By David Wagner
A fitful watch I kept of sleep’s domain; the wintry night was wracked by wind and rain …
When lines like these come to me in my dreams and it is dark when I wake up, it must be January.
The days are getting longer, but the change from day to day is not easily noticed. Nine hours from sunrise to sunset at the beginning of the month, nine hours and 35 minutes at the end of the month. Another month when the most exciting events play out very slowly, hidden from view. Except when the bush tits come to the suet. Be sure to keep the feeders filled because they provide the best entertainment in town this time of year.
Beaver breeding season begins this month; it peaks in early February. Beaver kits are born 16 weeks later. Black bear mating season was way back in June and July. After fertilization, the embryos developed very slowly and were implanted only last month. Then fetuses grow at a fantastic rate, and babies are delivered late this month or early February. The bears are hibernating in dens under logs or ancient stumps; their cubs’ emergence into the wild is yet some time away.
Although swelling osoberry buds won’t burst until next month, wind-pollinated trees are already releasing pollen. First comes the incense cedar, next domestic filbert and white alder. Winter annual weeds keep growing when temperatures are above freezing. If it warms up at all, they bloom by month’s end.
David Wagner is a botanist who has worked in Eugene for more than 30 years. Every year he makes the Willamette Valley Nature Calendar, available this month at Down to Earth and the UO Museum of Natural and Cultural History.