Despite the less than desirable weather that has characterized the first half of the term, spring in the Arb is in full swing! The Cannon River is experiencing a discharge rate (~2500 cubic feet per second) that is significantly higher than the average value (868 cubic feet per second) for this time of year. This combined with runoff from the surrounding landscape has created patches of seasonal flooded forest habitat that is used by a variety of species. Look for herons and many species of both migratory and resident waterfowl including wood ducks, blue-winged teal, mallards, coots, and mergansers occupying this unique and ephemeral niche.
Unfortunately, the common carp (Cyprinus carpio), an invasive species, exploits these flooded areas as well—often in such large numbers that they can be caught by hand! C. carpio, introduced from Europe and Asia in the 1880s as a game fish, has the ability to dramatically alter the dynamics of the floodplain forest by disrupting the shallowly rooted plants on which it feeds. Additionally, in non-seasonal aquatic environments, carp alter the feeding ecology of waterfowl and other fish by muddying the water and releasing phosphorous which causes changes in algal population dynamics. So please, do your part to reduce Minnesota’s prolific carp population—provided that you have a fishing license of course.
In the weeks to come, stay tuned to this column and to the Arb website (http://apps.carleton.edu/campus/arb/seasonal/) for updates on other exciting spring events—like wood warbler migration and May wildflowers! Meanwhile keep your eyes out for droves of yellow-rumped warblers (easily identifiable by their yellow rump and sides), bloodroot (a white six-petaled wildflower found in Best Woods) and Dutchman’s breeches (white-pink wildflower shaped like upside-down pants found in the floodplain and in Stork forest in the Upper Arb).
Your student naturalists are Mira Alecci, Amy Alstad, Chelsea Clifford, Jeremy Hayward, Emily LeGrand, Lindsey Nietmann, David Smith, Hannah Specht, John Vigeland, and Spencer Wigmore