Arb Talk

  • High Prairie trail

     As I sit here thinking of the seemingly hundreds of things that I must complete over the next two weeks, I realize that I am losing sight of the bigger picture. There is very little that I have done lately that will be lasting. In ten years, my professors will possibly remember my name but no one will recall the thesis in my ten-page paper. Similarly, my surroundings have a sort of volatile sense to them. Even in my three years here at Carleton, three new buildings have been built/repurposed, houses have been torn down, sidewalks reconfigured, and so on. The general shape of campus stays the same (barring that the Cannon River doesn’t return to it’s paleo-valley on the football field) yet the structure is ever changing. New technology, new people, new ideas are constantly justification for the alteration of what exists.

  • Hairy Woodpecker

    Arb Notes for May 20 - Bird Count

    May 26, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    Last Saturday was Rotblatt 145, Frisbee Reunion, Rugby Reunion, and “Birder’s Reunion”, the annual Carleton Arboretum Bird Count that brings back birding alums to campus. At 6am, as people were staggering back from Rotblatt for a nap, a group of birdwatchers, alums and local enthusiasts, gathered at the Arb Office to hear the details of their mission.

  • Savanna Burn in the Lower Arboretum

    This past Friday, Myles Bakke led the Arb Naturalists and members of Dan O’Brien’s “Writing the Great Plains” class on a sort of murder mystery tour of the Arb. In the prairie near the flood-plain forest we found the femur (hip ball and socket joint) and lower leg bones of a deer.  It was most likely hit by a car, and then stumbled into the Arb.  But that was not the end of the story.

  • Blowout on McKnight Prairie

    Arb Notes for April 26 - A Spring Walk

    April 26, 2011 at 8:57 am

    The gentle golden hills of McKnight prairie emerging through the mist and driving rain were a welcome sight as we drove along the Cannon River on a cold and wet Earth Day. Along with the other Carleton student naturalists and arb director Nancy Braker, I set out into the gale to get a glimpse of what was supposed to be a spring scene at this thirty three acre slice of remnant prairie just eight miles from the Carleton campus. And in spite of the unseasonable weather, as we tromped through the wet grass we were confronted with unmistakable signs of spring.

  • Snow melt streams over snow in the arboretum

    Now that the snow is melted, we have the opportunity to tromp around the Arb and see what the snow left behind. All of the carcasses that were frozen and buried under the snow all winter are now appearing in various stages of decay.

  • A red squirrel, photographed by Tony Hisgett.

    As the climate has warmed over the last week you may have noticed buds on trees, the grass growing greener, the frolicking of squirrels, or birds singing profusely in the morning sunlight.  But if you are sitting indoors, feeling rather grumpy, like me, about only being able to look out at the cheerful community of plants and animals thriving in Bambi-esque harmony, you may not feel positioned to appreciate such things.  What follows is a list of springtime behavior for the overburdened studentry of Carleton College, who can no longer feel joy.

  • Common Carp

    Lyman Lakes. Lakes? They aren’t necessarily what I look for in a lake, but the name sticks nonetheless. They look great in fog shrouded photographs and surrounded by colorful fall leaves but there is (as always) more to the story. Around campus I’ve heard them called a variety of apprehensive names ranging from uncouth to downright disgusting, yet their history is rooted in the college, as Lyman Lakes haven’t always been Lyman Lakes.

  • A beaver swimming

    Arb Notes for February 24 - Beavers

    February 22, 2011 at 8:42 am

    A lot of people hate beavers.

    Whether the beaver families in the lower arb know that or not, they don’t seem to care. (They’re busy passing the winter socializing in their lodges, if you recall an earlier Arb Notes…)

    Beavers have earned a bad rap for their tendency to chew down our favorite trees and flood our fields. In fact, over the past century beavers have been actively hunted and trapped out of much of the United States, countless dams have been dynamited, and communities have been divided by beaver-related conflict.

  • White Tailed Deer

    Arb Notes for February 17 - Deer Sheds

    February 22, 2011 at 8:36 am

    As this week’s “heat wave” proves, spring is not far out of reach. Just as Carleton students shed jackets and even long pants this time of year, the Arboretum’s male deer (white-tailed deer, or Odocoileus virginianus, if you want to get technical) shed their antlers. Bucks re-grow their antlers—their prime tool for attracting a mate—every year beginning in the spring, leaving the past year’s antlers, or “sheds,” out in the cold for curious Arb visitors to find, particularly in the months of January and February.

  • Cottontail Rabbit

    Gung Hay Fat Choy!  Happy Year of the Rabbit! 

    The start of the Chinese New Year seems like the perfect opportunity to get to know one of the Arb’s (and Northfield’s) most prevalent lagomorphs.  Although their long incisors may make them look deceptively rodent-like, rabbits are part of the order that includes hares and pika.  As a technical point of interest, there actually are differences between “hares” and “rabbits.”

  • Northern Saw-whet Owl

    It’s freezing out—warmer than it’s been in a couple weeks but wet, a penetrating cold. It’s almost dusk, and as I shift from leg to leg I hear again the low, sonorous call. We gaze out into the trees, hoping for a glimpse of the bird among the tangle of gray branches and trunks. Finally, as we’re about to head back to the cars, a lone Great Horned Owl swoops down through the underbrush. We hold our breath, and a second one joins the first, soaring together to the edge of the stand of trees and out of our line of sight.

  • Ok, so it's cold. And there's snow on the ground. And the sun sets before class is over. As any good native Midwesterner, I approach the differing seasons with excitement. I can't imagine a year without the gradual rise and fall of the temperature and the subsequent shedding and donning of layers. But, I also can't imagine a year without constant availability of escape. Grocery stores stocked with food, climate controlled buildings, and a warm cup of tea.