Nature Almanac for December 2020

Here in Philadelphia…

It’s been windy. The leaves are off of the trees. Just a few leaves hang onto the branches and blow in the wind.

Using the Beaufort Wind Scale, I think the wind was about 4-6 knots.

I am still putting my gardens to bed. I am put compost topped with mulch on my vegetable beds.

I have collected a bucket of seeds from the native plants in my flower garden. I don’t know what I will do with them. I have thought about making seed bombs. Seed bombs are clay balls with flower seeds embedded within them. Guerilla gardeners use them to lob in lots, fields, abandoned industrial parks, etc. to beautiful them. The balls can also be made of pollinator plant seeds.

I am restless. I’d like to take a long walk in the park. But there are people in the park, walking without masks. So, my gardens will have to do.

beaufort wind scale
Maple tree outside my bedroom window against a windy, wintery sky. Birds perched on branches.

Winter’s Key Happenings

Winter Solstice – December 21st

There are 89 days and 0 hours from the winter solstice to the spring equinox.

Christmas Bird Counts begins December 14th, 2020 through January 2, 2021

Due to local CORVID-19 restrictions some counts will be modified or cancelled. Check with Audubon’s Christmas Count website.

the moon in a winter evening sky


In the Night Sky

7th – Last Quarter Beaver Moon

14th – New Cold Moon

21st – First Quarter Cold Moon

29th – Full Cold Moon

  • New Moon always rises near sunrise
  • First Quarter rises near noon
  • Full Moon always rises near sunset
  • Last Quarter rises near midnight
  • Moonrise occurs about 50 minutes later each day.

Best fishing days – December 14th – 29th

A total eclipse of the Sun will be visible only from the southern Pacific Ocean, the Galapagos Islands and parts of South America, Africa, and Antarctica. The eclipse will not be visible from North America.

Midnight Sun At the South Pole – the Sun never sets from September 23rd to March 20th,

Geminid Meteor Showers are at their peak December 13 -14th. Expect to see 75 fast moving falling stars (meteors) per hour. The meteors originate in the northeast section of the sky. You will be able to see the show all night.

Ursid Meteor Shower can be see in predawn hours coming form the north on December 22, 2020. Expect to see 5 meteors per hour. The meteors are associated with the Tuttle comet.

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.


white oak twig from my winter nature journal
white oak twig from my winter nature journal

Nature Study and Nature Journaling Activities

Keeping a WInter Nature Journaling with Prompts

Nature in Winter

Observing Native Plants

  • Winterberry fruit is especially showy now.
  • What trees have held onto their leaves?
  • What native plants show colorful berries, leaves, stems or other parts?
  • Study twigs 
Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren [CC BY (]

Winter Birding

Raccoon balanced in a tree.

Animal Behavior

The only animals active in the winter cold are birds, some mammals, and surprisingly a few species of insects.  In bodies of water fishes and invertebrates are still active.

The reptiles, amphibians, and vast majority of insects and invertebrates are hibernating or in torpor. Read about Insects in Winter or  Hibernation and torpor

The still active mammals include foxes, coyotes, wolves, squirrels, raccoons, and a few unmentionables (house mice and rats).

grass plumes
Grass plumes blown by a frigid winter wind.

Land Observations

Is it windy where you live? What are the wind speeds? Beaufort WInd speed chart

Citizen Science Projects for Winter

As always. let me know what you think about this almanac in the comments below.

That’s it for December’s nature Almanac. Look for the January’s almanac at the end of December.

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