The Annual Discovery Day is a special day spent at the Nerstrand Big Woods State Park http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/nerstrand_big_woods/index.html concentrating on an environmental theme. This year's theme is Migration.
"Many of the birds have already left. Our barn swallows, tree swallows and bank swallows left a few weeks ago. They feed on flying insects which are no longer moving about. Most swallows spend their winter in Central America.
On the prairie most of the meadowlarks & bobolinks have left. They are probably as far south as Nebraska & Iowa.When the really cold weather comes they will move south another 400 miles. When the Indians were the only people living on the prairie the buffalo migrated in great numbers. It was necesasary for them to harvest and dry enough meat for the winter.
Other animals do not migrate as far. The big snapping turtles will be gathering at the Cannon River in large groups where they will bury themselves deep in soft mud to live out the winter. Snapping turtles travel up small creeks and across land to find quiet ponds where they spend the summer.
Soon the autum skies will be filled with long Vs of migrating ducks, geese, loons and swans who will be traveling south to warmer waters. Many will spend the winter along the Gulf of Mexico. "Kettles" of hawks and sometimes eagles are seen each fall drifting overhead circling on rising air currents which lift them higher and higher til they drift off farther south and catch the next one.
My favorite story of migration is in the life of the Monarch Butterflies. It takes 7 generations of monarchs to travel from Minnesota to Mexico and back to Minnesota next spring. Most of them left 2 weeks ago, and are now as far south as northern Texas. Some of them will lay eggs their and die. The new butterflies will then go on to Mexico.
Migration is a facinating story filled with many mysteries. How do they know when and where to go? Will they find food along the way? Will it be the stars, the magnetic poles, or, is it going to be one smart butterfly that will show them the way?"
Good Luck Travelers,
~Larry Richie, Volunteer Naturalist
About the park--When the first settlers arrived in 1854, they discovered an island of woods in the vast oak savanna prairie which now makes up Nerstrand Big Woods State Park. Sugar maple, basswood, oak, hickory, aspen, elm, ash, and ironwood trees shade the land. Over 200 varieties of wildflowers, along with countless varieties of ferns and mushrooms grew in the Big Woods.