Nature Notes

Tracks of Life

From the tan colored wetland rises a tree snag -- full of holes.  In one case, I can clearly see through the tree to the sky beyond.  An ecologist would call it a “wildlife tree.”  What animals might be living in the trunk?  

By Greg Lecker

As I descend the shallow slope from the Arboretum’s Sensory Garden parking lot, I notice tracks in the snow that remind me of a snowflake pattern woven into a winter sweater.  These are wild turkey tracks; and they lie undisturbed in the freshly fallen snow of a week ago. Visitors seem to have purposefully walked around the tracks.

Wild Turkey Tracks

The hills south of Green Heron Pond haven’t yet hidden the setting sun.  By the end of this week, each passing day will add three minutes of daylight.  And the rate of increased daylight continues accelerating as the calendar nears the spring equinox (March 20).   

Wooded Hills

As I walk along the path on the south side of the pond, I am struck by the moaning of tree boughs in the nearby trees. Looking up, I realized how I could capture this in a photograph.

Moaning Tree Boughs

The setting sun highlights the area of the tree from which the sound had come.

From the tan colored wetland rises a tree snag — full of holes.  In one case, I can clearly see through the tree to the sky beyond.  An ecologist would call it a “wildlife tree.”  What animals might be living in the trunk?  

”Wildlife Tree” Snag

Snags provide habitat for many species of birds and mammals.  Dead, decaying wood supports decomposers like bacteria and fungi, and insects.  Woodpeckers nest in these snags and enlarge cavities that are used for other species.  These organisms and the structural complexity of cavities, hollows, and broken tops make snags prime habitat for birds, bats, and small mammals, which in turn feed larger predators.   These predators include coyotes. Near the tree snag, I find coyote scat frozen to fallen tree bark lying on the boardwalk

Coyote Scat

Though I haven’t seen coyotes at the Arboretum, I do see coyotes even in the city of Minneapolis – even during the day. Here at the Arboretum, this coyote scat is netted together by the hair of a hare – a rabbit consumed by the predator. 

What will you find when you next visit the Arboretum?  In the Reedy Gallery, explore plant and woody forms sculpted in clay by artist Katharine Eksuzian (on exhibit through March 2). And don’t miss visiting the spring flower show in the lobbies of both Oswald and Snyder buildings (blooming through February 27).  The color and fragrance will be worth your drive and the effort of your visitor reservation. 

Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.

1 comment on “Tracks of Life

  1. Thanks Greg, inspiring share. It encouraged me to find beauty in the small things in nature.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: