Seasons of Wildlife
Prairie grasses and flowers begin to bloom; waterfowl return from the south, and take up residence on the refuge. Songbirds migrate back and the refuge provides unlimited photo opportunities for both experienced and novice photographers alike.
Otters frolic in the Minnesota River, eggs begin to hatch, frogs and toads scamper about, filling the nights with their voices. Colorful flowers and grasses sway in the breezes, new life spring forth as deer, fox, coyote, mink, muskrats and other forms of wildlife emerge.
Colors change and there is a crispness in the air. Refuge staff collect seeds from native flowers and plants for later planting. Pheasants fly about and the deer are plentiful. Migratory birds begin their trek to the southern states for the winter and eagles soar.
Cool air descends, treating us to visions of beauty with frost covered trees and grasses. The rivers seem to stop in their tracks, as they turn to ice. Snow begins to fall, and lays undisturbed on the landscape, save for the wildlife that leave their imprints as they search for food. The migratory birds have headed south, but there may be an occasional eagle or turkey making an appearance. As deer forage for food, pheasants flitter about, sometimes traveling through nature-made tunnels in prairie grasses and beneath blankets of snow cover. Life along the track of the Northern Tallgrass Prairie Wildlife Refuge is peaceful and serene and takes the observer back to a time of quiet contentment.
The Dakota skipper is a species of butterfly native to the tallgrass and mixed grass prairies of the northern Great Plains. It faces the loss and degradation of its prairie habitat due to changing land uses practices across the region. Refuges like the Northern Tallgrass Prairie offer an oasis of needed habitat for the Dakota skipper. This butterfly inhabits wet lowland prairie dominated by bluestem grasses and dry upland prairie.
The grasshopper sparrow is a secretive bird found on the open prairie. This sparrow is more often heard than seen. It gets its name not only from its diet, but also from its insect-like song.
Greater prairie chicken
The greater prairie chicken, an iconic prairie bird, was once abundant across the prairie landscape, but the loss of most of our native prairie has also brought the loss of this species in much of its historic range. Prairie chickens are famous for their spring mating displays. In late March and early April, males congregate on communal sites called leks, also called booming grounds. They raise ear-like feathers above their heads, inflate orange sacs on the sides of their throats and stutter-step around while making a deep hooting moan to attract females.