The Free Press, Mankato, MN

August 18, 2013

Dragonfly hike held at Minneopa

Kids net numerous creatures to examine up close

By Amanda Dyslin adyslin@mankatofreepress.com
The Mankato Free Press

---- — At first they were elusive. Every swat of the kids’ nets came up with a few leaves, but clean of dragonflies.

Nature enthusiast John Arthur — one of 20 along for the dragonfly hike at Minneopa State Park Saturday afternoon — tipped the kids off: “Swing the net very, very fast. Don’t hesitate.”

But 4- and 6-year-old hands have yet to learn the art of stealth. So about halfway along the trail, the group had looked only from afar.

“We got a meadow hawk,” Arther would call out. “We got a spread-winged here, a damsel fly.”

Fun to look at. They even appeared to pose on branches for the kids to get a better look. But for little girls and boys holding nets, the fun was in the catch.

“We just have to keep our eyes peeled and see if we can find any other ones,” said Scott Kudelka, Minneopa area naturalist who informed the group that Minnesota has 140 types of dragonflies.

Then suddenly, 6-year-old Camille Focht’s eyes locked on a low-flying beauty to her left.

“Daddy, I found a dragonfly!” she said, learning that it was actually a damselfly.

She handed her dad, John Focht, the net to ensure capture, and seconds later, the group was gathered around to see the creature up close.

“Wow, I caught one!” Camille said.

And that was just the first. Around the bend, a dried-up wetland area with tall grasses seemed like a sure bet to Kudelka to find a few more.

He trudged a path through the grass, which most of the kids and parents followed. The commotions stirred the dragonflies, mosquitoes and tons of other insects. “There’s one!” “There’s another one!”

Brady German, 8, led the charge out of the wetland back onto the trail with a dragonfly in his net.

“Do you want to show it off?” Kudelka asked. “Everybody get a good look at him.”

The dragonfly hike was one of several events held at Minneopa State Park Saturday. An archery event was held to teach the basics of the sport, as was a presentation on the fish living in the Minnesota River.

Plenty of programs Friday at Minneopa State Park Are you looking for information on the height of the waterfalls or who built the granite rock buildings at Minneopa State Park? A naturalist will be at the Falls Area Friday to answer questions about some of the natural and historical characteristics of the unique geographical area south of Mankato. Visitors also will have a chance to learn about what is living in the Minnesota River and Minneopa Creek, including mussels, fish and macroinvertebrates, during programs Friday. A Nature Cart will be on the grounds between 10 a.m. and noon. A digital photography class for children begins at 1 p.m. Digital cameras will be provided and participants will be able to print photos to take with them. Class size is limited to 20 children (children must be at least eight years old and they must be accompanied by an adult). Reservations for the class are required. Participants may sign up at the park office. "Animal Tracks and Signs" begins at 3 p.m. Participants will find out about the various animals of all sizes and shapes that live around us. A hike is planned as part of this program. Participants should meet at the waterfalls side of the park. Minneopa State Park is located off Highway 169 and State Highway 68, five miles west of Mankato. For more information, including a virtual tour of the park, visit mndnr.gov/state_parks/minneopa/index.html. A Minnesota State Park pass ($5 daily or $25 yearly), required to drive into the park, may be purchased at the park office.