January 2023 Nature Almanac

fungi covered branch in winter
fungi covered branch in winter

January 2023 and a new year of natural events and delights is upon us. I’m excited to watch the equinoxes and solstices, the majesty of full moons, the first appearance of Orion in the winter sky. 

In a few short months the neotropical birds will return from their homes in the warm southern hemisphere. Butterflies will flutter along on summer breezes. 

Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) perched in my backyard.
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) perched in my backyard.

And the Song Sparrows (Melospiza melodia) have returned to my backyard. Song Sparrows live year-round in Pennsylvania but I don’t see them in my backyard until winter. Their distinctive striped breast and the spot in the center of their chest is what lets me know I’m looking at this bird and not the more common House Sparrow.

December was a month of fluctuations. There have been above average temperature days that were warm enough for small flies and gnats to be active and flying about. Other days have temperatures in the 20s ℉ and below. 

Spring and Gardening

Spring is just around the corner. According to Earth’s Natural Calendar, spring begins with the Vernal (Spring) Equinox. I’ve bought seed starting mix, seeds, and picked up free municipal compost in anticipation. In the next few weeks, I’ll have to start those early spring crops. It warms up so fast here in the Delaware Valley, I need to start early if I want a decent crop of spring foods.

I posted about my book, A Seasonal Gardener’s Handbook, earlier this morning. In the book I’ve researched and shared some of those questions gardening books miss explaining. In the book I explain the importance of nighttime temperatures, how to harden off, chilling periods, and more. If you are a new gardener, I’m sure it can help.

By purchasing my books direct from me and using my affiliate links, you help to make this website possible.  🙂

Read more about A Seasonal Gardener’s Handbook

Winter Stargazing

I enjoy stargazing in winter, but the cold keeps my sessions to very short lengths of time. I stick with the easy to find stars so I can quickly get back in the house. In the Nature almanac below I list some the most prominent and easy to find objects in the winter night sky.

A delight this past month has been seeing the Orion star constellations low and large right over my backyard. It was such a awe-filled moment when I looked up overhead and saw the distinct three stars of Orion’s belt directly overhead.  The constellation looked so huge. When you look at the constellations in a book or on a star map, you can be fooled to think it’s a small cluster in the night sky. 

But oh boy, look up into the night sky and bam! The constellation is huge and you feel so very small. I think feeling small is a good thing. It keeps us humble. 

Winter sunrise with crescent Moon.
Winter sunrise with crescent Moon from my bedroom window facing east.

As I write this the Winter Solstice was two Wednesdays ago. I watched the Sun rise to the Southeast in pretty much the same spot I marked on my solstice map back in 2005. Sister Sun is dependable. “She rises in the east and sets in the west bringing the light of a new day. She is the source of all fires of life.” (Words Before All Else)

Watching the rising of that most powerful of phenomena, the Sun, I realize how much I depend on her for everything. I couldn’t exist without the hot ball of gases exploding and columns of fire shooting into the atmosphere. 

my Winter Solstice tree.
my Winter Solstice tree.

Knowing how to “read” the Sun, the solstices, and equinoxes, makes me feel strong and capable. After I published the post on the Winter Solstice a YouTube video on the Mayan use of the solstices popped up in my feed. It’s by the Smithsonian and is entitled,  The Secret Behind the Ancient Mayans Agricultural Prowess”. And I thought, “How can it be a secret when so many cultures around the world did the same thing?”  

But if we follow the same reading of the sky and following the solstices, we have that same ancient knowledge. If you want a good visual of how to track the solstices and equinoxes, watch the video The Secret Behind the Ancient Mayans Agricultural Prowess


January 2023 Nature Almanac

Reading the Sky

  • 6th January  – Full Wolf Moon, always rises near sunset
  • 14th January – Last Quarter Wolf Moon, rises near midnight
  • 21st January – New Snow Moon, always rises near sunrise
  • 28th January – First Quarter Snow Moon, rises near noon

Wolf Moon wolves are heard at this time

Snow Moon – the time of heavy snow

Hungry Moon – the Snow Moon is also called the Hungry Moon as hunting can be difficult during this time.

Star Constellations January 2023

A pair of binoculars will enhance your viewing pleasure. But sticking to naked eye viewing brings us closer to what our ancestors saw. Using telescopes shows us astronomical objects on a monumental scale, but we miss all the naked-eye objects which enhance our connection to Earth’s rhythms. 

  • Big Dipper (part of Ursa Major, the Big Bear). The handle of the Big Dipper points to the Polaris, the North Star
  • Polaris (North Star)
  • circumpolar stars
  • Orion
  • Pleiades 
  • Cassiopeia is visible in the northern sky to the right and down from the Andromeda Galaxy.
  • Brightest stars in the sky- Betelgeuse (saying “Beetle juice” is close enough) and Rigel (rye-gell) bright blue star in Orion. Both are found in Orion. Betelgeuse is the red star in the left shoulder of Orion. The bluish star Rigel is opposite Betelgeuse at about the same height. 

About Betelgeuse on the Planets.org 

More about Rigel on Plants.org

Meteor Showers

Quadrantid – best seen before dawn  the northern area of the sky. See up to 25 meteor per hour on the peak of January 4th, 2023. The Moon will be near full and bright making the meteors harder to see. 

See the planet Mercury before sunrise low in the eastern sky. It will be best seen on the last 10 days of the month. 


bare winter tree branches
bare winter tree branches

Winter Nature Journal Prompts

Nature in Winter: Overview 

Keeping a Winter Nature Journal with Writing Prompts

Winter Nature Photography Tips

Nature Almanac for Nature Journal Keepers

 

Past Nature Almanacs

Nature Almanac January 2021

Winter Nature Almanac January 2020

Nature Almanac Archive

 

2 comments

  1. Reading your blog on a foggy New Year’s Eve morning in Richmond, Virginia. Thank you for sharing your many observations about this season. In addition to those that you mentioned another I look forward to is the day in January when the sunrise starts getting earlier. At my latitude that is January 13. We have more light even as the winter season depends.

    • Good Morning Carolyn, Thanks for commenting. It’s a foggy morning here in Philly, too. I keep reminding myself, this is what walking through a cloud feels like. I’m watching the fog drift across the ground. The visibility is very low. From my desk I can just see the chimneys of the houses across the back drive just over 150 feet away. I love fog. Misty and otherworldly, fog is a veil between two worlds. I think Philadelphia and Richmond are about the same latitude. I didn’t know the January 13th date. Thanks for that.

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