Our landscape has become winter-like this past week with a couple of small snowfalls accompanied by sub-zero temperatures.  Lakes that previously had thin ice have become more consistently frozen and our winter wildlife has become more at home with the cooler weather.  Within the heart of the Twin Cities are many lakes and wildlife areas, and this morning we ventured north about seven miles to an area of lakes that feed into each other, connected by canals or waterways.  This year there is a group of about 40 trumpeter swans that are calling this urban area home.  As we walked into the park the snow enveloped us with its quiet and hush, even though a county highway wasn’t far away.  After a bit we could hear the sounds of the swans and their accompanying mallard ducks as they traversed the canal.  They seemed quite content in this homeland within the city.  The trumpeter swans are large birds having a wingspan of up to seven feet.  As we stopped and watched it was easy to lose ourselves in their honking and the sound of their wings flapping.  The ducks were flying in and out of the waterway, and on the far shore we even spotted a mink as it scurried along the rocks and the ledges then slipped silently underwater.  It was a wonderful treat to spend the time in the outdoors surrounded by the wildlife and waterfowl that have given us this opportunity to observe them so close to our homes.

Winter has arrived this week, and with it so many changes.  For the past six days, our temperatures have stayed below freezing. We’ve had some blowing snow, although not enough to cover the grass.  But the cold weather is now allowing Mother Nature to ice over our lakes and ponds.  Many of the Canada geese are flying high in the sky, heading south to warmer climes.  Whereas before we heard their calls in the early morning and before sunset, now they are continuous throughout the day as they journey away in large flocks before the winter becomes harder and colder.   What waterfowl remain, find it slippery going on the once-liquid lakes.  Soon the transition to winter will be complete and we will revel in her white and shimmering beauty.