Poor Will’s Clark County Almanack: Days longer in deep winter’s 3rd week

By the end of the week, Clark County residents may begin hearing the mating calls of cardinals half an hour before sunrise. CONTRIBUTED

Combined ShapeCaption
By the end of the week, Clark County residents may begin hearing the mating calls of cardinals half an hour before sunrise. CONTRIBUTED

A day of thaw. Early this morning crows flew westward over the prairie, cawing in the fresh, temperate air, their voices as always filling the morning with the promise of spring. — August Derleth, A Countryman’s Journal, Jan. 15

The Almanack Horoscope

Moon Time: The Tufted Titmouse Moon entered its final quarter on Jan. 19. On the 22nd, it reaches apogee, its least influential position, farthest from Earth. Rising in the night and setting in the afternoon, this moon passes overhead before dawn, becoming new on the 27th.

Sun Time: The Sun enters its sign of Aquarius on the 20th, ushering in the last subseason of winter (aptly called "late winter"). And even though the mornings are still so dark, the Clark County days are 20 minutes longer this week than they were at Christmas time!

Planet Time: Near midnight, Jupiter flirts with the rising moon. Venus is still the bright evening star.

Star Time: Sirius, the giant Dog Star, is due south at 10 p.m. The Great Square of Autumn is setting in the west then. Perseus follows Cassiopeia into the northwest.

Weather Time: The Jan. 20 Front: This high-pressure system is the first one of the year to consistently offer the possibility for a major thaw. On the other hand, bitter weather typically follows as the next front arrives.

The Jan. 25 Front: This front spawns storms, accompanied by snow or rain, and the days following its arrival make the 25th and 26th some of the month’s chillier days. Secondary frontal conditions, sometimes carrying moist Gulf air, can set off powerful blizzards around the 27th. And the moon will be turning new on the 27th, increasing the chances for heavy precipitation, followed by more cold.

Zeitgebers: Events in Nature that Tell the Time of Year: This is the time of year to watch for the first flocks of robins to arrive from the South. Bluebird sightings become more common, too, and by the 26th, cardinals ordinarily begin their mating songs half an hour before sunrise throughout Clark County.

Although the end of the year’s first month is often one of the coldest times of the year, each thaw accelerates the swelling of buds and the appearance of early bulb foliage.

As the sun moves into Aquarius, crows start migration. Also look for opossums and skunks to be looking for mates in the milder nights. And the first flies of the year come out in the sun.

Farm and Garden Time: Prepare to seed bedding plants and cold-weather vegetables (like collards, kale, broccoli and Brussels sprouts) near new moon (Jan. 27).

Reserve your spring chicks for March, April or May so they can gain weight throughout the summer and be ready to lay by autumn.

Take advantage of the dark moon for cutting wood and for your winter building projects.

This is also a good lunar time for frost seeding the lawn (as long as there is no snow cover), as well as for frost seeding oats and barley. Spread the seeds across the field and yard; the freezing and thawing of the ground as winter progresses will do the planting for you.

Take advantage of the weak moon to move livestock culls to market, as well as to give vaccinations, trim hooves, and treat for parasites. Animals ought to be a little less skittish than they were last week under the full moon.

If you have just adopted a puppy or kitten, this is a fine lunar week (under the darkening moon) to get your new pet his or her shots.

Marketing Time: Easter is April 16 this year, only three months away: Be ready to sell your lambs and kids to the Easter Market.

Mind and Body Time: When the moon lies early in its gentle fourth quarter this week, it will be most favorable for going on dates and for working with livestock. Teachers and other public service employees should also have it easy — compared to what they often experience during full-moon week.

And the S.A.D. Index, which measures the forces that contribute to seasonal affective disorders on a scale of 1 to 75 dips a little below 70 this week, thanks to the weak moon.

Creature Time (for fishing, hunting, feeding, bird watching): Since the moon will be overhead in the morning this week, plan to look for creatures before lunch. Animals and fish should be most active as the Jan. 25 cold front approaches. After that brisk weather system passes through, lie low until the barometer starts dropping again in front of the Jan. 31 cold front.

Journal

After spending the late autumn and early winter in great flocks that visit and feast in the fields throughout Clark County (and much of the nation), starlings frequently break into smaller groups early in the year.

Sometimes, as they did on January 4, 2012, the first small flock comes down from the woods to eat suet in my yard. On January 12 of 2016, in the midst of snowbursts, the first starlings joined the cardinals, sparrows, doves, cowbirds, chickadees, tufted titmice and a red-bellied woodpecker at my birdfeeder.

I have notes from the middle of February about clusters of starlings visiting the neighborhood more frequently, even courting then, and it seems that most of the larger flocks have broken up and pairing has begun by March 1.

Starlings complete courtship in middle spring, and by May 15, the first fledglings have emerged to whine and beg for food – which they do, depending on the permissiveness of the parents, throughout June and into July.

Then, by the middle of August, they start to fill the high wires, and the first murmurations dance in the sky. Some starling families do remain in the towns and villages, clucking, chirping, burbling, and whistling through the autumn and early winter. Usually, however, by the beginning of November, most of the birds gather to soar and feed as one until the sun starts to rise earlier in the morning and the breeding cycle divides and scatters their winter assemblies.

About the Author