Nature Notes

Snow Drifts and Tightly Wrapped Scarves

By Sydney Chandler

The snow drifts are deep, the sun is out, and the gusty wind leaves its trace at the Arboretum. The wind is heard throughout the landscape, it changes the look of the landscape, and it affects animal behavior.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWindy Day Drifts

There is a steady din of wind flying through the trees, around the shrubs, across the fields, and along the road. The gusts are heard coming from a distance and offer an early warning to wrap up scarves a little tighter. At first, the sound of the wind is such a focus that other changes to the soundscape are overlooked. However, the hustle and bustle of birds is significantly minimized, scampering squirrels are few, and a distant snow plow is the only human-made sound.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACanadian Hemlock

Certain areas of the Arboretum provide some respite from the intense wind: hiding among the Canadian Hemlock, tucking beneath a towering snow drift or broad tree trunk – or even imagining a chance to snuggle into a squirrel nest. It’s impressive that these nests are not violently launched from their trees along with small branches, piled-up snow, and pieces of lose bark. Squirrels use a weaving strategy to secure live green twigs into a branch intersection. They then combine a soft interior layer with an outer skeleton of twigs and vines to craft a safe haven that withstands Minnesota weather events.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANest in a Tree

Similarly notable is the flaky bark of the Gold Birch. As wind attacks this tree, bark keeps a solid hold and rattles softly like a distant wooden wind chime. The resilience of plants and animals at the Arboretum in this wind is impressive and is a good reminder to bundle up to soak up the sunshine.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGold Birch

Sydney Chandler is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.

%d bloggers like this: