Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Winter Solstice!

It is the winter solstice today. The first day of winter! It seems like a good day to start our blog about phenology. On this blog, we are going to attempt to document some phenology in the Madison area. We hope that people will add to our attempts by making comments about their observations. We are amateurs with no special training, so we are also hoping that any readers will correct our misstatements, and maybe even answer our questions!

This blog is dedicated to Dan’s grandma without whom we wouldn’t even know what phenology means. Many thanks to her for enriching our lives with observations about nature, and in countless other ways too.

If you are wondering what phenology is, here is the Wikipedia definition:

Phenology is the study of the times of recurring natural phenomena. The word is derived from the Greek phainomai (φαινομαι)- to appear, come into view, and indicates that phenology has been principally concerned with the dates of first occurrence of natural events in their annual cycle. Examples include the date of emergence of leaves and flowers, the first flight of butterflies and the first appearance of migratory birds, the date of leaf colouring and fall in deciduous trees, the dates of egg-laying of birds and amphibia, or the timing of the developmental cycles of temperate-zone honey bee colonies. In the scientific literature on ecology, the term is used more generally to indicate the time frame for any seasonal phenomena, including the dates of last appearance (e.g., the seasonal phenology of a species may be from April through September).”

We are homebodies and homeschoolers, so many of the observations will be within walking distance of our home. Our backyard, Quann park, Wingra creek and Lake Monona are places that are close by.

Symbolically, this seems like a good day to start a phenology blog, but in Wisconsin, the first day of winter is not the time to find many phenological events to record! The big event to look for would be to see if the lakes have completely frozen. They were not a week ago. With a morning temperature of -12F, and more cold in the forecast, the lakes should be frozen over soon, if this has not already happened.

Sometime soon, we should also start hearing the chickadees spring courtship song (fee-bee) in addition to its usual chicka-dee-dee-dee. We haven’t heard it yet. Have you?

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