Afton State Park phenology, Dec. 23, 2022 to Jan. 5, 2023

Animals find ways to survive winter weather.




4 minute read

Photo by Greg Seitz/St. Croix 360


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. 

Weather observations 

Here are some weather observations from the Afton State Park area from past years.

Friday, December 232020: record snowfall of 8.7 inches
Saturday, December 242009: record snowfall of 5.2 inches
Sunday, December 252018: bare ground, no snow cover
Monday, December 262011: record high of 52°
Tuesday, December 271971: record snowfall of 6 inches
Wednesday, December 282013: record high of 47°
Thursday, December 291999: record high of 53°
Friday, December 302004: record high of 51°; 2019: record snowfall of 4.9 inches
Saturday, December 312010: freezing rain and light snow
Sunday, January 12017: high of 32°
Monday, January 21999: record snowfall of 6.1”
Tuesday, January 32013: high in 20s
Wednesday, January 42014: temperature falls through day from 20s to single digits; 2019: record high of 47°
Thursday, January 52019: record high of 47°

Photo/Image credits:

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 


2 responses to “Afton State Park phenology, Dec. 23, 2022 to Jan. 5, 2023”

  1. Kristofer Avatar

    I’m a big fan of these updates, and just wanted to let you know that the images were not properly formatted this week, so they’re on top of the text. Thanks much for doing these!

  2. Kristofer Avatar

    Never mind! It got fixed right after I commented.


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Afton State Park phenology, Dec. 23, 2022 to Jan. 5, 2023