By Greg Lecker
Driving to the Arboretum, I am treated to a fiery red sunrise rippling under low stripes of clouds. However, just above these, overcast grayness caps the sky. I enter the Arboretum and hurriedly rush to capture a few images before the sun disappears behind the cloud mask.
The warmth of the sun washes across distant treetops of the Maple sugarbush. Highbush Cranberry fruit adds its color accent.
Returning through the home landscape demonstration area, sun lights the grasses seed heads with a golden glow. Beyond, the oaks of Three Mile Drive beckon me downhill towards Green Heron Pond.
In the Ordway picnic shelter where a few months ago a family celebrated or enjoyed a picnic lunch, gray squirrels now scamper. Sighting down a twisted Scotch Pine bough, I see the sun disappear behind clouds.
A red squirrel chatters and cries nervously as it scampers across openings between leafless twigs – fingers of trees reaching across – to touch, tickle each other on this cold New Year’s morning. As I watch, the red squirrel explores no less than six different trees. With reddish body and white underbelly, the squirrel’s form is the inverse of snow frosted branches.
I find plenty of tracks of animals leading this way and that through the freshly relatively freshly fallen snow. It now appears that winter sports lovers will have something to play in. As I descend into the Grace Dayton woodland, all is quiet. Then I hear the wind softly whisper through the papery wind chimes of dry oak leaves hanging, screen-like, veiling the view towards a now fully frozen and snow covered Iris Pond.
I’m surprised to hear what sounds like the honking of Canada Geese. Maybe they stayed around to witness the freezing of city lakes – about which I heard described on the radio yesterday. Turning towards Green Heron Pond, I can just make out the iconic red barn at the now dim horizon. The blue gray roof reflects the now overcast sky. A black crow flaps overhead leading me towards the visitor center. There, I find a cluster of its crow cohorts feeding on bird seed scattered on the pavers under the bird feeders. Black-capped chickadees and a Downy Woodpecker join the crows at the feeder.
As I head towards the parking lot, three visitors walk from their cars carrying snowshoes, ready to embrace the snows on this first day of 2016.
Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.