By Mary Beth Pottratz
The beauty of snow glinting in sunlight catches my heart every time I see it. Today is no exception!
But the sight of golden tamarack needles lustrous with snow stops me in my tracks. Squirrel tracks in the white under the tamarack are filling with needles that have just started to fall. I don’t recall ever seeing snow until long after tamarack needles have fallen.
Everywhere the landscape is peaceful and hushed under the sparkling carpet. I hear a high-pitched “seeeet” call from the treetops. I follow the sound around a path to a bird feeder. It is a white-throated sparrow, already visiting on its winter migration. It pecks at the seeds on the ground, keeping a wary eye around.
The sky clouds over and light flurries drift down silently. Shrub roses are tipped with wilted pink blooms wearing white caps. Coneflowers resemble mini-cupcakes frosted with snow.
The distant honk of geese slowly becomes louder. Suddenly, just as a few dozen geese appear overhead in V-formation, barred owls start to call urgently from the forest. As more geese pass above and call noisily, the cacophony from the woods reaches a hooting crescendo. As the last V-formation flaps by, the owls stop calling just as suddenly as they started.
A tall conifer is lightly flocked and decorated with khaki-colored pine cones for the holidays.Ladder-shaped twigs of a stately elm trace delicate lines against a dense white sky. A white-breasted nuthatch laughs from the trees. Interesting nests are now evident in the bare branches.
A bright red cardinal stands guard as his tawny wife and children dine at a bird feeder. Dark-eyed juncos silently pick up leavings on the ground, unconcerned about the nearby squirrel. Black-capped chickadees flit nearby, patiently waiting their turns.
Wild turkeys perform an amusing dance. Two steps forward to scratch snow into the air behind them, then two steps backward to the now-bared ground, then peck-peck-peck to glean a snack. One-two, one-two, cha-cha-cha they go, fanning out on the hillside.
Snow ironically coats a tropical glass sculpture behind the visitor center. Tiny mouse tracks sprint to a hiding place under a shrub, its tail dragging in the snow between its prints.
My camera seizes up with today’s 15⁰. That’s a full twenty-five degrees lower than average! Wishing for a camera that can last longer in the cold than I can, I reluctantly head home.
Mary Beth Pottratz is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer. More information about the Master Naturalist Volunteer program is available at http://www.minnesotamasternaturalist.org.