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Natural areas can be found on Heartland College campus

NORMAL, Ill. (AP) — A noisy Canada goose squawked its way across Birky Pond as it chased a possible competitor on a recent Friday in March.

“Someone got up on the wrong side of the nest this morning,” observed Janet Beach Davis of the Heartland Community College earth and environmental sciences faculty.

Beach Davis has been working on the greenspace at Heartland since construction began on the campus along Raab Road 20 years ago.

How many people drive by without noticing the 13-acre lake? Birds certainly notice it, especially during migration, when it attracts a large variety of waterfowl.

In addition to Canada geese and mallards, in recent weeks Birky Pond has hosted hooded mergansers, bufflehead, redhead ducks, canvasbacks, northern shovelers, scaup and ring-necked ducks, to name a few.

The calls of red-winged blackbirds, which Beach Davis considers a sign of spring, nearly drowned out sounds from nearby Interstate 55. A cardinal sang from the top of a tree and other birds joined the concert.

There are about two miles of walking trails. Bicycles are prohibited, but leashed pets are permitted.

“Please be mindful and leave nothing but footprints,” said Beach Davis.

The pond was built as a water retention basin to slow runoff from the campus, explained Beach Davis, but it is also a centerpiece to greenspace that includes a 15-acre tallgrass prairie, a 4-acre forb prairie, wetlands, a birdhouse trail and Heartland Gardens.

“We’ve worked so hard to build diversity,” said Beach Davis. “We started work on this before the buildings.”

The work continues. Volunteers recently planted more trees and helped with cleanup projects. The greenspace is also used for educational purposes with not only classes from Heartland but also Illinois State and Illinois...

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