Nature Notes

Pushing It Along

By Mary Beth Pottratz

Sun Shines

Sunlight glows on the crusty snow and I greet it like a long-lost friend. It is lightly diminished by a pale haze, and shadows are less harsh. The afternoon is a warm but breezy 41⁰. Chickadees are making quick little “check check” calls to each other. Nearby, blue jays sing “toodle-loo”.

Animal Tracks

Animal tracks sink so deep in the snow that it is hard to make a positive identification. Beneath my bird feeder at home, dozens of tiny tunnels provide cover for my resident chipmunks. They pop out of the snow and grab some seeds before scurrying down another hole.

Pileated Woodpecker

Pale blue plastic tubing runs from one sugar maple tree to another throughout the woodland. At the bottom of a hill, several sugar maples have blue plastic bags just starting to bulge with sap. Turkeys peck at the ground beneath pine trees, but don’t seem to be finding much to eat. The bright red crest of a pileated woodpecker catches my eye. It starts sporadically tapping on a tree trunk, keeping balance with its long, sturdy tailfeathers.

The back of the pileated’s head resembles a Pokemon ball! Which, by the way, is still alive and well at the Arb with dozens of gyms and pokestops. My poke-buddy Milotic even found a few Pikachus to play with.


Suddenly, loud hoots erupt from the forest nearby. A pair of barred owls call back and forth and then at the same time. I rush to the woodland and pan the bare treetops with my binoculars. How hard could it be to find a large owl?

Barred Owl

Finally, the sun glints off white feathers riffling in the wind. The barred owl is perched on a branch next to the tree trunk, its eyes shut tight. They seem to open a little as I approach. Its body remains immobile.

Small red squirrels are climbing trees and digging in the snow. Oddly, I see no gray squirrels. In the distance, a cardinal whistles its repeated note. Throughout my wanderings, I hear a high-pitched “seet” call, almost inaudible and similar to cedar waxwings, but I see none.

Downy Woodpecker

A downy woodpecker with pale red on the back of its head drums here and there on a dead branch, squeaking at another downy nearby.

Spring will begin in just a few weeks, and daylight savings time in less than a week. Days like this are just helping to push spring along.

Mary Beth Pottratz is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer. More information about the Master Naturalist Volunteer program is available at

6 comments on “Pushing It Along

  1. Marcine Purinton

    Thanks! Reading your bold started my day off with a smile and anticipation for Spring!

  2. Pingback: Pushing It Along — Nature Notes

  3. Lovely… let’s hear more of it.

  4. Great shot of the fluffy barred owl!

  5. Jennifer Kamm

    So fun to read your blog Mary Beth!

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