By Greg Lecker
As has been the case for the past two weeks, evergreen trees throughout the Arboretum are frosted with snow. Over the course of several hours Saturday morning, I strive to capture the changing light on one twisted pine.
Abundant snow offers the opportunity to appreciate the many animal tracks coursing through the gardens. Who made these tracks? Possibilities include: opossum, turkey, squirrel, mink, mice, rabbit, and deer. Could one set of canine-like tracks been made by a coyote stalking prey?
I spy a visitor on snowshoes travelling through the prairie. He agrees with me that it’s a perfect day to get out and enjoy such fleeting phenomenon as falling snowflakes sparkling in low angle sunlight that breaks briefly through mostly cloudy skies.
Even for those without snowshoes or skis, the Arboretum offers easy access to the outdoors. Three-mile drive is plowed and sanded. I easily stroll through Grace Dayton Wildflower Garden paths that have been swept nearly bare. The flexible boughs and adaptive axial leaders of many hemlocks yield to the weight of snow. I watch a company of six squirrels from Circus Quercus perform aerial stunts without a net. From my earth-bound perch below their leafy nest, I interpret decaying tree snags as musical instruments, which remind me of the orchestra-accompanied Handel’s Messiah Sing-along offered today in the Oswald Auditorium.
Warming up in the Snyder-Oswald complex, I observe a flurry of activities enjoyed by visitors. The steamy conservatory fogs up my cold camera lens which only lends artistic license to the spectacularly blooming Christmas cactus.
Positively beaming, two proud parents stroll through the connecting second floor breezeway carrying their three-month-old twins. The dining room is filling up with families and solo visitors enjoying warm food. In the Oswald Visitor Center, evergreen trees are adorned with ornaments constructed of natural materials by the Arboretum Auxiliary.
Windows overlooking bird feeders offer views of blue jays, cardinals, juncos and more! Back outside and using the stone railing of the Snyder Building patio as a make-shift blind, I watch woodpeckers wing in with their up-and-down wave-like flight patterns. Always delightful, chickadees flit in and out, buzzing their greetings!
Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.