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Whispers from the Woods | Phenology for December

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“Many of the events of the annual cycle recur year after year in a regular order. A year-to-year record of this order is a record of the rates at which solar energy flows to and through living things. They are the arteries of the land. By tracing their response to the sun, phenology may eventually shed some light on that ultimate enigma, the land’s inner workings.”
–Aldo Leopold, A

Phenology for December

• New Moon – Dec. 11th Full moon (Cold Moon or Big Bear Moon) – Dec 25th Keep an eye out for Santa and his reindeer
• 116th Audubon Christmas Bird Count Dec 14th – Jan 5th.
• Winter Solstice – 1st day of winter, Dec 21st and the shortest day of the year.
• On a clear night, look for Taurus the Bull, protecting the Seven Sisters for Orion.
• Snow – look for tracks in the snow: rabbits, squirrels, deer, fox, mink, and weasels.
• Look for snow fleas, commonly called spring tails, on the snow near dead vegetation. Don’t be surprised if ground beetles and other insects may make an appearance on a warm sunny day.
• Hunting season (gun/bow) – wear bright colors when walking in the woods.
• Look for Snow Buntings, Lapland Longspurs, and Horned Larks in open fields of northern Portage County.
• Looking for snowy owls, don’t look in trees. Look for snowy owls sitting on “hummocks” (mounds of dirt or debris) in open fields.
• Woods are quiet. Look for butterflies (Mourning Cloaks and Angle Wings) overwintering under the peeling bark of trees. Look but don’t touch, please.
• Look for the dried remains of wildflowers such as; Indian Pipes, Teasel, Milkweed, Goldenrod, Asters, Queen Ann’s Lace and various grasses. (and ,yes, Oriental Bittersweet)
• Bird Feeders are not the only lunch counter for birds. Dried seed heads of pig weed, lambs’ quarters, mullein, and some grasses provide a tasty treat.
• Golden rod heads catch the blowing snow and look like big Q-tips.
• Perfect snow crystals have six sides, just ask “Snowflake Bentley” who first discovered no two snowflakes are the same.

Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!