Signs of Spring on the Whitefish Chain

One of the first frogs to call in the spring is the wood frog, seen here in a pond near the Whitefish Chain in a previous spring. Photo by Kate Perkins

It may have been a long winter, but it's finally happening: spring is beginning to blossom on the Whitefish Chain. One great place to see spring in action is at the Veterans Walking Trail on County Road 16. Look for the brown sign on the north side of the road at mile post 2.6.

The Veteran's Walking Trail features a broad mix of environments to explore. The trail begins under a stand of towering pines. Read about how those pines came to be at the interpretive panel in the parking lot. There's also trails through mixed forest and a boardwalk that leads over a wetland to Whiskey Island, so named because rumor has it the island was the site of a still during prohibition. The best place to see spring in our opinion, though, is on that boardwalk. The wetland is a thriving place full of flora and fauna.

Frogs are some of the first in the area to sing spring's praises, and sometimes they do so very loudly. One of the first frogs to sound off in the spring, often before the ice even goes out, is the wood frog. The Minnesota DNR describes the call of a wood frog as a short chuckle and a harsh "racket racket racket." The frogs are about 2 to 2.74" long and are brownish with a black mask over their eyes.

Spring peepers are another species of frog that's one of the first to sound off in the spring. As their name suggests, the frogs let out a "peep" that can be very loud when the frogs are in large numbers. At only 0.75-1.25" long, these frogs pack a lot of sound into their tiny bodies! Spring peepers are actually tree frogs, and while they breed in fishless wetlands, they spend the rest of their summers in forested areas.

While on the boardwalk, you might also catch sight of red-winged blackbirds perched on last year's cattails. These birds are migratory, and show that our state's part time residents are indeed returning for the summer! Male red-winged blackbirds are unmistakable in their coloration, which is all black with red and yellow patches on the shoulders of each wing. Females, on the other hand, are brown with beige streaks. The males will be seen perched as high as they can over wetlands and belting out a spring song.

As you travel the boardwalk, keep an eye out for the interpretive panels along the way. They'll offer more information about your surroundings and enlighten walkers about more of the species that can be found nearby. You'll have the opportunity to see more migratory birds, as well as potentially other frogs, turtles, and early dragonflies.

Spring is popping up across the area, and the Veteran's Memorial Trail is just one great place to see spring's show in action. Enjoy the sunshine, melting ice and snow, and the many signs of spring.

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