By Greg Lecker
Ski and snowshoe trail signs are up; and ski tracks are obvious. Less so are other tracks that I found. I’ll start with the easy question and answer:
Deer tracks (and human boot tracks) are clear to see in shallow snow. At other times their tracks might be confused – such as when they are in deeper snow or show signs of stepping around searching.
Clean tracks in shallow snow on hard ground are easy to identify – gray squirrel tracks are most often in a “box.” In another area, the tracks are confused – but here, there is a sign of a squirrel digging into its food cache (or burying a new one?).
As I reach the edge of the prairie, the sun shines through the cloud veil just enough to bend the spectrum from burnt orange to yellow gold.
The fine grass stems that remain are a mix of little and big bluestem – and I think mostly big blue stem.
Looking down, I’m drawn to the still fresh-looking autumn leaves from a Norway maple.
I was a bit torn between this species and sugar maple. Then I confirmed that the leaf size and pointed tips are indicative of Norway maple. That and the yellow ochre hue rather than the more colorful orange of the sugar maples. In addition, the thick leathery-like Norway maple leaves stand up to the weather a bit more durably.
Nodding seed heads are another remainder of autumn.
I had not even noticed so many Culver’s Root flowers; and yet, here are the seed heads that closely resemble the flower form. Culver’s Root flowers – and seed heads – have many branches. Had the stem been narrower and the “fingers” just three; I would have considered big blue stem – also know as turkey foot because of the resemblance to the bird’s foot. Speaking of turkeys, I heard and saw two turkeys in the distance.
Be sure to visit the current exhibit “Our Responsibility: Preserve the Earth” in the Cafe Gallery, closing January 7, 2020. Nature is preserved in assemblages of wood and glass, and textiles colored with natural dyes.
Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.