Where the Wild Things Are- Under the Snow

January has found us either huddling for warmth, hot drink in hand, or hatless, coat open, breathing in the brisk air of near freezing. The swings in temperature are bewildering, leaving us to guess how many layers to put on. So how does all this really cold weather affect nature?

For the most part, it doesn't. It is all just part of life. Under the snow the ground is warmer, insulated by the very thing that makes the air feel that much colder. So, all those that live underground don't even notice the coldest temps, unless they stick out a furry snout to see what is happening. or those above the snow, they just eat more calories to keep warm. If they cannot find food, they don't make it and so become food for another critter, just trying to stay alive. Nature plans for the winter losses with the birth of many young who will never grow up to adulthood.

Now we like to hope, here in the frozen tundra, that the cold helps keep some undesirables away. But even the coldest temps have little to no effect on the pests of summer. Mosquitos winter as larvae. In unfrozen water, they just go on with their days. If the water freezes solid, so do they, but many can survive that. So no hope of less pests!

So what does a naturalist do when the weather is that cold? Well, this naturalist still walks twice a day. Many layers, face covered, perhaps not as far, but still out there. Some days it is worth it, for the sight of a hawk, tracks to follow in the snow. Other days it just isn't as much fun. So I have found other ways to keep learning.

All those photos I took last summer give me a trip back in time. As I scroll through them, I remember where I saw that plant, how excited I was to see it. Now is the time to take closer looks at those that escaped identification. Some I did ID at the time, but the name now escapes me. Books of flowers surround the computer, notes scattered. Hours spent in a forest glade, a swamp, along a brook. All rushing back at a glance at my computer screen. It isn't the same as being there, but it helps.

Where the Wild Things Are- Blessings of the Wild

The woods is changing. It, of course, has been changing all summer long. Plants grow and fade. Blossoms of one week are gone the next, replaced by seemingly endless varieties. But these changes go further. Foliage once vivid green is fading to yellows. Bright reds ease into the shadows. In a normal year the brown grasses would have given warning. A softening that allows us to slowly accept the inevitable. This years rains have kept the grass green and growing beyond that time. The startling orange of the maple feels out of place. We aren't tired of endless hot, dry days. We are left feeling like we were somehow cheated out of proper summer. Can it really be Fall already? 

If it makes you feel better, the color changes are a bit early this year. You aren't imagining it. And on the brightside, the fall colors are predicted to be amazing. All I can do is recommend that you savor every minute. All to soon it will be....nope. I will not say it. Live life in the moment!

The Aster's and Goldenrods are amazing. Yellows, blues and whites dot the landscape. I am slowly sorting them out, but sometimes it seems an uphill battle. More photos, revisiting plants to look for clues missed the first time. Just when I think I know what to pay attention to in IDing, the species change and the important parts change also. In Goldenrod it is the size and shape of the blossoms and heads, and leaf shape. In Asters, where the leaves are, how many petals in a flower, the color, not of the petals but the center, and what color it changes to as it fades. I might do better if I wasn't distracted by the pollinators, buzzing around. I haven't even tried to sort out types of bees, content for now with just snapping photos for later perusal. 

As the seasons march on I am still amazed by the fact that each time I go out I see things I haven't seen before. The blessings of the wild...