Yesterday was relatively warm and sunny so after work I stopped for a bit at a local wildlife refuge. Throughout much of the year this area hosts a wide variety of waterfowl, songbirds, Sandhill Cranes and sometimes even Whooping Cranes. This midwinter day didn’t yield anything that exciting, but there were some interesting things to see.
The shorelines here were lined with cattails (Typha sp., Typhaceae), common wetland plants across the northern hemisphere. In spite of the winter wind and cold many of the dried seed heads were still standing.
A little farther from the water were quite a few teasels (Dipsacus sp., Dipsacaceae), invasive species introduced to North America from Eurasia and Africa. These tall plants have large, spiked seed heads that persist through the winter and can be seen along roadways in many areas.
Goldenrods (Solidago spp., Asteraceae) are most obvious in late summer and early autumn when their small but numerous yellow flowers decorate many fields and meadows. After pollination by insects the flowers develop into tufted seeds that are spread by the wind. It can take months for all of the seeds to be blown free, leaving many still clinging to the plants well into winter.
The only wildlife I saw on this walk were a few dozen Canada Geese (Anseriformes: Anatidae: Branta canadensis). There was some open water on this otherwise frozen pond, allowing a few of these geese to paddle around. The rest just seemed to be waiting for the ice to melt.
Before long flocks like this will break up as mating pairs venture off to establish territories, build nests, and raise their young for the year.