Thursday, December 1, 2016

Welcome to Winter? #phenology

Meteorological Winter begins today, but you knew that, right? Around here the weather may catch up with the calendar late next week. That means the odds improve so that by the time astrological Winter starts (Winter Solstice will be 4:44 AM on December 21 in our Central time zone) lakes may be freezing and snow cover established. Or not? I suppose that this photo, of the sun behind cloud cover, which I took back in 2013, shows that our run of cloudy weather is not without some precedent at this time of year. On average, only slightly more than 1 of 3 December days has any sunshine available.

faint sun behind early December clouds
faint sun behind early December clouds
Photo by J. Harrington

December is the month of Little Spirit Moon (manidoo-giizisoons), which will be full on the 14th, the day after the Geminid meteor shower peaks. Late this month, or possibly early January, buck whitetail deer will start to shed antlers. Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac tells us December is the time to think about the home range(s) of animals (if we get snow, follow the tracks), pine trees, and bird-banding chickadees. If you haven't yet read Sand County, let me suggest you put it on your Christmas list this year.

Canada geese on the move
Canada geese on the move
Photo by J. Harrington

Since local waters are still open, and the ground isn't yet frozen (I've noticed a pocket gopher active in the back yard), and there's still unpicked corn in some fields, early December this year is a time to watch the skies and listen for Canada geese and Sandhill cranes when they finally migrate south. I just hope they get where they're headed before Christmas Eve. The possibility of air traffic conflicts between large migrating birds and flying reindeer makes me nervous.

Winter



A little heat in the iron radiator,
the dog breathing at the foot of the bed,

and the windows shut tight,
encrusted with hexagons of frost.

I can barely hear the geese
complaining in the vast sky,

flying over the living and the dead,
schools and prisons, and the whitened fields.

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