Nature's Week in Review:
I was a little lax on the phenology for the first half of the week. Tuesday it was cool with light snow. There were beautiful delicate flakes in the air. Some of my co-workers and I spotted some smaller than one would expect Canada Geese in a spring fed pond near the St. Croix River. We got into a debate over what they were exactly. I think they were smaller than the Common Canada Goose. There were perhaps 5 of them but there were only mallards for size comparison, not other geese. This really complicated the matter. Were they really smaller than normal or just messing with our heads. They were larger than the mallards but not hugely larger and did appear to have small bills but then again, compared to the geese in our heads. When it comes to telling all of the various forms of smaller geese apart I'm not sticking my neck out. There are a lot of people who will see any goose smaller than the full size and instantly call it a cackling goose. I'm not so sure I could make an ID like that on these. I'd be willing to bet a good number of "cackling" geese people see are actually "Lesser" or "Richardson's" Canada geese though to make things confusing Richardson's and Cackling have been lumped together to make Cackling a separate species and Richardson's a sub-species of cacking. Confused? There are differences other than size but if you're viewing a flock at a distance and you go just by size are you 100% sure you can tell the difference between a 27 inch long Richardson's and a 25 inch long Cackling? How about a small Richardson's and a large Cackling that are the same size? Can you really id a 1 to 2 inch boy length difference in a goose at 50 yards? Check out this primer.
I made some general observations Wednesday and Thursday. I noticed the first Muskrat holes in the ice on area lakes this past week. They gnaw holes in the ice and then push vegetation up though the hole. You can see these muddy piles all over the place. Muskrats are active all winter and like to get on top of the ice when they can for a breather.
With the coating of snow on my yard I found many tunnels in the area of my bird feeder. I don't get to see many rodents around the yard so seeing signs of them in the winter is interesting.
English House Sparrows have set up their winter shop in my yard. My god there are thousands of them. Well, okay, maybe just over 30 but it seems like a scene from The Birds every time I walk outside.
Around the metro and state there continue to be many reports of snowy owls. I haven't seen one yet but I've done plenty of distracting driving looking for them.
Friday there were pale blue skies and cold it was cold out. I was happy to see the sun and blue but this usually means it will be colder if we don't have that warm blanket of clouds at night. There was a Lunar eclipse at moon rise. I hope you all got to see it. It was beautiful.
Saturday: I taught a birthday party program and there was lots of deer sign in the woods. Saturday was the first day we lost less than a minute of sunlight. As we approach the solstice we loose less and less each day. Today was 56 seconds shorter than yesterday. The solstice is just 9 days away. Incidentally, December 21st will be four seconds shorter than the 20th so we're getting to the point where you can't really notice a difference. Congratulations, we're already pretty much as dark as it will get.
Sunday was a beautiful warm day. This is December? The small ice dams on my roof started to melt away along with all the snow on the ground. We picked up a Charlie Brown tree, set it up in the living room and then started to do the only sane thing we could do on a warm day in December. We started painting the house. Is this some bizarre cabin fever setting in early? Stay tuned in to find out. One room done, two more to go.
Continue to watch out for Snowy Owls which should be easier to spot on the brown ground which lacks snow. Also let me know if any of you hear Chickadees singing their spring "Hey Sweetie" song this month on these warm days. This is usually the first sign of spring though can we count it if it happens before the solstice?