The January Report

Snow-covered trail around Lake Wintergreen

Updated for 2018

You, And The New Year Ahead

January 1st, and the month of January in general, can mean different things for different people. For some, it’s all about the New Year’s resolutions that usually revolve around diet and exercise. For others, it is lamenting all of the damage you did to your body over the prior weeks of celebration. Finally, there are also those with seasonal depression who are now just acclimating to the idea that we still have some long, dark, and cold months ahead of us. The good news, for everyone, is that there is a cure! Get outside, get some exercise, and visit with nature at a time when you would normally avoid it. Staying indoors all winter long is not terribly healthy and more important for the birders, you’re missing out on the good stuff.

Same as December, January is a cold month, and often snowy. Most of the plants, fungi, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals have gone into hibernation or dormancy. So the month of January is, again, mostly about the birds. While the snow may be obstructing the trees and bird feeders a bit, you can usually see some pretty interesting shore birds even on the coldest days.

I’m going to be straightforward here and say that there is not a lot of wildlife you’re going to see along the hiking trails. While activities like cross-country skiing and hiking are excellent for exercise, the birds and animals are not typically plentiful out in the forests. They too are trying to survive the harsh winter and spend most of their time where the food is, namely in the suburbs and along the shoreline. So those are the places to look.

From a foraging perspective, the ground is frozen, often covered with snow, so there really isn’t going to be much you can find that is edible on the ground. Surviving the winter in Connecticut would require hunting and fishing which is a bit beyond the intentions of this website. As such, the foraging section of the montly reports will be extremely limited until next spring.

As January comes to an end you will quickly find-out that February really isn’t much different. The only good news is that as we move away from December 21st, the days at least get a little longer.




January Species of Interest

We have picked-out a few species from each category that we think are important to look for and be aware of in the month of January. While there are many more species out there, this list should acquaint you with what you are most likely to see outside. For the sake of keeping it interesting, we generally skip-over most the year-round species such as squirrels, deer, blue jays, crows, and evergreens, but since January is often lacking in diversity we may highlight some of them.

Amphibians

We have not found any notable amphibian species for the month of January. They really can’t survive the cold temperatures and have gone into hibernation.

Birds

We have passed our first snowfall and are now fully engaged with our winter migrant birds including new ducks on the ponds and shorelines and a few new varieties of sparrows and smaller birds. Some of the year-round birds are now more visible due to reduced foliage.

Green-winged Teal
(Anas carolinensis)

Bufflehead
(Bucephala albeola)

Common merganser
(Mergus merganser americanus)

American coot
(Fulica americana)

Great blue heron
(Ardea herodias herodias)

Eastern savannah sparrow
(Passerculus sandwichensis savanna)

Northern mockingbird
(Mimus polyglottos)

Black vulture
(Coragyps atratus)

Cooper’s Hawk
(Accipiter cooperii)

Fungi

While there are some hardy polypores and crust fungi that remain throughout the year, we have no notable fungi species for January at this time. We’ll keep our eyes open for next year.

Insects

The only notable insects we are aware of for January are house pests such as stink bugs, spiders, centipedes, and pill bugs.

Brown marmorated stink bug
(Halyomorpha halys)

Lichens

Lichens tend to persist all year long, but have a new growth phase in the warmer months. We don’t have any notable lichens for the month of January.

Mammals

Many mammals go into hibernation during the winter months and most of what is left we tend to see year-round, such as squirrels, deer, and chipmunks. The only notable mammals during this time are some of the more reclusive mammals that are slightly more visible now to due reduced foliage.

White-tailed deer
(Odocoileus virginianus)

Muskrat
(Ondatra zibethicus)

Mosses

While many mosses may be able to persist through the winter, they are generally not in a growth phase. Most of the mosses encountered in the winter months will have turned brown. We have no notable species of moss for the month of January. We’ll keep our eyes open for next year.

Plants

We have a couple of hardy plants that still hang-around for January, if only by a thread.

Oriental bittersweet
(Celastrus orbiculatus)

English ivy
(Hedera helix)

Common mullein
(Verbascum thapsus)

Reptiles

We have no reptiles to report for the month of January and we really don’t expect to see any, even on an exceptionally warm day.

Sea Creatures

Seals (technically a mammal) do head-down to Connecticut around mid-November but we do not have any photos at this time. Otherwise we don’t have anything to report for sea creatures for the month of January. You can however probably still find some periwinkles, oysters, and fiddler crabs if you look.

Slime Molds

We don’t have any notable slime molds for the month of January. While it is possible to see them during a warm spell, they are generally dormant during the winter months.

Trees

In January, nearly all of the deciduous trees will have dropped their leaves. A few have interesting bark patterns that may be more noticeable in the winter. Otherwise all that is really left are the evergreens that persist year-round. We only have one notable evergreen tree to post for January but we’ll be on the lookout for next year.

Blue spruce
(Picea pungens)




Foraging Tips

There really isn’t much for foraging in Connecticut in January. While it’s still possible to see winter oyster mushrooms, or one of the toothed mushrooms such as a lion’s mane or bear’s head, it’s not common. The ground is often frozen by this point and the first snow has probably ruined any nuts that may have been left over from fall. So all that is really left is hunting and fishing, which is really outside of the scope of this website. Please check back in the early spring when more foraging options become available.




January Hikes

We have chosen a few recommended hikes and places to visit during the month of January. Since foliage is at a minimum, the focus will be on winter migrant birds which inhabit lakes, ponds, and coastal areas.

West Rock Ridge State Park
Hamden, CT

The hike around Lake Wintergreen is fairly easy going, except for a small rocky part near the dam. In January the lake typically isn’t fully frozen and you can see some of the winter migrant ducks on the lake and near the shore. There is also an abundance of evergreen foliage which will stand-out in the snow.

Norwalk River Valley Trail
Norwalk, CT

The Norwalk section of the NRVT is still under construction. With the reduced foliage it’s a good time to explore northern sections of the trail near the end of the route 7 connector. Just be careful of traffic and enjoy the urban artwork under the bridge.

Preparing for February

Cold and snow. That’s pretty much what is on the menu. January and February in Connecticut are very much the same when it comes to visiting nature and exploring the outdoors. The focus is still on winter migrant birds along the shoreline and bird feeders and keeping your eyes open for the occasional winter mushroom that pops-up now and again. It’s really not until March that things get more exciting so try to hang in there and stay warm.

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