December brings the start of winter, the shortest day of the year and a revealing look at nature.
During a walk in one of our parks, look for the following:
- Snowy Owls in the salt marshes by Bayshore Waterfront Park, Port Monmouth.
- Great cormorants and bonaparte’s gulls, canvasbacks, redheads and hooded mergansers arriving.
- The Winterberry Holly’s bright red berries emerging. After its leaves drop, its bright red berries provide a much needed food source for wildlife. Look for it at the Manasquan Reservoir, Howell.
Winter is also fascinating for what is hidden:
- Bull and green frogs hibernating in pond mud at Holmdel Park, Holmdel.
- Spring peepers hibernating in the woods beneath several inches of soil.
- Snapping turtles remaining active beneath the ice at Crosswicks Creek Greenway, Upper Freehold.
- Winter flounder arriving and spawning in the bay using the shallow waters of coves and harbors as a nursery.
- Skunks, chipmunks and bats going mostly dormant; while not true hibernators, these animals are inactive for periods of time. You may catch a glimpse of them in Huber Woods Park, Middletown.
- Beavers staying mostly underwater or inside their lodges during the cold weather.
- Animals seeking shelter from the cold in tree hollows, fallen logs, under rocks and leaves.
- Red fox, no longer able to find fruit and insects, will eat small rodents.
- Ponds clear as algae die, by mid-December many ponds begin to freeze.
- Bay waters start to cool significantly, dropping to an average of 35 degrees.
- The ground may freeze by month’s end.
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