Kristy Morley, Senior Naturalist, and Margaret Rohde, Conservation Manager, Wissahickon Trails
Winter is a great time to get out and explore the trails. The season offers the opportunity to observe things in nature that are difficult to see otherwise.
Photos by Kristy Morley and Lisa Hansell
Yellow-bellied sapsuckers are woodpeckers that are in our area only in the winter. The small holes they drill in trees are more often seen than the bird itself. Because they are made in living trees, the holes leak sap that the birds consume.
Most trees in our area lose their leaves in the winter, but American beech trees often keep their leaves, especially young trees. Keeping the leaves may help the trees obtain nutrients or protect delicate spring buds from predators.
It’s a great time to see animal tracks in the snow like these left by a dark-eyed junco. You can take a photo with your smartphone and use iNaturalist to help you identify any animal tracks you see.
If the gray days of winter are getting you down, take a walk and look for snowbells in bloom. While not native to our area, they bloom early and let us know that spring is coming.
Winter is also a great time to spot bird nests in trees. Old hawk nests may be visible due to their large size, like this one made by a pair of red-shouldered hawks. Keep your eyes peeled for large nests — you might get lucky and see a great horned owl!
Precipitation can cause muddy conditions, which means trails are slippery and can more easily be damaged. When you walk around muddy spots, it can damage vegetation. If you have to pass through a muddy spot, use caution and try to stay on the trail.
Birds are more visible without all those leaves to hide them. Woodpeckers, like this red-bellied woodpecker, can frequently be seen on snags (dead trees that are still standing), which are favored by cavity-nesting birds as well as by insects.