot reports | eBird Checklist | iNaturalist Point of Interest | iNaturalist Project | MN DNR Bulletin: Site Highlight

Various Locations, Yellow Medicine county, MN

Farm Fields: Recent storms day before our visit had flooded quite a few farm fields with the possibility of seeing migrating shorebirds in them.
Links for Yellow Medicine county: eBird Recent Visits

Tyson Lake: The lake can be viewed from county roads or at the Public Water Access at the intersection of 150th Ave and 560th St. (NE corner of lake)
Links for Tyson Lake: eBird Hotspot reports | eBird Checklist: Tyson Lake

Echo Water Treatment Plant (WTP): An access road runs east from 600th St (just south of 150th Ave). There weren't any 'no trespassing/private property' signs until one reaches the gate surrounding the treatment ponds.
Links for Echo Water Treatment Plant: eBird Hotspot reports | eBird Checklist

Visited 16 May 2022; 9-10:15 am : Flooded Field - We happened upon an Upland Sandpiper in a flooded/muddy farm field just feet from the road. Tyson Lake - There were American White Pelicans visible from the road. At the public access to the lake, we saw/heard: Mourning Dove, Common Grackle, Red-winged Blackbird, Baltimore Oriole, American Goldfinch, and Yellow Warbler. Some people fishing had caught a Black Bullhead that they let me photograph, as well. It was a pleasant place to have a bite to eat and walk around but it wasn't a great birding/naturing spot. Echo WTP - In the week prior, a Wilson's Phalarope and Smith's Longspur had been seen at the WTP but we didn't find them. We did see: Killdeer, Savannah Sparrow, Gadwall, Blue-winged Teal, Bald Eagle, unidentified shorebird, and a Bald Eagle flying overhead.

Morton Outcrops SNA | Morton, Renville county, MN | 15 acres

"This site has outstanding biodiversity significance, supporting one of the state's largest and highest quality examples of Crystalline Bedrock Outcrop Prairie" (MN DNR, link below) Rare species found here include the Regal Fritillary butterfly, Prairie Bush Clover, Wolf's Spikerush, and Fox Snake. There’s a hotel and gas station at the intersection of US Hwy 71 and MN Hwy 19 with a very large parking lot. Entry to the SNA is at the SE corner of the parking lot just of W Ledge St. The DNR website says to ask permission from the hotel to park there but we didn’t and we were so far from the functional parking lot for the hotel, I doubt there is much concern on their part for us to have parked there. Close to W Ledge St,, there is an old double track vehicle trail along the SE edge of the park. The rest of the SNA has minimal to no footpaths.

Visited 16 May 2022; 12-12:15 pm : We walked up the old vehicle track and then over to the highest point of the outcrops but not any further. With the late spring, there wasn't much in the way of plants yet (in the small area I walked) and we didn't observe many birds other than a Robin, some swallows and a couple of Common Nighthawks (which was a thrill for me). I did find some critter holes that were about a foot in diameter (two spaced some feet apart) and some lichen on the rocks.

Links for Morton Outcrops SNA: MN DNR | MinnesotaSeasons | iNaturalist Point of Interest | iNaturalist Open Space | iNaturalist 2020 Bioblitz | iNaturalist Project | Flickr album: "Morton Outcrops", photos by Joshua Mayer

Granite Prairie WMA | Beaver Falls Township, Renville county, MN | 192 acres

This site "protects numerous exposed granite outcrops, remnant native prairie, existing and restored hardwood forested areas, several wetland/shallow lake structures, [as well as] nearly 1.1 miles of aquatic habitats along the Minnesota River shoreline" (Heritage Council Report - link below). Leading from the gate, there was an old vehicle road that led into the property. It appears on Google maps that this old road skirts a pocket of hardwood that contains a streak of rock outcrops and around the perimeter of the property. But these old roads won't be maintained and it doesn't look like a heavily visited area so it's unsure what the condition of these tracks will be over time. There's a small parking area for maybe 1-3 cars.

Visited 16 May 2022; 12:45-1:45 pm : We literally stumbled upon this WMA as we drove past and saw the sign. We walked about a third of a mile in and saw Clay-colored Sparrow, Hyssop, Blue Phlox, Swainson’s Thrush, European Carp spawning, Gray Catbird, Northern Waterthrush, Yellow Warbler, and Great-crested Flycatcher. I've since added the site to Google Maps which might make others more aware of it. We always love a back road and these didn't disappoint.

Links for Granite Prairie WMA: MN DNR | Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council Final Accomplishment Plan Report (2011) | iNaturalist: approximate area of Granite Prairie WMA

River Warren Outcrops SNA | Flora township, Renville county, MN | 89 acres

Located within a meander of the Minnesota River, this fairly new SNA (2016) contains dense wooded bedrock outcrops, a floodplain forest, riparian habitat, and former agricultural land being restored to prairie. Species found here include Plains Prickly Pear, Kentucky Coffee Tree, Rock Spikemoss, Brittle Pricklypear, Prairie Fameflower, Rusty Woodsia. Like all SNAs, there are no maintained trails or facilities. Ample off road parking for at least a half dozen cars. Parking: N44 37.973, W95 10.970

Visited 16 May 2022; 2:30-2:45 pm : I walked along the eastern boundary with grass on the SNA side and a line of trees on the private property side. About 500 feet in, there are patches of hardwood trees with a pond just beyond them. I did not walk further than 500 feet in. Being mid-afternoon, it was hot, I was tired, there wasn’t much wildlife activity to be found and I wasn’t motivated to spend much time here. I saw an American Kestrel, heard Blue Jays and House Wrens, and photographed a few sedges and a Furrow Bee - mostly to document that we had visited the spot.

Links for River Warren Outcrops: MN DNR | MinnesotaSeasons | eBird Hotspot reports | eBird Checklist | iNaturalist Point of Interest | iNaturalist Open Space | iNaturalist Project

Swedes Forest SNA | Belview, Yellow Medicine and Redwood county, MN | 207 acres

Sacred Heart granite outcrops which dominate the landscape of this SNA provide a unique environment for species such as Wolf's Spikerush, Roundleaf Water-Hyssop, Common Five-lined Skink, Brittle Pricklypear, Rock Spikemoss, and Rusty Woodsia. Although there are no maintained trails, there is maintenance road that leads from the parking area for a half mile. (The DNR website doesn't use an apostrophe in 'Swedes'. The iNaturalist site does, however.) Off road parking will hold a few cars. Parking: N44 41.562, W95 22.110

Visited 16 May 2022; 3:30-3:45 pm : It was getting later in the day and we'd been on the road (and briefly on the trail) for 7 hours at that point. But this spot was one of the favorites we visited that day. The landscape was beautiful and I wished we would have visited it earlier in the day when the birds might have been more active and we might have been more willing to hike further. We didn't stay long but we saw Canada Goose, Great Egret, Field Sparrow, Yellow Warbler, American Goldfinch, Painted Turtle, Mining Bee, and a soaring Red-tailed Hawk.

Links for Swedes Forest: MN DNR | MinnesotaSeasons | eBird Hotspot reports (Yellow Medicine county) | eBird Hotspot reports (Redwood county) | eBird Hotspot reports (Yellow Medicine county) | eBird Checklist (Redwood county) | iNaturalist SNA Point of Interest | The Photonaturalist (Sparky Stensaas): Swedes Forest SNA blog entries | Flickr album: "Swede's Forest", photos by Joshua Mayer

Gneiss Outcrops SNA | Granite Falls, Chippewa county, MN | 234 acres

Plains Prickly Pear and Brittle Cactus can be found on the site as well as an assortment of lichen growing on the rocks. One of the DNR designated parking areas on Cty Rd 40 (the one currently shown on Google Maps) is not very safe, traffic wise. It is recommended to pull over and park on the north side of 170th St at N44 46.461, W95 30.357. See MinnesotaSeasons (link below) for more info. Like all SNAs, there are no maintained trails or facilities. It sounds like it can get wet in places and during certain times. One may need to have waterproof footwear at hand.

Visited 16 May 2022; 4:15 pm : So, it had been a full day of touring and hiking. We were a bit hot, pretty dusty and thirsty and this was to be our last stop. As we pulled up to the precarious pull over parking spot, I spied a tick on the car door next to my elbow. We had a comedic turn as we tried to get the tick off the door (with it open, of course), having it fall into a crevice, having to dig it out - all while parked just inches from the road on a curve overlooking a bluff. Needless to say, when we were done with the tick, we were kind of done 'naturing'. We took a moment to look at the rocks next to the parking area then got back in the car and drove back to the hotel - eager to get out of our clothes and into the shower. I realized two things later. 1) I completely forgot to take any photo to serve as an observation of the spot. My goal is to always make an iNat observation of something... anything to commemorate places we've visited. I made a casual observation (without a photo) of the tick. 2) My prior research had revealed that this was not the best place to park (details above) but I had completely forgotten about it but I doubt we would have spent much time there anyhow at the end of the day. Ironically, this SNA was the initial impetus for us visiting the area in the first place. The rest of the stops were all 'add-ons'. I don't think we were there for longer than 5 minutes and 4 of those were spent digging the tick out of the crevice!

Links for Gneiss Outcrops SNA: MN DNR | MinnesotaSeasons | Explore Minnesota | eBird Hotspot reports | eBird Checklist | iNaturalist Point of Interest | iNaturalist Open Space | iNaturalist Project | Marshall Independant Newspaper article: Gneiss Outcrops SNA | Flickr album: "Gneiss Outcrops", photos by Joshua Mayer

Julkaistu kesäkuu 7, 2022 06:15 IP. käyttäjältä mmmiller mmmiller | 0 kommenttia | Jätä kommentti

toukokuu 31, 2022

Lichen resources
Consortium of North American Lichen Herbaria
Lichens of the North Woods
Written by: Joe Walewski
taxonomic names are out of date
Lunch & Learn: Lichens of the Riverway (St. Croix and Namekagon)
Joe Walewski
Lichens of the North Shore Webinar
Joe Walewski
Spot test (lichen)
C = Bleach
K = Liquid-Plumr
P = carcinogen - not recommended

identifiers for area
blue543 :
Joe Walewski :

⦁ A lichen is a composite organism that arises from algae or cyanobacteria living among filaments of multiple fungi species in a mutualistic relationship.
⦁ The combined lichen has properties different from those of its component organisms.
⦁ Lichens come in many colors, sizes, and forms.
⦁ The properties are sometimes plant-like, but lichens are not plants.
⦁ Lichens may have tiny, leafless branches (fruticose), flat leaf-like structures (foliose), flakes that lie on the surface like peeling paint (crustose), a powder-like appearance (leprose), or other growth forms.
⦁ Lichens are classified by the fungal component. Lichen species are given the same scientific name (binomial name) as the fungus species in the lichen. Lichens are being integrated into the classification schemes for fungi. The alga bears its own scientific name, which bears no relationship to that of the lichen or fungus.

Mosses are commonly confused with lichens, hornworts, and liverworts. Lichens may superficially resemble mosses, and sometimes have common names that include the word "moss" (e.g., "reindeer moss" or "Iceland moss"), but they are not related to mosses.

Julkaistu toukokuu 31, 2022 07:53 IP. käyttäjältä mmmiller mmmiller | 0 kommenttia | Jätä kommentti

tammikuu 23, 2022

Index of Journal Posts

Nature Locations

SNA = in MN: Scientific and Natural Area; in WI: State Natural Areas
NWR = National Wildlife Refuge


Dakota County
180th Street Marsh
Pine Bend Bluffs SNA
Goodhue County
River Terrace Prairie SNA
Hennepin County
Lake Hiawatha Park
Lac qui Parle County
Plover Prairie Preserve
Le Sueur County
Kasota Prairie SNA
Kasota Prairie Conservation Area
Chamberlain Woods SNA
Olmstead County
Oronoco Prairie SNA
Ramsey County
Fish Creek Natural Area
Sherburne County
Woodland Trails Regional Park
Swift County
Lac qui Parle WMA - Marsh Dam area
Wabasha County
Carley State Park
Kellogg Weaver Dunes SNA
Washington County
Arcola Bluffs Day Use Area
Blueberry Hill
Mississippi Dunes Reserve
St. Croix Savanna SNA
Yellow Medicine, Chippewa, Redwood, and Renville Counties
Minnesota River - Western Minnesota (SNAs: Blue Devil; Morton Outcrops; ; River Warren Outcrops; Swedes Forest; Gneiss Outcrops - Granite Prairie WMA)


Dunn County
Wisconsin Rustic Road 89 | Devil's Punchbowl | Red Cedar State Trail
Pierce County
Morgan Coulee Prairie SNA
Wisconsin Rustic Road 51
Trempealeau County
Trempealeau NWR


Cranes at Crex (Crex Meadows, Burnett Co., WI)

Identification Resources

Hedge-Parsley ID details

Julkaistu tammikuu 23, 2022 05:33 IP. käyttäjältä mmmiller mmmiller | 0 kommenttia | Jätä kommentti

tammikuu 1, 2022

Cranes at Crex

Up till now, my journal posts have all been about the wildlife areas and parks we've visited for nature observations. I've considered writing a journal post about Crex Meadows State Wildlife Area in Burnett County, Wisconsin. But the place is so large and has so many areas to consider that it seems too massive a task. We have visited the area numerous times in the last few years and it is my favorite spot to revisit. Just south of Crex is Fish Lake Wildlife Area which we visited (in conjunction with Crex Meadows) for the first time this year and it was a worthy addition to the trip agenda. Below is an account of our visit in late Oct. 2021.

On Oct 30, 2021, we planned a trip to Fish Lake Wildlife Area and Crex Meadows State Wildlife Area. The 'aim' of the trip was to enjoy the fall colors and then see what we might see. We drove through Fish Lake first but it was pretty cloudy and the colors didn't really pop. We each commented more than once: 'this would be stunning if the sun were out.' And we didn't really see anything interesting.

So, on to Crex. Now there are lots of roads that run through Crex Meadows. Some are likely only traveled by people viewing the landscape or wildlife. Some could easily be used by people who live in the area to get from one spot to another. We will take different routes during different visits. The loop we took that day was about 25 miles long and we had taken about 5 hours to drive it. Sometimes we're just coasting slowly along the road. Sometimes we'll stop for a snack or bathroom break with a short hike. There had been recent reports of some birds that are more 'wintery' like Snow Buntings and Northern Shrikes. We didn't see any of them but I suspect we glimpsed some American Tree Sparrows and saw lots of Rough-legged Hawks. We also got a good look at a Wilson's Snipe, a bird we've heard for years but could never find prior to this year when we've seen a few.

We also saw Crows, Ravens, Bald Eagles, Blue Jays, Canada Geese, Trumpeter Swans, Pied-billed Grebes, Mallards, and Sandhill Cranes... all common and were easily seen all summer so, no special excitement there. Additionally we saw:

  • a deer carcass that had apparently been picked over by scavengers - just the rib cage, spine, and skin/fur was left
  • two tiny spiders on our windshield - at two different times - the sun setting behind the vegetation revealed numerous spider webs spun between the plants
  • Black Bear tracks - in a sandy hiking path quite near the small campground and picnic area of the refuge
  • a small Red Squirrel in my favorite craggy tree stump in the refuge that I've photographed on previous visits

The sun started to come out about 2-3:00 pm which made the colors pop and we got some cool cloud formations as the weather systems switched. So now we were getting the 'fall drive' we had sought out. When we had to make a choice (left or right) to head out of the park or drive around the eastern half, we decided to do the longer drive.

I was driving the last half hour or so and the sun was getting lower (about 4:30 ish). I suggested to my husband that we drive the entire loop again, this time going a little faster. That would keep us in the park till closer to sunset and provide a chance of seeing migrating Sandhill Cranes come in for the night as well as possible sightings of more nocturnal wildlife. He agreed so we took a road that would take us back to the 'loop' rather than exit the park.

A ways along the road, we came upon a dozen or more cars parked on the shoulder. Ah.... they must be here for the Cranes since I'd read that this was peak Sandhill Crane migration. So, we pulled over and waited.

About 5:15 a few cranes started flying in and within a half hour there was wave after wave flying in. They flew in formations numbering about 15-20 and at one point, I could count at least 25 formations flying in from the north and the formations were coming in from all directions - I just happened to be facing north. The Cranes called continuously - the sound is constant. One person who was there for an hour that evening (about the same time) estimated 3000. But the refuge website wrote on Oct 18:

[There have been] 5,000-7,000 birds already. Our numbers of cranes will only continue to rise throughout this month, normally reaching peak the last week in October or the first week in November.

As the sun continued to set, the colors of the marsh deepened. It is BIG SKY around there and the cloud formations to the north were striking. The SW sky where the sun was setting was dramatic. In the WNW the horizon was turning purple.

We've seen Cranes all summer. A few times, we've seen Cranes in large groups (50-100). But this was magically very impressive. Very hard to explain. And the sky... indescribable.

After about an hour, the sun and light was getting very low and perhaps the Crane arrival was lessening (not sure about that, though) so we decided to head out. To do so, we turned around to go east for a short ways then we'd turn south. As we turned south we looked west toward the setting sun and, OH MY GOD... the sky. The sky was this deep crimson and the sun was right at the horizon and there was a red sun pillar shooting into the sky.

All in all, a pretty cool day.

iNat observations for that day

Julkaistu tammikuu 1, 2022 02:27 AP. käyttäjältä mmmiller mmmiller | 0 kommenttia | Jätä kommentti