Sumac tree

Winter Phenology

“Keeping records enhances the pleasure of the search…”- Aldo Leopold

Sumac tree
Sumac Tree

Leaf pick-up is happening in our neighborhood this week, which means it is time to prepare for winter. In fact, we saw our first snow last week. Although the lovely colors of fall are almost gone, I did come across a few hold-outs as I was out making my recordings today. The berry leaves are still red, and that pesky buckthorn is still in full green glory.

Red leaves on a berry bush
Berry Bush

We’ve been listening to the migrations along the Wisconsin River. The geese and the cranes have been heading out. Now is a good time to put out bird feeders if you like to watch those that hang out with us over the winter. Bear should be in hibernation, though with the bit of warmth we’ve had recently, a few may still be wandering around. Bats are also beginning their migration in November. Those of you in the northern part of the state may be seeing snowshoe hares in their winter whites; this makes it rather difficult for the little ones to hide in our milder weather.

Since I brought up the dreaded word buckthorn earlier, now is a good time to treat any smaller patches of buckthorn. They are still holding green leaves, while almost everything else is dormant. That means you can fairly easily use a foliar spray without damaging nearby plants. I bring this up now, in the context of phenology, since you should also mark any patches of buckthorn you treat, and return to the area in the spring to track any changes to the buckthorn or growth of other plants that had been around it.


Although the deer hunt has already started, the traditional gun season is coming up. If you are in your woods over the next few weeks, keep track of any changes the deer make before, during and after the hunt. I was always amazed to see their usual bedding places go unused during hunting, but I never did figure out where they went.

I’ve started to put away my cycling gear, and pull out the winter wear. We won’t be curling outside anytime soon, and if the last two years are any indication, I won’t be cross-country skiing before the New Year either. As we move through November and December, make note of the date of the first snow fall, the date of the first day to stay below 32 degrees, and if you are on water, note the date it freezes.

Frosty pine needles
Frosty Pine