Some people regard November in Minnesota as a drab, uninteresting time, but there are always changes as the Earth moves in its charted course around the sun.
I have tried to get my students or others on my interpretive walks to discover that November can be exciting, too. Remember, this month of clouds produces some of the most colorful sunrises and sunsets of the year.
There are signs of whitetailed deer rubbing on tree bark and scraping the soil, meaning the rutting season has begun. The leafy shelters of squirrels are seen high up in oaks and maples. Tundra swans are seen overhead, and we hear their muffled musical whistles. They are coming from their summer range that is mainly north of the Arctic Circle. They are headed to their wintering home along the Atlantic Coast. A good place to see hundreds, sometimes thousands, of tundra swans is the Mississippi River and its backwaters in Minneiska and south of Brownsville.
On warmer sunny days, a few painted turtles in ponds will crawl up on half-sunken logs to bask in the sun. Garter snakes come out in the sun; so do honeybees, some late butterflies, bumblebees and flower flies visiting the few last flowers. We see active grasshoppers and ladybugs, plus spiders ballooning on single strands of silk. Weeping willows have golden-yellow leaves, and other woody plants display late fall foliage colors.
Jim Gilbert’s Nature Notes are heard on WCCO Radio at 7:15 a.m. Sundays. His observations have been part of the Minnesota Weatherguide Environment Calendars since 1977, and he is the author of five books on nature in Minnesota.