Making Tracks to Spring

By Greg Lecker

Though Friday’s snowfall might suggest otherwise, spring is coming! Walking from the parking lot to Three Mile Drive, I dodge Canada Geese that find grass newly exposed – again.

Canada Geese return

Canada Geese return

Entering the Maple Sugarbush, I spy a full bag of Maple sap. The trees at the edge of the woodland are warming more quickly than those growing more deeply in the woodland; and sap began running a few weeks ago.

It’s a great day for a walk to appreciate the newly fallen sparkling snow. The drive is completely cleared and dry. And, visitors of all sort – human and animal – are active around the Arboretum. Squirrels are active. Cardinals and Chickadees are calling. In the prairie, a Bald Eagle is perched, then flies off.

Bald Eagles are back!

Bald Eagles are back!

Male Red-Winged Blackbirds are noisily calling their metallic chips in wetlands throughout southern Minnesota.

The sun is rising. Even this early in the day, the sun is probably as high as it was at a December midday. In the Harrison Sculpture Garden, sunlight reflecting off snow provides photographic “fill” light enabling appreciation of the many forms. In the tree collections nearby, shadows of leafless tracery fall on blankets of the frozen crystal form of water that will soon be liquid and capable of optical reflections.

Reflection-like shadows

Reflection-like shadows

The number of visitors is up ten-fold from a December day. Human visitors are identifiable as many go hatless. After I walk half-way around the grounds, my hands have warmed enough to go gloveless, the better to take notes and photographs. Weathering temperatures just 30 degrees, we Minnesotans are a hardy tribe.

Yellow Birch bark shines in the sun. On the trunk and in its shadow, the exfoliating bark is fringe-like.

Yellow Birch

Yellow Birch

Returning back to the inner gardens, I see footsteps leading to the open running waterfall leaving a melting Iris Pond. Human and animal visitors are drawn by different attractions at the Arboretum. Canada Geese are picnicking near the Ordway Shelter – their starry footsteps in the snow betray the bee-line that they made to the sheltered grass now exposed under the deep foliage of the pines there. Spring is likewise making tracks to arrive!

Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.

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