Before the weather turned back to winter conditions this week I took a short hike at one of my favorite places, The National Wildlife Refuge along the Minnesota River Valley. Located in the heart of Bloomington and next to the both I-494 and the airport it is not a place to experience peace and quiet, but you can always experience wildlife in this unique place.
The river was high due to the Spring melt so many of the normal trails I would hike that lead to the islands in the middle of the Minnesota River are now underwater.
I choose to hike the small short trail next to the Visitor Center. The Hillside trail leads from the Minnesota River Bluff at the visitor center into the River Valley and back up. At other times of the year this trail leads to a small marshy pond at Minnesota River flood stage is leads you to the edge of the swollen river bed.
The trees were teaming with song birds of all sorts. Robins, finches, and red wing black birds were some of the ones I could pick out from either their songs or as they fluttered through the bare trees.
On my way to the river bed I heard movement in the leaf litter on the ground. It was a chipmunk in search for food. The filtered sunlight made the patterns of brown shine between the leaves as he moved in search of food. It moved to quickly for me to catch a picture of his beauty.
The trail was not muddy like I would expect although I did see that the river had covered the trail in the days past.
My eyes caught a movement out in the water hidden between the trees that reached out of the flooded water. Brown rodents were sitting on a log and eating on branches. They were small or my guess was either immature beaver or muskrats. I continued to watch and finally one turned so I could see its tail. Muskrat confirmed with its round tail.
I continued up the trail and back to the visitor center where they always keep bird feeders full. This brings in all sorts of wildlife and on past visits I have seen deer and raccoons. On this day it was two male turkey’s who were taking advantage of the spilled bird feed out of the feeders.
The visitor center has a phenology calendar for documenting what you find along your hike. This is a good place to start before you hike to see what has been sighted within the Nature Reserve.
This area is constantly changing with the seasons and the Minnesota River levels. I would recommend the National Wildlife Refuge hiking trails to anyone who visits the Twin Cities area.
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