Look for the planet Saturn above the Moon on Monday the 26th, the planet Jupiter above the Moon on Wednesday the 28th, and Jupiter to the right of the Moon on Thursday the 29th.
Some birds, like Eastern Bluebirds, Meadowlarks, Indigo Buntings, and Turkey Vultures, are present at Afton in the summer but leave in the winter to go farther south.
Other birds, like Dark-eyed Juncos, Tree Sparrows, and Red-breasted Nuthatches, spend the summers farther north and spend the winters at Afton, while others like Cedar Waxwings, are transient at Afton, meaning that they pass through in marauding bands at all times of year searching for berries and seeds.
And still other birds, like Bluejays, Northern Cardinals, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, and White breasted Nuthatches, are at Afton all year round.
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.
The Norway Spruce is not native to the New World, but they are easy to find in the woods at Afton. The bark is reddish-gray in color. Like all spruces they have single needles attached directly to twigs; those of the Norway Spruce are generally less than a half-inch long. The cones are papery and break apart easily, and hang down from branches. The cones range from two to seven inches long. Red Squirrels and other animals often pick the scales off the cones to get at the seeds.
Here are some weather observations from the Afton State Park area from past years.
|Friday, December 23||2020: record snowfall of 8.7 inches|
|Saturday, December 24||2009: record snowfall of 5.2 inches|
|Sunday, December 25||2018: bare ground, no snow cover|
|Monday, December 26||2011: record high of 52°|
|Tuesday, December 27||1971: record snowfall of 6 inches|
|Wednesday, December 28||2013: record high of 47°|
|Thursday, December 29||1999: record high of 53°|
|Friday, December 30||2004: record high of 51°; 2019: record snowfall of 4.9 inches|
|Saturday, December 31||2010: freezing rain and light snow|
|Sunday, January 1||2017: high of 32°|
|Monday, January 2||1999: record snowfall of 6.1”|
|Tuesday, January 3||2013: high in 20s|
|Wednesday, January 4||2014: temperature falls through day from 20s to single digits; 2019: record high of 47°|
|Thursday, January 5||2019: record high of 47°|
All photos copyright Nina Manzi, except:
- Travis Bonovsky, MN Conservation Volunteer: Bluejay
- Michael Furtman, MN Conservation Volunteer: Dark-eyed Junco
- Dean Lokken: Meadowlark, Turkey Vulture, White-breasted Nuthatch
- Bill Marchel, Minnesota Conservation Volunteer: Deer, Deer Track
- Gary Sater: Cedar Waxwing, Eastern Bluebird, Indigo Bunting, Northern Cardinal, Red-Bellied Woodpecker