Naturalists, what do you do all winter?

That is exactly what I did when I was still living and observing back in Germany. Actually, these were some of my most favourite times to go out. I love how life seems to be condensed down a bit and one does not get that easily distracted but can focus more on the fewer organisms one finds.
Some of my most memorable (because quite rare or seldomly observed due to ther activity window) observations are from winter arthtropods, e.g.
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/37557929
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/38571015
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/37844464

Other then that you said it yourself… it´s a good time to watch birds, maybe mammals and their tracks depending on how it is in your area.
It´s also a good time to learn about wildlife in your area, for example in helping to ID on iNat

2 Likes

Honest answer?

I take sad photos of lichens and bryophytes and whine to my husband that we can’t find any enoki / flammulina velutipes because all the elms are dead from dutch elm disease.

For like, three months straight.

Interspersed with me testing my tree bark ID skills

10 Likes

And let’s not forget, whenever it’s really too cold to be outside or there’s nothing to find, there’s always plenty of backlog of identification on iNat to be processed :wink: Never an excuse to be bored as an iNatter!

9 Likes

I grew up in southern California and far prefer cold Vermont myself. I miss the higher biodiversity there for sure. But i don’t miss the crowds, the smog, or the heat (i prefer cold over hot most of the time). I love the varied weather and snow and all the flowing water (though California has had plenty of that lately).

To each their own of course, but i don’t fully understand why people dislike the cold climates, unless they have a disability that makes those harder for them. If you’ve got reduced mobility the ice is not fun, for instance.

Regarding coastal Southern California, the dry season, which stretches from May until about Halloween, is VERY dry. During the summer months Los Angeles and the coastal canyons average less rain than Death Valley or probably anywhere else on Earth except the Atacama Desert. This year Tropical Storm Hilary brought over 2 inches to most of these areas. I am very curious about how the plants and insects will respond. I don’t know if there will be a flush of flowers and insects, or if they just don’t know what to do with it. Anyone doing a project on this?

7 Likes

It gets cold in Michigan too. I put out my bird feeder, and go on hikes for birds and tracks as well. If I am lucky, I’ll find an animal skeleton in my woods, which is always a fun observation. Besides that, I observe trees and plants like evergreens. Scat is also easy to find in the snow.

3 Likes

Here in Massachusetts last winter I had fun finding galls, mainly on bare oak trees… every walk I would try to spot one of the usual galls. It might have driven Megachile crazy, (sorry) but it gave my nature time some purpose, like a scavenger hunt. I have a lot of old observations that I can also refine when I have time to research… time is tight in summer and I upload things frantically when I have the time.

3 Likes

When I lived in an area with a cold, snowy winter I’d have fun looking at the wide variety of animal and bird tracks left in the snow, practice plant ID for dormant plants, look at what gets blown over the snow, etc.

Also, being a naturalist means looking at and learning about a lot of on-living things too, so paying more attention to the movement of snow and ice, freeze-thaw cycles and frost heaving, rocks, exposed/visible land forms that are often otherwise obscured by vegetation, etc.

4 Likes

Grab a mug of your favorite warm beverage and get some IDs in!

6 Likes

Winter is a time to get out and enjoy the woods. It’s summer that I avoid being outside. Too hot and humid. And only getting worse.

1 Like

Glad I live in South-Western Australia (Perth). Winter/colder months are for birds and plants, Summer is for fish!

6 Likes

Just like South California, my area gets all the rains during winter and everything botanical starts growing and blooming, and the animals are more adventurous during the day.

3 Likes

I really enjoy the woods in the winter. No mosquitoes, the poison ivy is dormant (still have to stay away from the vines though) and there isn’t any fighting for a parking spot at the entrances to the various places I go. I can walk all day in the cold if I’m dressed for it. Tree ID is a fun game in the winter. Focusing on bark, branching structure, timber form, and habitat rather than foliage keeps the mind sharp when the days are cold, dark and gray. The tail end of winter is the hardest part for me. Around late February I start getting antsy and feeling like enough is enough. That time also coincides with the sap running in the maple trees, so last year I started making small batches of maple syrup in my backyard. It’s another way to really immerse myself in the natural world. I wasn’t a part of iNaturalist this past winter, but I plan on being on this upcoming one and doing some ID work for others.

5 Likes

generally the same as the rest of year given I mostly photograph birds and wildlife. I actually look forward to colder months as there are less people out in the parks, reserves, and beaches. Vegetation is much more sparse and so easier to spot birds and wildlife as well.

1 Like

I do slow down during the winter… but I don’t think there’s any deficit of things to document. One of the great things about iNat is that unlike an ID book, which typically only gives a couple of pictures of a given thing during its best time, you can get many examples of different species and how they change throughout the seasons - winter is part of that. I like getting pictures of off-season plants, especially if I could verify them during their prime. Others have mentioned the trees.
We don’t get a lot of snow anymore, so seldom is everything covered. But I imagine perhaps this could lead to some interesting track observations? There’s always something out there…

2 Likes

Right now - August in New England - I’m tired from the summer! SO much to do, so many places to explore, so much to learn, so many technological problems to overcome (my moth traps aren’t working, my printer decided to run out of black ink this morning when I needed to print something, my router/modem has died so I am typing this from my wonderful public library, etc., etc.) - frankly, I am beginning to look forward to winter.

I can catch up on IDing the mosses and liverworts I collected this summer. I can properly package all those specimens and send them off to herbaria. I can badger, er, persuade real bryophyte experts in Massachusetts to come together to produce an updated bryophyte county checklist for the state. I can organize another project focused on IDing New England plants. I can co-organize the Western Massachusetts City Nature Challenge. I can work hard on many lots of IDs for other people (maybe I’ll hit 200,000 IDs this winter?).

And there will still be mosses and liverworts and galls and trees and birds and mammal tracks to look at. Maybe the Spring Peepers or Wood Frogs will call during the usual January thaw (but what is usual these days?).

I can catch up on my sleep. Maybe even vacuum the house. (Probably not.)

5 Likes

On the US Gulf Coast, we have insects and blooming plants every month of the year, and the bird fauna is richer in winter than summer, so there’s no “indoor” season. I spent many years in the northeast, though. If I were there again I’d want to learn more about winter buds, bark, and seed pods, mosses and liverworts, and about what overwinters in rotting logs. And yes, more ID’ing on iNat.

5 Likes

Oh wow! I had no idea that Cardinals needed another bird to uncover the seeds for them. I don’t see them everyday but I see them every now and then, even though they are the state bird :)

Seriously. I was going to ask “what do you mean what do I do in the winter?” I live in California. I can find a lot of stuff any time of the year.

2 Likes

We also hit below -40C a few times up in central Alberta, but most of the winter is -10 to -20C so its perfect for cross country skiing and keeping refreshed for data basing, reporting, writing, curating and spreading specimens. A nice break from the field overall.

2 Likes

ID stuff. Find cool birds. Rejoice that it’s not a heat index of 115 plus.

4 Likes