Halle O’Falvey Columnist
The waters of the lakes and rivers are open in many places yet. Lake Phalen, in St. Paul, is one, as is Bass Ponds in Bloomington. Trumpeter swans and goldeneyes are plentiful. There were many mallards, as well as a few pairs of hooded mergansers hanging around each other.
The trumpeter swans have their full grown grey colored cygnets with them as they navigate to their winter residence. You can tell the families apart from one another. They stay close together. Many parents can bring five cygnets to adulthood. In the late summer the ‘flight school’ is hilarious with five learning to fly at the same time. Lots of short take offs and landings.
The goldeneyes are brilliant with their striking golden eyes. The male has a green head with a white patch below each eye. Its body is mostly white with black tail feathers that seem to stick up. The female has a beautiful warm brown head, a grey body, and a white patch on her neck. The ducklings share that white patch. Both goldeneyes have black bills and golden eyes. They are divers, so their legs are further back on their bodies, it is more difficult for them leave the water. Not like their waterfowl relatives, the mallards, who we often see walking on land with great ease. Hooded mergansers are divers too, and the smallest of all the mergansers. With a big white patch on their heads, amber eyes and transparent eyelids, the male mergansers almost look like an abstract painting in browns, blacks and whites. Both males and females have crests on their heads. It was a great view in the bleak, cloudy landscape this December.
So, here’s my nature joke: If Kevin, our resident white squirrel, lost his tail, where would you to get him another? A “Retail” Store.This month will be our snowiest but coldest month according to the Farmers Almanac. So, if you are up to it. Here is your winter activity for January: Make Snow Sculptures, but not just any old snow sculptures. Make your own snow-based renderings of “Minnesota Rocks,” stone sculptures located around our city. They were carved over several weeks during a stone carving symposium that came to St Paul in 2006 thanks to St. Paul Public Arts. (I visited the carvers many times.) Twelve sculptures were installed in our city. Visit one, two or all twelve sculptures. I have listed the website that has an image of each stone sculpture and its location below this article. Also, North Bridge Park has several sculptures worth an echo in snow.
If you take this challenge to make your own renderings in snow, you can use your hands as tools, of course or bring some hand tools. I got some great advice from local artist, teacher and Snow Sculpturer, Dusty Thune, founding member of the Internationally Ranked Snow Sculpting Team “House of Thune.” Dusty recommends using shovels, sandpaper, ice scrappers, curry-combs (metal horse brushes), bringing a five-gallon bucket, a sled, wood chisels, and of course, a sharpening stone to keep your tools sharp.
Are you up for this challenge? I, for one, will be preparing a large blue, Ikea bag full of gardening shovels, sandpaper, ice scrappers, and maybe a few screw drivers and spoons.
Send me photos of you and your sculpture for us to share with our readers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
View the snow sculptures at houseofthune.com/home/ and the North High Bridge Park sculptures at stpaul.gov/facilities/north-high-bridge-park. A guide to the Minnesota Rocks sculptures is available at bit.ly/2KWEZY4 and more information on them can be found here: bit.ly/3hfZVFM.