Nature Almanac – January 2021

Bare deciduous tree in winter
Bare deciduous tree in winter Photo by Donna L. Long.

Here in Philadelphia…

Winter has set in and it is cold outside. It is almost cold enough to light a fireplace fire. My gas fireplace warms the entire first and second floors of my house. Sometimes it gets so hot I have to crack open a window.

When the daytime temps dip into the twenties, I light the fire. If the daytimes temps are in the twenties, then the nighttime temps will be even lower.

After the strenuous work of pushing the buttons to light the fire, I make hot chocolate. But then I make hot chocolate all year around. Well, folks drink hot/warm coffee in the summer why not hot chocolate?

Did You Know?

Birds have to continuously shiver to generate a enough body heat to survive the cold? Birds lack brown fat, which generates heat. They rely almost exclusively on body shivering to generate heat. This behavior is common in small birds like chickadees and larger birds like ravens and crows.


Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) and turtles in a pond.
Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) and turtles in a pond. Photo by Donna L. Long.

Water is now being traded on Wall Street. On December 8, 2020 several news outlets reported that water has begun to be traded on Wall Street like a commodity. A commodity like hog futures or wheat. I can do without pork or wheat, I can’t do without water.

A human can only survive three days without water. We knew this day would come. And it is just scary. What happens if some people can’t afford water? I guess people will starve and be water-insecure just like food insecurity. I wonder if there will be laws to bar people form collecting rainwater? Currently, it is legal to collect rainwater.

See  post the World Water Reserve’s post of a state by state guide.

“Is It Illegal to Collect Rainwater in 2020: A State by State Guide” here

If you would like to read more about this visit Cultural Survival’s post, “More Important Than Gold, Water Should Not Be Traded on Wall Street”,



Abandoned wasp nest in winter
Abandoned wasp nest in winter. Photo by Donna L. Long.

Winter’s Key Happenings

Winter Solstice December 21, 2020

Spring Equinox – March 20, 2021 at 5:37 a.m. EDT

Winter last 89 days, 0 hours until the Spring Equinox


In the Sky This Month:

  • January 6th – Last Quarter Moon
  • January 13th – New Wolf Moon
  • January 20th– First Quarter Wolf Moon 
  • January 28th – Full Wolf Moon

“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

  • January 13-28
  • February 11-27


Tall Pine tree in a prine grove
Tall Pine tree in a prine grove. Photo by Donna L. Long.

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 Camelopardalis.

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.


Branch silhouetted against a winter sky. Photo by Donna L. Long.


Nature Study and Nature Journaling Activities

Nature in Winter: An Overview 

Winter Nature Journal and Prompts


Winter (December through February) is the time most wintering bird species are stationery. There isn’t much migration from place to place.

This is why the the winter is a good time for the Christmas Bird Count. The species present in a locale are rather stable from year to year.

January is the best time to see waterfowl. The birds are easily found in wildlife refugees in the southern United States. From the state of Delaware down to Georgia, waterfowl are abundant.

Ten Tips for Waterfowl Beginners(

Winter Birding: How to Master It

Winter Bird Migration and Irruptions

A Winter Bird Feeding Guide: Attract Birds to Your Backyard 

Observing Animals in Winter

How Can Moose Stand in Snow and their Feet Not Freeze

Hibernation Is Suspended Animation 


Overlooking a winter field in Philadelphia
Overlooking a winter field in Philadelphia. Photo by Donna L. Long.


Observing Plants in Winter

  • Seek out and draw or photograph conifers or evergreen trees and shrubs.
  • Sketch the shape of a conifer.
  • Is the trunk covered with scales or ridges?
  • Is the trunk a single straight trunk or more that one?
  • Do the branches drape down of sweep up?
  • What colors are the needles or scales?
  • How many needles or scales on a twig?
  • What size is the cone? Are the scales open or closed?

Land and Weather Observations

Winter Weather Terms

Beaufort Wind Scale for Nature Journalers

How any different weather types can you record in your journal?


Citizen Science Projects for Winter

The Journey North

Project FeederWatch

Christmas Bird Count

Winter Wild Turkey Flock Survey (January – March) in New York

Project Budburst (year-round)

See more citizen science projects on


Next Issue:

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!


    • Hi, Marion – Yes, It think it does. Suet (animal fat) is high calories just like all fats. Those high calories give you a lot of energy for a small amount of fat. Which is why we humans avoiding eating more fat than we need to create energy. The extra energy we don’t use stays with us on our body.

      When birds fatten up for the winter, they create a layer of brown fat underneath their feathers for insulating warmth. I bet that where any extra suet fat ends up. It becomes an insulator and an energy source.

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