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Winter Natural Events

We hope this calendar encourages you to come up often and explore the trails! Dates are approximate; a hurricane or early frost may shift the schedule!

Be alert at anytime during the next few months for some of the irruptive northern birds such as Red-breasted Nuthatch, Purple Finch, and Pine Siskin. These were all reported in upstate New York and New England, and a few here in NJ this fall. Maybe some will appear this winter! Click here for links to rare bird alerts, and check out the TNC feeders, birch trees, and forest edges. Winter is a great time for you to really experience Bald Eagles along the Hudson or Snowy Owls at area beaches. Don't settle for a vicarious experience!

☼Astronomical Alerts!: If it’s clear, look for the Geminid meteor shower near Gemini, of course!

 Last Two Weeks of December

By now even the latest fall-flowering plants such as witch-hazel are done blooming. You'll likely see no more blooms until at least mid-February. Happy solstice on December 21! You may not notice it, but by late December the days are starting to get longer. That's reason enough for us mid-latitude folk to celebrate!

Great Horned Owls will be hooting right into January, to announce their territories and maintain the pair-bond.

☼Unlike every other major moon around the other planets in the solar system, earth’s moon doesn't orbit around the equator, but rather in the same ecliptic plane in which the planets orbit the sun. Its orbit is ever changing, click here to see when the full moon is in December.

☼Get up early about a half-hour before sunrise in the last week of Dec., Mercury is easy to see to the left of Venus (which is the brightest star-like object in the sky). Unlike a star, both show a small disc in a telescope.

First Two Weeks of January

The prediction is for a cold winter but we usually have a “January thaw” somewhere in here. If the ground isn't snow-covered, spring peepers may call in any month; they hibernate on land just under the leaves and so respond quickly to warming spells. Other frogs hibernate at the bottom of the pond and are insulated from short-term weather changes.

Last Two Weeks of January

The "dead" of winter is when resident Great Horned Owls lay their eggs. The female will sit even through blizzards.

This is the most likely month to have enough ice for skating on Pfister’s Pond. It takes at least three days of continuously sub-freezing temperatures to get the minimum four-inch thickness. Please check with staff or look for a green flag don’t test the ice yourself!

Please don’t throw sticks and rocks on the ice it ruins the surface for skating!

This is also a likely time for ice floes on the Hudson River. If that happens, that’s the time to go and look for Bald Eagles! Visit Georges Island or Croton Point Park on the eastern side, or Stony Point Park and Tompkins Cove on the Rockland County Side.

First Two Weeks of February

By now it's getting dark about 6:00 p.m., already a full hour later than the shortest days in mid-December. In an average winter, snowdrops start blooming about now. If the nighttime temperatures are below freezing, and the daily highs are in the 40's, the sap will start to run in the Sugar Maples. If you have maples, why not try making your own? If not, come up and join us for a demonstration!

Last Two Weeks of February

Wood Ducks and Mallards, and male Red-winged Blackbirds, appear on Pfister's Pond as soon as it is partly ice-free. However, they usually don't become regular before March. Even if there’ve been few “winter finches” around, some may appear now as they head back north. “Spring” migration starts slowly, but one species or another is on the move from now through early June.

First Two Weeks of March

Woodcock may begin their nasal "peent" calls and flight displays about now, and migrants may be flushed along the Tenakill or TNC's trails. That is, if we're not having a blizzard.

Tom turkeys begin displaying to the hens. A tom will fan his tail, droop his wings to the ground, and hold his head and neck back while his wattles swell and become a patchwork of red, blue, and an almost turquoise-white--the colors change before your eyes! No wonder the hens are impressed!

If the pond is open, we often have our greatest diversity of waterfowl on Pfister's Pond in early morning and again in the evening. Look for Mallard, Wood Duck, Black Duck, Ring-necked Duck, Hooded Merganser, Ruddy Duck, and Canada Geese. Blackbirds and Sparrows are migrating; look for flocks of the former on lawns and the latter in the wet, brushy areas of the nature center.

A "warm" (>40ºF) rain stimulates Spotted Salamanders to emerge from their burrows and migrate to their breeding ponds. Once the pond has thawed, look for the first E. Painted Turtles basking on the pond and Mourning Cloak butterflies on the trails. Once it really warms up, listen for Wood Frogs (low quacking) and choruses of Spring Peepers (a high peeep or prreep!) true signs of spring!

The hooded maroon flowers of Skunk Cabbage along East Brook are among the first spring wildflowers. The flower chemically generates heat to melt through the soil if needed.