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Posted on: April 19, 2023

Ask A Naturalist: What are the First Signs of Spring at HANC?

Ask A Naturalist: What are the first signs of Spring at the Nature Center?

Did you know Harriet Alexander Nature Center (HANC) has a team of naturalists who lead tours and help make visits more educational and enjoyable?

We asked Roseville Naturalists Ocean Clevette and Jennan Kellogg:  

What are some of the first signs of spring they’re seeing in the 52 acres of marsh, prairie, and forest habitats that surround the Nature Center at Central Park?

a red-winged blackbird sitting in a treeOcean: One of the initial signs of spring we will be seeing is the return of the Red-wing Blackbirds. They are very distinctive with their black feathers with red banding. Their call is also one of the most recognizable. The males call between each other as they are establishing their territory.  The females are harder to see because they are a dusty brown. We also have Canada Geese and Mallards arriving.

Jennan: The return of Wild Turkeys especially the sight of the males jockeying for mates is a very good sign spring is here. duck

Do you notice any changes with the animals who live in area? 

Jennan: We are seeing increased activity with our muskrats. Muskrats hibernate over the winter and they are starting to come out. They will be swimming through the water. They are a smaller cousin of the beaver but with a long skinny tail. Their primary food source is cattails. 

Ta mink stands on a log he muskrat is a primary food source for the Mink. We actually have a couple minks that live near the nature center. We saw some of their tracks over the winter as they were hunting things like rabbits.

We are also seeing our reptiles out. Turtles hibernate over the winter, especially Painted Turtles. They will burrow down into that mud so they don’t freeze to death. Seeing our first painted turtle with its head out sunning, that’s a really good sign spring is here because we know the mud underneath the water is starting to thaw. We will also have toads, frogs, and salamanders coming out from the mud. People can listen for spring peepers, a species of frog that gives off a high-pitched whistling or peeping sound. 

What plants signal to us that warm weather is coming? 

Ocean: Buds are showing up. The Pussy willows have a really soft bud that’s almost like fur. That’s a good one to look for. Trees are budding, especially the birches in the wetter areas.  Tree buds in early spring

Jennan: Creeping Charlie, also called ground ivy, is coming back. Bluestar flowers are starting to bloom as well. Cattails have that brown head on them, but in the spring that become extremely fluffy and tan as those seeds are released. Instead of looking like a corndog, they are now large, fluffy and tan. That’s a good sign spring is here!

Any other signs of spring we should be looking for? 

Ocean: With the thawing of the snow, I am seeing a lot of trash and debris that was covered in ice and snow. One thing Roseville residents do really well is take care of their green spaces. I would encourage folks to enjoy the nice weather while picking up trash. If they want to do that at the nature center with a group of fun people, they can come to our Earth Day Event of April 22. We will have a lot of fun activities!

Do you have a question for the Naturalists? Click here!

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