junco at Holy Wisdom Monastery

December phenology (Cold Moon)

Holy Wisdom Monastery Care for the Earth, Friends of Wisdom Prairie, Phenology 2 Comments

By Sylvia Marek

junco at Holy Wisdom Monastery

A junco in the woods at Holy Wisdom Monastery

Phenology is a science focused on observing and recording biological events from year to year and their relationships to the change of seasons and climate.

These are the “normal” phenology events we expect to see here and in the Madison area in December. We would love to hear about what you are seeing on the grounds of Holy Wisdom Monastery. Please comment on this post with what you are observing, where at Holy Wisdom and the date you observed the event.

Winter birds

  • Residents: chickadee, cardinal, white-breasted nuthatch, tufted titmouse, house finch and woodpeckers
  • Winter visitors from the north: tree sparrows, dark-eyed juncos, brown creeper and northern finches (pine siskin, purple finch, red-breasted nuthatch, redpolls and crossbills)
  • Over wintering: robins, bluebirds and cedar waxwings, especially near fruit trees
  • Resident great horned owls pair bonding in courtship calls.
  • Visiting owls from the north include snowy, saw-whet, short-eared and long-eared
  • Waterfowl leave when lakes freeze (tundra swans, coots, bufflehead, geese…)
  • Annual Christmas Audubon bird count
  • Snow, hoarfrost, ice…


  • Animal tracks in the snow: rabbit, deer, fox, coyote, deer mice and tunnels made by voles and shrews
  • Flying squirrels active at night.
  • Deer start to shed antlers

Sky watch

  • Earliest sunsets of the year (4:20 pm)
  • Venus and Jupiter very bright
  • Winter constellations: Orion, Cassiopeia, Pleiades, Big Dipper, North Star
  • Northern lights


  • Look for cocoons of cecropia and promethia moths
  • Goldenrod galls
  • Eggs of tree crickets (little holes lined up along a twig)

Sylvia Marek is a highly trained and experienced naturalist. She works for the University of Wisconsin Arboretum and is a first rate birder.

Please share the biological events you notice while at Holy Wisdom Monastery below (remember to include what you see, where and when).

Comments 2

  1. While not right at the monastery, my husband and I saw over 80 tundra swans last weekend in a bay of Lake Mendota at Governor Nelson State Park, across the road from the monastery. Thanks for helping us confirm our sighting!

  2. Thank you, Holy Wisdom Family, for offering us another gift and invitation to gently, quietly recognize our God of all-being moving/migrating among us on this gracious earth which is temporarily our shared home. A home wherein we are here being reminded that we can deepen our awareness of the Divinity pulsating within us and within some of the most fragile, courageous beings of foot or wing, bark or dormant grain surrounding us. When I opened this site, I was soothed by the loving and watchful gaze of the Junco. It is as if I am right there next to my friend the Junco, settled, feather-fluffed for warmth, on that graciously provided branch/perch with this full chested bird sojourner gazing at the course of the world.

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