Written by Gabi Zabel, Education Specialist
I’ll always be the first to admit: I am a summer girl. Warm weather, sunshine, evening thunderstorms rolling in, even the humidity – tropical conditions are my jam. Even so, I find winter to be incredible, and not just for the reasons you might think.
Everyone oohs and ahhs over snow on tree branches or grabs their skis or snowboards and heads out to the slopes when it’s cold out, but I would much rather take it slow. Here in Southern Maryland, where snowfall is relatively infrequent, there is still a lot of beauty to be found.
Have you ever stepped into a leafless forest and just listened? You’ll hear the creaking of trees, the scraping of bare branches, and the rustle of squirrels and sparrows digging through the leaf litter. It’s easier to see birds hopping around in the bushes and treetops, and though many of them are LBB’s (little brown birds), you can still find bright red northern cardinals and beautiful blue jays. Feel the crunch of frosted grass under your feet and the glow of sunshine peeking at you as you walk through a field in the early morning.
Strolling along the marsh boardwalk, I look for great blue herons stalking their fish dinners and beavers repairing their warm wooden lodge. There might be ice at the edge of the creek, but the remnants of last year’s cattails and other marsh plants poke holes in it like Swiss cheese. Birders like to peer out onto lakes and rivers to look for the “crazy ducks”, the oddly shaped and beautifully patterned winter migrants that fly south during cold weather.
Later in the winter, I like to look for the signs that spring might be just around the corner, such as the beginning of a bud on a tree branch or the first insects to emerge on a slightly warmer day. The cheerful bird songs and the sound of a light breeze blowing through a field remind me that nature remains hopeful for warmer weather to arrive.
Don’t get me wrong – I cheer when the average high gets above 60 degrees, but winter is a special time that should not be overlooked for nature watching. It is truly a wonder.