Nature Calendar - December

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. 

This month:

  • 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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