Preparing for... the winter. (Sigh)

So the doors are… almost closed on bug season. Is anyone else experiencing a growing dread of the emptier trails ahead?

Any advice for a seasonal withdrawal first-timer?

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Spend your time identifying all the bug observations!

Or come to visit California, where we have bugs all year round.

I’ve never lived in a cold climate, but you can probably still find things hibernating in old logs and such, right? I’ve acquired so many unintentional new roommates by bringing home pieces of rotten wood to examine for fungi. An hour in the nice warm house, and everything wakes up and starts exploring…

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I always say that when the insects more or less disappear, their place in our iNatting is taken up by the isopods, myriapods, centipedes and isopods that we find under logs etc…

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Most of your observations are animals so no good news there, but a good fraction are plants! May not be as enjoyable, but what about photographing/identifying trees and shrubs that have gone dormant for the winter?

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Meanwhile here in NZ the critters are just starting to show themselves!

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Open water can often be found even in winter climates (drainage, river, power plant). Plants, mosses, bugs, birds, rodents?

Snow could allow one to learn animal tracks?

Get really good at photographing resident winter birds?

And, yes, ID ID ID

We are very sad for the end of the season

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Actually, I found a very nice old lab microscope on-line. It’s a 51 year old Olympus with very clear 4x and 10x objectives (the other two are oil immersion). I’ve ordered some hardware to connect to my DSLR and I’m going to give microscopy a bit of a whirl again (it’s been about 50 years).

Plants, birds, open water. Very nice ideas. And yeah, I guess I could wander into the whole IDing thing. Gotta start somewhere…

But I still feel like a lot of the magic dies with the frost.

Onwards!

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I heartily disagree that winter ends the fun. You get to explore your sites from a whole new perspective, and of course (in the midwest anyway) that’s when it’s easiest to look for owls.

Once I read a journal entry written about 1900 by a naturalist in a local museum. It was all about exploring the land during the winter months. My favorite part of it was when the writer (no idea who it was beyond a local naturalist), said how much they enjoyed exploring the back corners of wetlands over the ice. Getting to see places that they couldn’t get to in the summer when it was open water. After reading that, I’ve done that at several of me favorite creeks and wetlands over the years. One in particular, I try to visit every winter. Then there’s roadside birding, looking for sparrows and shrikes and Snowy Owls. A patch of open water might have hundreds or thousands of waterbirds. If you look for it, you’ll find it.

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It can be easier to see birds in the trees when there’s no leaves! That’s what I’m looking forward to. And tracks in the snow. I actually like how observing in the winter is so different from other seasons. It forces me to pay more attention to different things and that keeps things interesting.

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From the perspective of the high desert, winter is cold and dry. Snow doesn’t linger - it sublimates or melts on sunny days, even below freezing. The only open waters are manmade reservoirs and most of the rivers slow to a trickle until the snow melts. Most of my observations last winter were galls and small, common birds (juncos, goldfinches). Ski season keeps us busy out west.

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I’m personally a big fan of winter because it allows me to travel the game trails around me with much less fear of ticks! Also, large animal tracks stay much longer in snow.

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Sometimes when all the noise is removed it lets you focus, like @dallon says.

I know for some people the shorter daylight feels like less opportunity outside though, so when you do need to be indoors, I wonder if there is any little niche of bugs you feel drawn to that you have noticed feels unaddressed or underaddressed. It could be a good time to “burrow in”! You could do a deep dive into that bug, even build a model or do a detailed drawing or painting (did you peek at the nature art thread? It is incredibly inspiring!) and become that bug’s best admirer here and beyond.

I love Mexican Pitted-Stingless Bees, and over the last few years I have learned so much about them, but people love to ID them so there just is not a need for me to do so. But maybe there is a bug who needs you!

I am currently waiting out Tropical Storm Karl’s trajectory (and battling a killer migraine to go with it) but have decided if it heads this way and we lose power for any length of time I will break out paper and pencils and try my hand at a drawing.

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Woohoo, winter! (Sorry, Floridian here) Typically we don’t have on-and-off seasons for bugs or plants, so winter just means cooler and more comfortable weather. On your side, I’d probably:

  • Focus on getting better images of resident organisms over the winter.
  • Pick up interest in other types of organisms (plant viruses, mites, mosses, etc.)… In other words, change your perspective on what’s engaging.
  • Find other methods of iNatting (e.g. Ice-fishing ?)
  • Perhaps find activities outside of iNat to take up your winter time (e.g. skiing)?
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I too am lamenting the winter’s approach, although for me I find I don’t start getting winter blues until January. January isn’t too bad but by February or March I’m pretty ready for spring.

Here are a few things that keep me busy while it’s cold:

  • Identifying trees/shrubs, by shape, bark, and buds. I’ve started doing this the past couple years and embarrassingly there are some shrubs I’m better at IDing in winter.

  • Enjoy winter birds. Ducks in particular are fun in late winter as many species begin their courtship rituals.

  • Look for tracks after it snows.

  • Springtails! I have no advice for finding them, but there are sever species that are out in frigid weather.

  • Embrace the excuse to spend more time indoors. Scheme places you want to want to go, things you want to see once it warms up. Spend some time learning/getting better with identifying organisms, plenty of observations to practice with! Or, kick your feet up on the couch with a warm drink and relax.

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And hey, it’s a good time to be interested in ducks since they enter their breeding plumage this time of year. The Mallards will ditch their dull colours and gain their green head again!

Also, if you have a basement, you can try finding insects there. I know I do.

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I used to have a tree identification book that included a winter twig key.

In many ways, though, I dread seeing winter iNat observations. Some dried up stem of an herbaceous plant, for which the observer apparently expects miracles, since they didn’t include anything that might be an identification clue. The aforementioned winter twig key should be a clue that you need to zoom in close to ID dormant plants.

I leave you with this image of mine from last winter. I had always liked the poetic imagery of snowberries in the snow, and last winter I finally captured it:

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Winter is also a good time to start learning to ID lichens and mosses.

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You can also take this opportunity to simply take photos. Winter offers a unique appearance to nature where the greens are replaced with whites. Any colour in the environment will really POP as a result. Last year, I walked through a trail during a snow fall and got this shot of a tree, the only one with leaves left. It made for an interesting composition.

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Winter no longer exists in central Florida and southbound so come visit us? (Hello!) Not even kidding though when I say the last time I wore a jacket was in 2014. It’s such a menial thing but it says a ton about the state the planet is in now sadly.

I’m actually interested in the replies here as I’m at a loss of what to do besides keep an eye out for wintering birds.

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I’m prepping to sow my backyard with tons of native plant seed as the first frosts gets closer, nipping lingering invasive cool season weeds in the bud by hand pulling (and a bit of glyphosate to burn the honeysuckle hydra on its stumps), hoping to get lots more bug activity starting next year

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