The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden

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Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden-
Rest Stop for Weary Travelers.

by Tammy Mercer, Naturalist

Chickadee
Black Capped Chickadee

Migration season is here and the Wildflower Garden is ready for all kinds of travelers, just like you, little Chickadee! Native shrubs are full of fruit; acres of plants have developed seed; and insects are abundant. With mature forest, wetland, and prairie habitats, you’re sure to find the kinds of food and shelter you need. You’re even likely to find a flock of congenial chickadees to hang out with during your visit. That will mean more eyes to find food and watch for danger.

Warning: Be careful where you land when you first arrive. After a long night of flying, you may not have the energy to flee from house cats and other predators who may take advantage of weary travelers.

House Finch
Male House Finch

All you warblers who like plump, juicy insects will not be disappointed. Black and white warblers, you know to find grubs tucked in the bark of trees. American redstarts look to the sky to snatch many flying insects. And don’t forget to supplement your diets with seeds and fruits.

In the wetland, you Ruby-throated hummingbirds will find Jewelweed and Red Turtlehead full of nectar. These blooms also attract the tiny insects you will need for protein.


Goldfinch
American Goldfinch

Attention all finches and native sparrows: You will find several kinds of sunflower and thistle seeds in the prairie, and seeds from dozens of other kinds of flower and grass species throughout the Garden. For you later migrants, our native greases can stand up in the snow so you can still get to the seed after an early snowstorm.

Hey, orioles, thrushes, and many others! You will find lots of tasty fruit on shrubs like wild cherry, dogwoods and many others. Look for plants lower to the ground too, like Blue Cohosh and Solomon’s Seal.

Pine siskin
Pine Siskin

Warning to all birds: Beware of buckthorn berries. They look and taste great but will quickly give you diarrhea and all your energy will go into spreading their seed. We’re doing our best to remove the buckthorn and to plant shrubs with more nutritious fruits.

On Saturday mornings all you birds may encounter a flock of 2-legged mammals watching your every move. Do not be alarmed. You will find them to be peaceful neighbors who will respect your needs and watch quietly from the trails.

And to all our bird friends, remember that rest stops are critical for your survival (yet many of them are being turned into human habitats or destroyed by severe storms). Your stored fat allows you to travel incredibly long distances before refueling, but you cannot continue indefinitely. So be sure you have replenished your fat reserves and are well rested before you continue on your way.

One hundred years ago Eloise Butler had the vision to set aside this place and plan for a wide variety of native plants, so you can rely on this rest stop having the variety and abundance of food you need to help you on your long journey.



Tammy Mercer
MPRB Naturalist Tammy Mercer

Originally published in The Fringed Gentian™, Fall 2007, Vol. 33 No. 3

Tammy Mercer has been trained as a naturalist and works with the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board and has conducted birding programs at Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary.

Other articles related to birds by Tammy Mercer:

A Great Place for Birding – why the Garden is great for birding, including in May after the Spring migration.

Early Birders Catch the Wonders – what wonders are seen during the year on the Saturday Morning Birding walks.

Many Colors of Feathers (The) – about the color of bird feathers and why we see the colors the way we do.

Native Plants - for the Birds – about interactions of plants, insects and bird life. Illustrated.

Rewards of Summer Birding – summer birding and distinguishing fledglings from adults.

Warblers - Spring Warblers and the little time there is to see them. (This is a 1.0mb pdf file)

Winter Survival of Warm-blooded Critters – how some of the birds and animals survive the winter in the Garden.