Weather at Bedford, Hanscom Field, MA - via NOAA's National Weather Service

Thursday, December 31, 2009


I heard on the radio today that a blue moon is actually the third of four full moons in a season, not the second in a month - which would mean that tonight's moon is not a blue moon, since winter just started.  It is all just words that we put on universal events that would happen with or without our names, so it is really rather arbitrary.  I still like full moons - kind of neat to be able to see at night, isn't it?  But it's cloudy here, so I can't see the moon now.  Even so, it is brighter outside than one would expect.

And tomorrow is a new year - for people; I don't suppose the critters out in the woods will notice much difference between today and tomorrow, and they certainly don't have to remember to write 2010 instead of 2009!

Best wishes for fun adventures and happy learning in the coming months...


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

in between

I just came in from a lovely walk - after sunset, but before dark.  The light at that time of day is wonderful - not for photography, but just for looking.  Everyday things look different, somehow.  Today has been very cold, so it was also very quiet - I didn't hear any songbirds, but just before I turned back into my own yard, I heard a great horned owl calling.  Before long, these wonderful birds will be nesting - yes, in the winter.  How and why they do it that way is a mystery to me, but it seems to work for them.
And there is another wonderful moon rising out there also.  And tomorrow's full moon is a blue moon - the second full moon in a calendar month. 

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Today it is cold and windy - about 15ºF and feeling colder with the windchill.  At least it is sunny.  A good day to spend more than usual time indoors.  My brother asked about the word "midden" that I used a few posts ago - was I thinking "mitten" and being silly, or just getting bad at spelling?
No, I told him, a midden is a real thing - it is a trash heap.  In my line of work, we refer to a midden as a pile of nutshells or pinecone bracts (scales) and spines left under a tree or on a rock - or on a bridge rail, as in the accompanying photo.

If you look up midden in Wikipedia, it will tell you that a midden is human trash - often shells, since they take a long time to disintegrate - and that an animal midden is food storage.  We call food storage a cache, where I work.  So maybe I am using midden in a colloquial way, but there it is.

And just because it is pretty, here is a frost covered goldenrod stalk I found in the round meadow yesterday.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

more skiing

I had another lovely ski today, and saw many deer tracks and mouse tracks.  While the snow we had a few days ago has settled considerably, there are more animal signs to see since it hasn't snowed more, or melted.

I also realized that many people may wonder about those "fisher tracks" under the blog title.  A fisher is sometimes called a fisher cat, but it is not a cat at all, and doesn't even look like one, to me, though small fishers are roughly the size of a large house cat.  Fishers are in the weasel family.  They have the reputation for being fierce and nasty, which isn't surprising, since they are one step down from wolverines.  We see fishers in our yard occasionally, and see their tracks frequently.  The first time I saw one, which turned into a pair, several years ago now, I called our local wildlife office (this was in the days before anything you ever wanted to know was available on the internet).  The person I spoke with told me that they are moving back into this area as the second growth forest is getting older and denser, in spite of continued development.  Two centuries ago they were fairly common around here, and left as more and more land was transformed into field and pasture.  Fishers like moderate to deep forests, where they can hide - they don't much like people.  And they don't generally prey on cats and small dogs either, though they would take one if the catching was easy.  Their favorite food, according to the wildlife guy I spoke to, is gray squirrels - and we have plenty of those!  Another interesting thing I remember learning about fishers is that they are diurnal in the winter and nocturnal in the summer.

A great book to learn more about fishers, and other animals as well, is the Stokes Guide to Animal Tracking and Behavior by Donald and Lillian Stokes.  In fact, most of their books are good - I also have the Reptiles & Amphibians one.  I'm amassing quite a collection of field guides, which is fun because I love books, and each guide has different information about whatever subject it covers.  And more information is always good!

Monday, December 21, 2009


Yesterday, we had our first real snowstorm of the winter.  It started late Saturday night, or maybe very early Sunday, and we woke up to 5" or so of fresh white fluff.  I got to go cross-country skiing three times!  First, I took the dog, then my husband and I went on our town bike path after we dropped our son off to play snow football, and later on I went with my daughter behind our house on the trails there.  All very different adventures - it was still "blizzarding" when I went early, with the dog.  It was that sort of weather where colors disappear into grey and white.  By the time I went with my husband in the early afternoon, it was still snowing, but lightly.  It had stopped snowing by the time my daughter and I headed out, but still looked just beautiful.  We ended up with about a foot of snow, and it is the light, easy-to-shovel kind - I love it.

birdhouse with snow hat


junco tracks


Now that the winter solstice is upon us, we will start to see more daylight. For this, I am grateful.  These dark days at the end of autumn sometimes get me down - it's too hard to be outside!  As I woke up in the dark this morning, the thought that now the days will get longer cheered me up greatly.  I love winter - the snow and the cold, the footprints and middens, the bright blue sky by day and gleaming stars at night - but I like my sunshine also, or at least daylight.  And now we are on the way.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

winter morning

Years ago, before my daughter was born, I was always the one who took the dog for a walk.  We had a different dog then, too.  Then, after the kids were born, it was easier if my husband took the dog, and I dealt with the children.  And that has remained our general pattern, at least on weekdays, ever since.  But yesterday my husband wanted to head out early, but not get up extra early to take the dog, and Wednesday mornings are a little more relaxed because my daughter has a delayed start at school.  SO I got to take the dog at 6am.  These days, I'm almost never outside that early (unless it is to take out the trash or bring in the paper), so it was a real treat to take the dog for a walk.  It was still pretty dark - just getting light in the east - and I could see some of the stars.   Of course it was mostly too early for birds, and too dark to see tracks or other signs, but still exhilarating to be out.  Mostly I sleep late on the days that I can, so I don't get out so early, but maybe I should try it more often - it really is a lovely time to be out, just when most of the world is waking up.

Monday, December 14, 2009

winter sights

Just a couple of images from yesterday's walk.

pretty ice on an intermittent stream near my house

deer track next to human track

Maybe next time I'll try looking up!

Friday, December 11, 2009


So winter is here now, calendar or no.  The temps never even got up to 30ºF today.  But this was the first really chilly day we've had since last winter, so I can't complain, and most of the day was beautifully sunny, which is always nice at this time of year when the days are so short.

Here are some interesting icicles in a new little waterfall in my stream.

And here is one of my birdhouses - somebody obviously thought the doorway was too small.  I hope it is cozy in there now.

Monday, December 7, 2009

chrysalis vs. cocoon

So my daughter was doing her homework, making a vocabulary list that included the word chrysalis, which her teacher defined as belonging to either a butterfly or a moth.  I had always understood that butterflies make chrysalides and moths make cocoons, so I started to do some research.  It's tricky to get basic information, it turns out, and I looked at several websites including some other nature bloggers' pages. 
What I determined was this:  A butterfly has a chrysalis and a moth may have a cocoon.  Some other insects may also make cocoons.  The chrysalis is not made by the butterfly, per se - it is the "skin" that the creature has while the pupal stage is developing.  When the last larval instar sheds, the creature becomes a chrysalis while it pupates.  A cocoon, on the other hand, is created (not grown) by the moth larva to keep itself safe while it pupates.  It is spun with silk, and occasionally incorporates other materials into the casing.  So the chrysalis grows, and the cocoon is built.  I think - if you know otherwise, or more, please let me know!

Sunday, December 6, 2009


So we've now had our first real snow of the year.  Those bits back in October don't really count, because it was too early and didn't seem real and didn't stay long.  This is honest, cold, need-to-shovel white stuff.
It was quite cold earlier, but now the sun is up high and temps are in the mid-30's, so clumps of snow are falling.  All this in a bright winter sun - just beautiful.  Here are some pictures I took this morning on two separate walks.

         Sunrise, Moonset

reverse silhouette


barberries in snow

(Japanese barberry is an alien invasive, but these berries look pretty in the snow, don't they?  Winterberry is a native alternative for red winter berries.)

 white pine needles

Thursday, December 3, 2009

sunny day

Given the date, I would have planned on a chilly day, but my thermometer read 70ºF at one point today!  We had tons of rain last night, about an inch, according to NOAA.  All that water made my stream and tiny pond into a mini raging river.  But by 9am the sun was shining, and what a wind was blowing!  I was surprised to see only one downed tree on my walk this afternoon.  It was an old, dead one that broke into several parts when it fell - it won't block the path for long.
Here's a pic of my itsy bitsy waterfall.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


It's a full moon out there tonight. I'd love to post a picture, but am not capable of such feats of photography, unfortunately, because I wish you could see what I've been watching this evening. The moon rises behind my house, in the east, naturally, and must climb through many trees before it reaches clear skies above the woods. Watching that bright disc - yes, I know it's really an orb, but it looks like a disc to my puny little eyes here - is quite entrancing. I had this Cat Stevens story in book form when I was a kid, and thought of it this evening...