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What Time is it in Nature: Prairie Ridge in the Snow

January 30, 2013

Though we didn’t get a lot of snow in either of the recent snowfalls, Prairie Ridge did get a good dusting each day.  If you didn’t make it out in time to see the snow before it melted, the grounds were quite beautiful.  The section of prairie that was mowed this year had the thickest layer of snow on the grounds:

Snow on prairie

The snow also lasted the longest in that area, in spite of being out in the sun most of the day.  Down in the shady areas of the Forest Trail along the creek, the snow didn’t stick to areas with grass at all:

snow on grassy areas

It is likely that the ground is slightly warmer along that trail, even though it was in the shade, because the soils are very moist there.  Water is slow to heat up and cool down, so the sodden soils along the Forest Trail may have been just warm enough to prevent the snow from sticking.  Likewise, the pond didn’t freeze at all during the first snow:

snow and the pond

The surface of the pond did freeze during the second snow, though.  If you visited the pond before the ice melted, you would have seen evidence of several animals that we see regularly on the grounds, such as birds and rodents, scattered across the snow on the ice.  If you’re interested in looking for animal tracks, the morning after a snow is a great time to see them!

The water in the creek rises as the snow melts and runs into the channel.  You could see evidence of minor flooding in the creek after the first snow began to melt:

creek after snowmelt

The water was higher than usual and quite muddy, the result of high flows and streams of melted snow carrying nutrients and soils into the creek.

While snow and the leafless trees can make everything look washed out and drab, there were still some surprising splashes of color on the snowy grounds.  The Winterberry bushes are particularly vibrant with their bright red berries:

winterberry fruits

With the snow melting off the berries and the bright color against the blue sky and white grounds, the Winterberries looked spectacular!  The birds were also quite active at the bird feeders on both snowy days so that you could see flashes of red and blue as the Northern Cardinals and Eastern Bluebirds took advantage of the seed.

Winter is a great time to come out to Prairie Ridge!  If the roads are passable, it’s well worth a trip to see the snow here.  There is always something interesting to see in the snow.

What Time is it in Nature is a weekly feature highlighting the current plants, animals, and other wildlife at the Musuem’s public outdoor facility, Prairie Ridge Ecostation. Find out more about the natural happenings at Prairie Ridge at our What Time is it in Nature Archive!

(Photos by Chris Goforth)

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