By Greg Lecker
Winging on spring winds, warm weather is slowly arriving. Expecting a quiet rainy day, I’m surprised by both forty degree weather and a parking lot full of visitors with their canine companions. It is “All About Dogs Day”, the one day that dogs are permitted at the Arboretum. A dog-lover myself, I tear myself away from several cute, furry, squirming puppies; and I explore the trails.
Entering Grace Dayton woodland wildflower garden, I search for early flowers. Next to the asphalt path, where the collected sun’s heat is radiated outward, fallen leaves and forest duff begins to part. There, the prostrate foliage of Prairie Smoke is revealed: fern-like foliage covered with white hairs.
Next, I find Anemone leaves and stems reaching upwards. Without its flowering sepals to distinguish one from another, this could be Rue Anemone or False Rue Anemone.
The first woodland flowers are soon to appear within the week or two. The forecast rain and snow of this week will certainly recharge the soil with moisture, jump-starting spring’s forward thrust. Let’s hope that any snow is short lived.
I spy a woodland hawk flying through the bare treetops, carrying twigs in its beak. It flies to what might be a nest high in the woodland. Then I spot another hawk perched much lower. This bird is a Cooper’s Hawk. Its folded wings are blue gray, as is the back of its head, which quietly scans the landscape. Jagged, horizontal, white and rusty-brown bars streak its breast. Its round tipped tail feathers are banded with wide white and grayish-brown stripes.
Far less vigilant are two Canada Geese that lie on ice of Iris pool, resting their heads and necks.
The amount of snow has shrunk remarkably; and with it, the muffling effect of winter’s blanket. Nature has come alive; and she seems to have much to say. A pair of Canada Geese fly overhead, honking. Northern Cardinals echo each other’s calls. From Green Heron Pond, I hear the first male Red-Winged Blackbirds announcing their arrivals. They sing with metallic nasal gurgling and trill. More singing comes in the form of buzzing Black Capped Chickadees, their soft gray, black, and white bodies mirroring the colors of Pussy Willow, which is blooming near the viewing platform at the boardwalk mid-point.
Encircling Green Heron Pond, ski tracks have relinquished right of way to the birders’ boot prints in the pumice-like icy snow, which will soon turn to slush.
Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.