Arb Talk

  • 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.

  • A trail in the arb covered in snow.

    Arb Notes for January 19 - Don't Hibernate!

    January 25, 2011 at 9:15 am

    It is winter and we all know what that means at Carleton; short grey days, biting cold, and lots of snow and ice. Those of us who live in the complex are thanking our lucky stars and those of us who don’t are, like badger, telling our friends that we are really ‘busy’ and so cannot walk to the other side of campus to visit them. But what are all our neighbors in the Arb up to these days? And what kind of company do they keep?

  • A muskrat on ice in the arb.

    If you’re getting the winter blues, come out to the Arb . In town, winter is a nuisance - sidewalks are icy, everything is gray and white, and the wind whips your face. Winter feels like an ordeal, something we’d all be better off without. When you go outside to the Arb to see the trees and prairie, it’s clear that the land needs the cold weather- winter isn’t punishment; it’s as beneficial as any season.

  • Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans) seedhead in arboretum prairie

    Arb Notes for November 12 - McKnight Prairie

    November 15, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    The Arb. Hopefully you’ve explored (at least a little bit) by now. Perhaps you go there to run, to cross country ski (if it ever gets cold enough), to stargaze, to complete work for a biology lab, to spot wildlife, or to clear your head after a long ninth week full of looming due-dates. In general, the Arb has a comfortable place within the lives of most of the student body. However, the Arb is not the only piece of natural land Carleton owns. McKnight Prairie is a 33.5 acre prairie fragment purchased by the college in 1968. One of the few remaining prairie remnants after most of southern Minnesota went into agriculture, walking into McKnight is like taking a trip back in time, showing us how current farmland looked before corn and soybeans took control.

  • A photograph of a wolf spider, image found on flickr and reproduced with permission of photographer.

    With Winter Term approaching, it’s time to review your hibernation strategies. While we hole up in heated buildings, the burrowing wolf spider digs a den below the frost line to protect herself from the snow and cold.

  • A coyote on a road, photo taken by Emdot on flickr and reproduced with permission of photographer.

    Arb Notes for October 29 - Coyote Dens

    November 1, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    Friday evening approaches and with it the event during which more people on campus will be paired off then at any other time in the year. Set up your roommate is tonight and, whether you are wondering who your roommate could have set you up with or wondering what they will think when they finally find the cookie to their milk or the Piglet to their Pooh, you might also want to take a moment to wonder about one of the potential pairings in the Arb. A den which Arboretum Director Nancy Braker found this past week suggests that there is a pair of coyotes in the area.