[ 8511 Greeley Blvd. ] [ Springfield, VA 22152 ] [ 703-451-9588 ]
Almanac for December 2016
Natural events, happenings, and fearless predictions based on 30 years of observations at Hidden Pond. Your observations may vary! Hidden Pond is not responsible for errors, erratic behavior or other whims of nature.
1st Week: The bright blue object in the western sky after
sunset is Venus. She will get even brighter and higher over the next
two months, and through a telescope she is seen to be crescent shaped.
Leafless trees and shrubs reveal the birds’ nests of the past summer.
Great horned owls hoot at each other in courtship; though she is larger
than he, his voice is lower. Carolina chickadees, nuthatches, brown
creepers, and other birds carefully inspect the bark of trees, under
which hide dormant spiders, insects, and their eggs.
- 2nd week: Amphibians and reptiles hibernate under rocks and logs or in the mud at the bottom of the pond. They have glucose antifreeze in their blood that prevents tissue damage even if they are frozen solid. Spring flowering trees and shrubs have their buds ready for next spring- so now is not the time to prune them. Notice the green clumps of mistletoe in the tops of some maples and oaks; a semi-parasite, mistletoe carries on photosynthesis to make food but obtains water and nutrients through the bark of the host tree. Full moon December 13.
- 3rd week: December 21 is winter solstice; “the darkest evening of the year”, just 9 hours and 27 minutes of sun for us at this latitude. The sun rises in the southeast, climbs to only 28° above the southern horizon at noon (this is why it always seems to be shining into our eyes), and sets in the southwest. North of the Arctic Circle the sun is not seen at all. Here, the oblique rays of the sun illuminate the woods from a low angle, and late on clear afternoons we may see shiny spider silk and other small floating and flying things catching the sun’s slanted beams.
- 4th week: The pond may now be covered with ice but we see turtles slowly creeping about beneath. Wildlife must now rely almost exclusively on stored fat and the seeds, berries, nuts and dormant insects found in natural habitats. A blanket of snow is welcomed by the mice and voles of the forest floor, insulating their burrows and them from predators and the cold air. The snow makes things tougher for foxes and owls who must now hunt by listening alone for animal activity. The coming days will be colder, but the sun’s time in our sky begins to increase, reminding us that spring will surely come.