By Mary Beth Pottratz
Large snowflakes fall silently in slow, straight drifts. There is almost no wind on this 32⁰ afternoon.
A soft green lichen swells with snowmelt on wood. A pair of white-breasted nuthatches flirt and flit down branches. Chickadees are everywhere, calling and chatting. I hear blue jays and crows in the distance.
A snowy scene is so welcome after a December so warm that snow melted away before I could put on my snowshoes!A duo of cross-country skiers glide by. Others with backpacks and snowshoes are exploring the forest. Crinkled petals are mostly fallen off the yellow flowers still hanging onto witch hazel twigs in the woods.
Northern cardinals pop bright red against snow-flecked trees. Two downy woodpeckers climb up branches, playing tag in bare treetops. I hear, but can’t see, a robin calling softly.
Interesting tree shapes are frosted with snow in contrast to dark, wet bark, like this redbud. Forsythia buds are already starting to swell. No wonder they are first to flower in the spring!
Prairie golden aster hangs stubbornly to its last few round, puffy seed heads. Most of the seeds are long gone, leaving stark white bracts shaped like daisies.
Dark-eyed juncos and an American tree sparrow take turns visiting the feeder just outside the Arb Cafe. I head in to warm up with a hot cocoa and watch the birds from a cushy chair facing the window. Several art galleries offer beautiful paintings of flowers, trees, shrubs, barns and wetlands, plus amazing macro photographs of insects, flowers, and more.
I head back outside to take advantage of the dwindling light. Arb-member Rhoda is walking the trails and we agree how peaceful and beautiful it is to be out in the falling snow. I take her photo. Her bright blue jacket, pink trim and wide smile stand out brilliantly against the snowy backdrop.
The snow increases and the air chills. Better run errands on the way home, before tomorrow’s predicted below-zero temperatures!
Mary Beth Pottratz is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer. More information about the Master Naturalist Volunteer program is available at http://www.minnesotamasternaturalist.org.