I visited Maplewood Nature Center for the first time this summer. I found out about it through the Minnesota Odonata Survey Project, which advertised a dragonfly workshop at the center.
The main entrance into the nature center is through gates located next to the visitors center. Just inside the gate, and surrounding a couple sides of the visitors center, is a wonderful butterfly garden.
In late summer and early fall this was the best spot that I found for getting great monarch pics.
Monarchs were not the only butterfly that visited the center's garden. This was the only place that I got descent tiger swallowtail pics in 2008.
One of the things that I really enjoy about MNC is the serenity. Many of the other places that I bird I find people walking dogs, biking, or jogging the trails. These are all perfectly fine pursuits but they are not very productive to have around when you are trying to get that great warbler pic or when you are hoping that the raptor you just spotted stays perched long enough for you to get into position to get a shot.
A large portion of the nature center is covered by a shallow lake and several adjacent ponds. A boardwalk trail cuts across the lake letting people get a closer look at the lakes flora and fauna.
During the warm months I could always find ducks and mergansers on the lake. This included hooded mergansers, mallards, and wood ducks, like the one pictured above.
There was also a good population of green heron spending the summer here.
There were many other things to photograph out on the lake though. Dragonflies, like this dot-tailed whiteface, where abundant both near the water and in the surrounding fields.
Amphibians, such as frogs and turtles where also prevalent.
One of my favorite birding spots for the summer of 2008 was this small island in the lake in MNC.
The island always had a good variety of birds, like this olive-sided flycatcher. Many of the birds would sit out in the open, perhaps they felt more secure because they were on an island, making it very easy to photograph them from the boardwalk.
Although it is not as big as some of the other parks that I visit there were still plenty of trails through out many different types of habitat.
If you looked hard while you were on the trails you would find that the park was teeming with wildlife, especially birds. Although its call is easily recognized, the gray catbird is usually not very easy to spot.
Eastern phoebe, however, do not seem to be as leery of people. There was usually a few phoebes around hunting for flying insects in the woods and around the lake.