Thursday, January 5, 2012

Things to Look for in January

The days are ever so slowly getting longer, but spring is still long away. And yet, there are still plenty of things to look for outside. Writing this list almost makes me wish I wasn't skipping town for Central America. Almost.

>> What have you been noticing in nature this winter? Leave a comment below.

Umbilicaria mammulata
Rock Tripe by Paul J. Morris
Among wild edibles, rock tripe is not prized or even particularly appetizing...actually, it's pretty cardboardy. But as a survival food, it's been used for centuries. And even if you don't want to eat them, lichens are a pretty amazing phenomenon.

DC Squirrel
Squirrel by Vicki's Pics
January 22 is Squirrel Appreciation Day. We know you know squirrels when you see them, but do you know them when you hear them? Listen to these chirps and you may realize some of the birds you thought you'd been hearing were actually rodents.

Pine cones
Hemlock cones by DaveSF
Eastern Hemlocks are rare in our area due to our climate (they prefer the mountains), and becoming rarer due to an imported insect known as the wooly adelgid. It's worth seeking out these "redwoods of the East" while you still can. And winter's an easy time to do it, since they're evergreen.

Squirrel in the snow by ehpien
There's always a good chance of snow sometime in January. And if you get out early enough in the morning, you have a better chance of finding footprints in the snow. See our guide to some of the common animal tracks you might see.

Ice at Scott's Run by the Natural Capital
Even when it doesn't snow, looking for beautiful ice formations can be enough to entice me out into the cold for a good walk...usually.

In the Swamp
Skunk cabbage by Rupert G.
Skunk cabbage is one of the select group of plants in the world that attracts pollinators by imitating rotting flesh. And, it's just about the only native flower you're going to find blooming at this time of year. It's prehistoric-looking and stinky, but it's a flower. In January.

And, for those of you who tend to feel a little house-bound as it gets colder and colder outside, last year we also wrote a Southerner's Guide to Staying Warm Outside in the Winter. We also put together a list of Nature Centers in the DC area, in case you need a nature fix when you really can't stand to be outdoors for too long.

Now get out there and explore!