Natural events, happenings, and fearless predictions based upon 25 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: A blanket of snow is a benefit to some animals and a hindrance to others. Voles (field mice) tunnel under the snow in search of food while insulated from the cold and hidden from the eyes foxes, hawks and owls. Squirrels may find it difficult to find nuts they’ve buried. A severe winter may kill sickly or deficient animals, but come spring there will be more habitat available to the animals that have what it takes to survive. Deer browse on tender twigs and buds. It takes at least ten acres of good habitat to support a single deer.
- 2nd week: The bright planet high overhead in the evening is Jupiter. The robin’s diet changes this time of year to include berries and seeds. They may be seen in holly trees feasting on the berries. Cedar waxwings, almost always in flocks, feed on the fruit remaining on persimmon and other fruit trees. A special blood sugar (glucose) found in reptiles and amphibians protects them from cell damage even if frozen solid. Eggs of marbled salamanders, laid in late fall in lowland pools, will hatch as the days lengthen this spring. Red foxes mate; pups will be born in 51 days.
- 3rd week: Coldest average temperatures this week. Barred owls in courtship; the male may bring food to the female. Skunk cabbage, probably the first spring wildflower, is now in bloom. The plant metabolizes starches stored in underground tubers to generate heat within the hood (spathe) that shields the flowering spike (spadix). This heat helps the plant melt its way to the surface of the frozen wetland soil where it is found. A theory is that it alsowarms pollinating insects so that they are better able to make the trip from plant to plant, thus helping to ensure pollination.
- 4th week: Full moon January 26. Great horned owls now incubate their eggs. Up to four eggs will hatch at least a day apart, in the order in which they were laid. The first to hatch will probably get plenty to eat. If there is enough food for siblings once they hatch, they will also be fed; the oldest (biggest) always getting first dibs. If there is not enough food to go around, the smaller owlets will perish. This strategy works well for all raptors. The photoperiod, (the length of daylight) is now noticeably longer, reminding us that spring is not far off.
Hidden Pond Nature Center, Fairfax County Park Authority
8511 Greeley Boulevard, Springfield, VA 22152. Phone 703/451-9588