Nature Almanac February 2021

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)

Here in Philadelphia…

Last year I decided to do one ecology/environmental activity each month. I didn’t get past March 2020. Last January 2020, I participated in the Christmas Bird Count like I have done in previous years. This year, no Christmas Bird Count for me. I miss it.

During ‘The Count’, advanced and beginner birders survey the different species and population size of the birds heard and seen. The survey takes place in a designated area. I take part on the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education in Andorra/Upper Roxborough area of Philadelphia.

During Last Year’s Bird Count

The Wolf Moon was low in the morning sky. The day of the count was partly cloudy with a high of 66° F. It sure was a change from previous events were it was bitterly cold. I took hand and toe warmers with me but didn’t need them.

My small group saw or heard 44 species of birds that day. I saw Carolina Wrens, Blue Jays, and White-breasted Nuthatches. The day’s highlight was a Savannah Sparrow. We could not believe that it actually was a Savannah. We spent about 15 minutes talking ourselves out of the identification. Savannah Sparrow this far north, in January? No, it can’t be. But it was.

Also spotted that day White-tailed Deer (5 females and 1 buck), coyote scat, flying gnats, and house flies.  I also saw several fully alert Milkweed Bugs – in January!

I long for the days when I can go out with a small group of birders again. Listening for muffled tweets and peeps. Scanning the underbrush for movement and the bare tree limbs for tell-tale silhouettes. It is when I reminisce that I realize just how much we are missing, by not being together and telling each other to be careful and watch our steps.  We need camaraderie and friendship, shared experiences and interests. People do need people. Good people.

I  hope by this year’s fall migration, we all can get outside with gloved hands, trusty binoculars, and hip flasks full of creamy hot chocolate.  Like me, are you dreaming of birding field trips, hiking along sand dunes, and watching butterflies flit through a hot, sunny meadows?

Stay healthy my friends.

Right now it Philly we are waiting for a big snow storm. Stay tuned.

 

Winter and Early Spring Key Happenings

Winter Solstice December 21, 2020

Spring Equinox – March 20, 2021 at 5:37 a.m. EDT – Any way you cut it, there are six more weeks until spring.

Winter last 89 days, 0 hours until the Spring Equinox

 

the moon in a winter evening sky

In the Sky This Month:

  • February 4th – Last Quarter Wolf Moon
  • February 11th – New Snow Moon
  • February 19th – First Quarter Snow Moon
  • February 27th – Full Snow Moon
  • February 2nd – Imbolc/Groundhog Day. This cross-quarter day is celebrated in the Northern Hemisphere by many names. On the Celtic calendar it is called Imbolc.

“The Moon’s path across the sky changes with the seasons. Full Moons are very High in the sky (at midnight) between November and February (winter) and very low in the sky between May and July” – The Old Farmer’s Almanac 2021, p. 102

  • New moon always rises near sunrise
  • First Quarter near noon
  • Full Moon always rises near sunset
  • Winter Full Moons are high in the sky
  • Last Quarter near midnight
  • Moonrise occurs about 50 minutes later each day
  • Midnight Sun At the South Pole – the Sun never sets from September 23rd to March 20th,

Best Fishing – When the Moon is between New and Full  – February 11-27

 

sky_circumpolar stars
Circumpolar stars in the night sky. Photo credit: NASA Planetary Photo Journal Collection.

Stars in the Winter Sky

Circumpolar Constellations – from latitude 40 degree north – these constellations are always in the sky: Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Cassiopeia, Draco, Cepheus, and Camelopaedalis. link to post

 

Winter Constellations

in the Northern Evening Sky: Pegasus, Lacerta, Andromeda, Pisces, Triangulum, Aries, Perseus, Auriga, Gemini, and Cancer.

In the Southern Evening Sky: Cetus, Taurus, Orion, Eridanus, Lepus, Canis Major, Canis Minor, Gemini, Hydra, and Monocerces.

 

 

Nature Study and Nature Journaling Activities

Nature in Winter: An Overview 

Winter Nature Journal and Prompts

 

Male Cardinal in winter
Male Cardinal in winter

Winter Birding

Feeder Watching is the main birding activity for people in cold areas. Birders in the southern U.S. can watch waterfowl and shorebirds at unfrozen bodies of water.

Birds Singing

Listen for the late winter singing of permanent residents.

  • Northern Cardinals
  • Song Sparrows
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Carolina Wren
  • Eastern Bluebirds
  • Great Horned Owls hooting

Birding by Ear: Learning Bird Songs and Calls

For Feeder Watchers

  • Watch for feeding order. Who eats where and when?
  • What species favor what feed?
  • Listen for the calls of the birds. Who calls, males or females?
  • Drawing birds while they feed is easy.
  • Do you irruption species at your feeders?
  • Are birds beginning to sing again?

Take part in Project FeederWatch from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Winter Birding: How to Master It (with video)

Winter Bird Migration and Irruptions (with video)

A Winter Bird Feeding Guide: Attract Birds to Your Backyard (with Video)

Squirrel eating nuts in a tree in winter
Squirrel eating nuts in a tree in winter

Observing Animals in Winter

Is the soil frozen solid? If you can dig in the soil do you see any active creatures?

Now is a good time to sketch wasp nests still on tree branches.

Mammals still active: foxes, coyotes, wolves, skunks, squirrels, opossums, raccoons, bison, elk, moose and of course deer.

How Can Moose Stand in Snow and their Feet Not Freeze

Hibernation

 

 

open seed pod in winter
open seed pod in winter

Observing Native Plants in Winter

Draw and observe twigs of woody plants

Draw and observe evergreen plants

Are fallen leaves still around? What happened to the leaves?

Land and Weather Observations

From which direction does the wind blow?

Winter clouds, what types are they?

Winter Weather Terms https://www.weather.gov/otx/Glossary_of_Weather_Terms

What is the pattern of a snow storm? How many days ahead do the clouds move in? Does the wind pick up? DOes the temperature drop?

The Order of a Rainstorm: Patterns that Predict Rain

 

Citizen Science Events to Participate In

Citizen science projects on SciStarter.org

That’s it for this issue. Look for the next issue at the end of February.

If you have a comment or suggestion, as always leave a comment below.

Happy Nature Journaling!

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