Week of November 5, 2023 – November 11, 2023
by Elizabeth Suzedell, Environmental Educator
Just a little over a week ago, I was enjoying a 75°F walk in the sunshine with a T-shirt on. What a difference compared to this week, when we had our first frost and snowfall! Suddenly, I’m remembering all of the things I need to do before the winter season truly hits us- find my hats, gloves, and layers, bring the warmer blankets out, get snow tires, and maybe finally figure out holiday plans. However, while I’m waiting until November to get ready for my winter, our animal neighbors have been busily preparing since the summertime. They will be enduring all of the frigid cold blasts and blizzards without any of the fancy heaters we have. How do the animals do it?
Firstly, they get a head start. Summer and early autumn might be the easiest time of year for their survival, with warmth and ample food sources. Many animals, like bats and bears, take advantage of this season by eating as much as they can, so that they have the extra fat stores to use as energy when they can no longer find food. Others, like squirrels and blue jays, cache an abundance of nuts and seeds throughout autumn so that they can have it for later on.
As many of us tend to slow down in the winter, some animals will be doing so too. Cold blooded animals, like snakes and insects, will burrow underground and stay still for the winter, going into a state of dormancy and using very little energy. Pond creatures, like frogs and turtles, will go to the bottom of the water, under the leaves and mud, to do the same thing. One local mammal that hibernates is the groundhog- their body temperature drops drastically from around 99°F to the upper 30s° in order to conserve energy and live off of its fat stores from the fall.
What if animals could escape the winter? Lots of birds do just that- sometimes flying thousands of miles to migrate to a warmer residence. Many warblers, thrushes, and hummingbirds are currently on an astonishingly long journey to Central America! I’ve enjoyed seeing some migratory birds stop at Baltimore Woods this year, like the ruby-crowned kinglets and blackburnian warblers.
Animals do an incredible amount of work to adapt amazingly to the upcoming change of the season. Realizing this makes everything I had on my to-do-list seem so trivial! Maybe I can learn a thing or two from our animal neighbors as I continue to observe them over the next few months. What are you doing to prepare for winter, and what have you noticed your local animals doing?