In the evening from December 24 to the 31st, look for bright Venus in the western sky. Then look below Venus for Mercury! There aren’t a lot of good chances to see Mercury, but this is one. From the 29th to the 31st Mercury will be to the left of Venus. And in early January Saturn and Jupiter join Venus and Mercury in the west in the evening, with the crescent Moon putting in an appearance on the 4th and 5th. And overnight on the 4th look in the northern sky for the Quadrantid Meteor Shower.
Some birds, like bluebirds, meadowlarks, and turkey vultures, leave Afton in the winter for points farther south. Other birds, like juncos, red-breasted nuthatches, and tree sparrows arrive at Afton in the winter from points farther north. And still other birds live at Afton all year round, including bluejays, hairy woodpeckers, white-breasted nuthatches, and red bellied woodpeckers.
Winter snow cover provides a good opportunity to learn to identify tracks. Two common animals at Afton who leave tracks that are relatively easy to identify are rabbits and deer. Rabbits’ large hind feet leave large prints that are usually side by side. Their smaller front paws may either step right next to each other, so that they sometimes blur together into one track in the snow, or are one slightly in front of the other. The tracks from the hind feet are about three and a half inches long, and those from the front feet are about one inch long. Deer tracks are sort of heart-shaped, and two-and-a-half to three inches long.
If you take a walk in the woods you might notice some deciduous trees that are still holding their leaves. They are probably oaks! Here are photos of the bark, leaves, and acorns of three oaks that are present at Afton, the White Oak, the Bur Oak, and the Northern Pin Oak.
Here are some weather observations from past years.
|Friday, December 24||2009: record snowfall of 5.2 inches|
|Saturday, December 25||2018: bare ground, no snow cover|
|Sunday, December 26||2011: record high of 52°|
|Monday, December 27||1971: record snowfall of 6 inches|
|Tuesday, December 28||2013: record high of 47°|
|Wednesday, December 29||1999: record high of 53°|
|Thursday, December 30||2004: record high of 51°; 2019: record snowfall of 4.9 inches|
|Friday, December 31||2010: freezing rain and light snow|
|Saturday, January 1||2017: high of 32°|
|Sunday, January 2||1999: record snowfall of 6.1”|
|Monday, January 3||2013: high in 20s|
|Tuesday, January 4||2014: temperature falls through day from 20s to single digits; 2019: record high of 47°|
|Wednesday, January 5||2019: record high of 47°|
|Thursday, January 6||2014: record low high temperature, in the teens below zero. Low of minus 22°|
- All photos copyright Nina Manzi, except:
- Keith Henjum: Hairy Woodpecker
- Dean Lokken: Bluejay, White-breasted Nuthatch
- Bill Marchel, Minnesota Conservation Volunteer: Deer, Deer Track