Northland Nature: Eye-opening morning walk after the big stormLast weekend’s snow was welcomed by some of us, and it may have changed our November. This month was previously far above normal in temperature. Only three days before the snowfall, Duluth recorded nearly 60 degrees — the warmest day of the month.
I’m up early and outside for a walk to view the month’s first snow.
We did get some more snow during the night, but most on the ground this morning came yesterday. Temperatures are about 30 degrees and the northeast wind associated with the storm has stopped.
The wet snow clings to branches all around me. Many of the small hazels and dogwoods in the woods are bent over from the weight.
At the swamp, I see similar poses with the alders.
When I bump these arboreal arches and relieve them of this new load, they snap back up to their usual stance. In the yard, the lilac holds a white coat where green leaves were visible as recently as two days ago.
Nearby, the drooping branches of the weeping willow clasp the snow along with their yellow leaves.
Several large trees did not bend with the burden: In the yard and along the road, I find downed branches of maple and oak.
Out here at this time in this snowy scene, I feel like I’m seeing an untrammeled white wilderness.
A little look reveals that not only am I alone; I am not the first to witness this remarkable November scene. New tracks tell many tales of activity before my arrival.
In the yard, gray squirrels scamper about for breakfast. A few dig among oak leaves for cached acorns.
Partially covered raccoon tracks head out from the yard; I wonder if it is the same one that’s been having nocturnal snacks at our bird feeders.
At the yard’s edge, I see where a meadow vole takes advantage of the 6-inch blanket of snow and goes under it, while deer mice in the woods travel overhead. The snow stories continue.
Further in the woods, I see where deer and a fox wandered in the pre-dawn darkness.
Moving down the trail, I stop and take a closer look at a set of large footprints. Big feet and claws clearly visible in the wet snow tell where a bear has ambled by in search of a meal — and maybe a place for winter’s sleep.
Last weekend’s snow was welcomed by some of us, and it may have changed our November. This month was previously far above normal in temperature. Only three days before the snowfall, Duluth recorded nearly 60 degrees — the warmest day of the month.
Not only was the ground not frozen, but local ponds, swamps and lakes held no ice.
With these conditions, a lot of the falling snow melts on contact. I’m surprised at how much of a cover we did get.
Larger bodies of water remained devoid of ice — I even see two mergansers at one of these open sites — but swamps and ponds blend snow and water into a slushy covering.
Several species of birds seek feeder sunflower seeds as they eat breakfast, but in the woods are others: pileated woodpeckers and ruffed grouse find meals elsewhere, while a rough-legged hawk flies over.
Not to be overlooked, some tiny critters move over the snow too. Dark bodies of dwarf spiders that drifted in a ballooning thread a few days ago now walk over the surface. Nearby, I see a winter crane fly sitting patiently on its snowy perch.
The day will warm. The winds will pick up again, and much of the snow cover that I see here on this morning is temporary. But, for the time being, it is an awesome and terrific trek to take on the morning following the first snowstorm of November.
Retired teacher Larry Weber is the author of several books that are available now, including “Butterflies of the North Woods,” “Spiders of the North Woods” and “Webwood.” Contact him c/o email@example.com.