Nature Notes

Closer Than Six Feet

Editor’s Note: We know that staying connected to nature is important, especially as we cope with a global pandemic. Since the Arboretum is temporarily closed to visitors (including walkers), our Minnesota Master Naturalist volunteers are finding other ways to share their observations of the natural world. We wish to open our gates to public soon, but until then, we hope you are all finding ways to enjoy nature. 

COVID-19 Update: Find updates and information here.  

By Sydney Chandler

Although the Arboretum is currently inaccessible (along with the rest of the Arboretum grounds) by the direction of the University of Minnesota, there’s lots to explore close to home. There are fascinating sights to see right where you live!

There’s a new internal dialogue many of us have while exploring outside on trails: “Is this trail six feet wide?”. .  “Is that family going to move over?” . . . “Yikes, here comes a parade of bikes! Time to bail off the trail for extra space.” Bailing off the trail and getting closer than six feet to some interesting findings is where the adventure begins!

Cattails at the Marsh

Many cattails in the marshes have wonderfully fuzzy tops right now, long green leaves, and sturdy stalks that sway in the spring wind. Red-wing black birds perch on the cattails and call out while puffing out the bright red and orange feathers on their shoulders. With some quiet watching, there might be a muskrat to see rummaging around the base of the cattails having a snack.

Chinese Mystery Snail Shell

A shiny shell sticks sits in the mud on the bank of a lake. The shell spirals to a knobby tip, the surface is smooth beneath the remaining sand debris, and the subtle stripes help camouflage this shell into the reeds, sand, and weeds of the lake. The Chinese Mystery Snail is an invasive species that was first recorded in Minnesota in the early 2000s.

Beaver Sign

The beavers were busy at this tree near the water’s edge. Getting closer than six feet here is a great benefit – parallel grooves in the bark show marks from beaver teeth as they gnaw at the wood. Notice the periodic change in direction in the chew pattern. Lots of discarded pieces of wood litter the ground around this beaver sign.

Enjoy the findings in your neighborhood whether you enjoy them from a distance or up close!

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