As the weather warms, the grasslands come to life. Grasses start to green up, wildflowers emerge, ducks arrive at the ponds and lakes, birds flit along the meadows and perch on shrubs, and beetles scurry along the ground.
Spring beauties grow and flower before the grasses rise above the lower-height plants. These perennials were dug up by First Nations people and the marble-sized corms were eaten as a source of starch, often mixed with berries.
Eskers run down into the northwestern end of Long Lake. Hundreds of Barrows goldeneye ducks were on the lake in that week. As the weather warms, we can also see mallards, ruddy ducks, geese, and scaups.
We spotted killdeer, meadowlarks, sharp-tailed grouse, sparrows, and magpies on our grasslands hike. Once the mating pairs start to nest, raptors will return, perching on trees on top of hills, or soaring over the slopes. We found the remains of predation behind a big erratic – feathers and a skeleton.
There are many small plants and insects among the tufts of grasses, and only a close-up reveals them. A hike into the grasslands requires a slow, quiet approach to see these subtle natural wonders.
Ticks are common in the grasses and this often keeps people out, perhaps a good thing to preserve the fragile environment from overuse. The middle grasslands is a non-motorized area, but there is evidence/damage from both motorcycles and quads driving into the fragile ecosystem within the Lac du Bois Protected Area With the requirement for licensing and most of us carrying cameras or phone cameras, we can witness and report these intrusions. If we are lucky, we can walk into the middle grasslands and see and hear only the birds, mammals, insects, and plants that live there. Bring your camera and binoculars, but leave only faint footprints.