By Sydney Chandler
At first, the landscape of fallen leaves is silent. Within a moment, patches of the forest floor begin to come alive. A patch of leaves rustles and twitches mysteriously. A sudden burst of movement, and a gray squirrel pops from the leaf litter! Comically, it looks around as if searching for playmates at an indoor ball pit before bounding off through the leaves.
A silent forest: maple, oak, cottonwood, and hickory trees.
To experience this excitement, stillness is key. With stillness, the forest quickly comes alive with the sights and sounds of frantic pre-winter foraging. Rustling sounds are misleading in their volume, and walkers may be surprised to realize that a squirrel, and not a herd of elephants, is the source of auditory disturbances.
Gray squirrel foraging in leaf litter.
Along the Three Mile Drive, squirrel activity is most prevalent near the Green Heron Pond. Squirrels scurry up, down, and around sugar maples, eastern cottonwoods, oaks, and bitternut hickories. Continuing along the road toward the conifers and hedges means leaving the bustle of foraging behind. The territorial red squirrels are glad to be rid of unwelcome visitors who pass through. Their alarming vocalizations finally cease, and their focus returns to chasing off gray squirrels.
Sunshine on the forest floor.
Stillness and observation allow visitors to enjoy comedic squirrel behavior. Imaginative explorers will laugh while crafting stories to describe the entertaining squirrel activity in the forest. Experiencing the forest by adding laughter to the soundscape is a great way to spend a sunny day at the Arboretum.
Perched in a tree, taking a break from diving through leaf litter.
Sydney Chandler is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.