By Holly Einess
It’s a bright, cold, breezy weekday, and I decide to see what kinds of nature sightings I might have on Three-Mile Walk. I’ve noticed the signs for this walk for a while now but have never actually taken it; turns out I’m in for a treat!
I pass first through the Wildflower Garden, where a few chickadees are calling and a gray squirrel rummages through the leaves on the ground. Climbing up out of the garden, the path takes me past a group of trees where several squirrels are frolicking, chasing each other across branches, then stopping and clambering over one another. The start of mating season is at least a month away, so this is all just innocent play.
Gray squirrels playing
A blue jay lands high in a tree as a nuthatch makes its way down the trunk. Near the Prairie Garden, I hear the drumming of a woodpecker, and eventually spy a male downy tapping industriously away, red spot on the nape of his neck especially bright in today’s sunshine.
As I cross the bridge leading to the Garden for Wildlife, I peer over the railing and see that ice has begun to form in the stream below, creating artsy patterns among the fallen leaves.
Reaching the garden, I am entertained for a time by a pair of chickadees flitting about in sumac bushes and eating their fruit. Though admittedly a common bird, I enjoy their spunky cheeriness and am always happy to see them.
The path crosses Three-Mile Drive several times and some lovely vistas open up, including one that affords a distant view of the red barn and silo of Farm at the Arb.
Three-Mile Walk vista
I again enter a more wooded area and see a red squirrel chasing off a gray. Though smaller than their gray cousins, red squirrels have a big attitude, and this one chatters at me even as he stands his ground.
The last stretch of the walk runs along Green Heron Pond, which is frozen and covered in a thin layer of snow. I see still more chickadees and squirrels, as well as a red-bellied woodpecker, all of whom will spend the winter in Minnesota, finding shelter and food as they can. I’m thoroughly chilled despite my warm coat and mittens, and am impressed by how well nature has equipped these creatures to endure our winters with nothing but their own fur, feathers, and wits.
Holly Einess is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.