On the Wild Side!
E-Newsletter for the Chesapeake Bay Field Office


Winter Exploration

Photo of a winter scene by George Andrejko.
Photo of a winter scene by George Andrejko.

Now that the holidays are over and winter has set in, you may want to spend the rest of the season inside your house in front of a warm fire. For many people, curling up in a warm den, like much of our local wildlife, might even sound like a good idea. But when cabin fever abounds, look to the outdoors for a new experience.

The warm colors of autumn have been replaced with browns, grays and tans of the winter landscape. Evergreens, out dressed most of the year by more flamboyant trees, feed eyes hungry for color. In this winter starkness, however, nature reveals itself to us

Chesapeake Bay waters are dark and foreboding. Odd sculptures of driftwood, deposited by winter storms, adorn the barren shorelines. The dry, brown grasses glisten with morning frost, accentuating the meandering streams that wander through the marshes. Crystalline waterlines mark the daily rhythm of the tides.

Quiet and still as the winter months may be, wildlife still abounds. Anyone with a passion for feeding birds is treated to a daily performance as sparrows, chickadees, finches, nuthatches, cardinals, woodpeckers, crows and blue jays vie for space at a feeding station. Squirrels busily search for their buried nuts or, if unsuccessful, merely raid the bird feeder.

Most of the more familiar mammals in this region do not actually hibernate. Deer, mice, foxes, squirrels and rabbits are active throughout winter. You may not realize how much wildlife lives you until a light snow blankets the ground.

Winter reflections. Photo by Jam Jones.
Photo of winter rections by Jam Jones.
Cardinal photo by Harvey Doerksen.
Photo of a cardinal.

Take a walk immediately after the snowfall. Look down for telltale tracks in the snow. Listen for the rustling of birds and other wildlife seeking food and cover. Listen as the trees sway and groan in the wind. Train your eyes to see the patterns created by icicles, cracks on a frozen pond and tracks in the snow. When you finally feel like you belong in this picture, you will enjoy this new found world. Spring won't seem so far away and maybe it won't even matter.


Last updated: September 22, 2009