By Boak Wiesner
Now that the Solstice is past, days will lengthen, yes, but, oh! will it take a long time. Even so, animals at the Arb are still active, though I see only a squirrel trotting through the forest. He’s been leaving abundant signs, though, of what he’s been up to.
His little hands that he uses to climb trees so fast leave distinct tracks in the snow. Conditions are really good to see them today, with the low angle of the winter sun putting them in stark relief. I can easily see the horizon cut and the wall that even this lightweight little critter left here.
That little body has a big ratio of skin, through which he loses a lot of heat to the environment, compared to his volume, all his cells and their parts that need nutrition and oxygen. So he’s gotta eat. There are lots of digs in the snow where he went looking for acorns.
Overhead is a hole in a Sugar Maple. The inside section of the trunk, the heartwood, will typically decay away before the outer layers, that sapwood, whose xylem still has material flowing through, though not now, of course, as all the leaves are down. A little gnawing here and there and lo! there’s a snug cavity in which to wait out the storms of winter.
Boak Wiesner is a Minnesota Naturalist Volunteer