January phenology

Holy Wisdom Monastery Care for the Earth, Friends of Wisdom Prairie, Phenology 1 Comment

By Sylvia Marek

Male cardinal at Holy Wisdom Monastery

Phenology is a science focused on observing and recording biological events from year to year and their relationships to the change of seasons and climate.

These are the “normal” phenology events we expect to see here and in the Madison area in January. We would love to hear about what you are seeing on the grounds of Holy Wisdom Monastery. Please comment on this post with what you are observing, where at Holy Wisdom and the date you observed the event.


  • Coldest month
  • Days gradually lengthen
  • Stars are very bright on cold, clear nights

Resident birds

  • Cardinals first in morning and last in evening to visit feeders
  • Cardinals start calling early in the day
  • Chickadee’s whistle “fee-bee”
  • Great horned owls continue to call and mate
  • In late January check abandoned hawk or crow nests for female great horned owls incubating eggs
  • Look for screech owls in tree cavities
  • Noisy flocks of crows
  • Mallards perform courtship displays

Winter visitors

  • Brown creeper
  • Flocks of juncos, tree sparrows, pine siskins, snow buntings, Lapland longspurs along roadsides and in open fields
  • Rough-legged hawks hunt over grasslands—possible northern harrier, northern shrike and short-eared owl

Irregular visitors from the north

  • White-winged and red crossbills
  • Evening and pine grosbeaks
  • Common and hoary redpolls
  • Bohemian waxwings


  • White-tailed deer (bucks) shed antlers
  • Look for deer and rabbit
  • Tracks in the snow—deer, coyote, rabbit, mice, squirrels, raccoon and during a thaw, skunk tracks
  • Tunnels in the snow made by meadow voles and shrews
  • Red foxes breed (listen for barking and snarling and look for “dancing circle” of tracks and tail brush)
  • Male grey squirrels chase females through treetops and mate

During a January thaw

  • Look on the top of the snow for tiny black specks called springtails or snow fleas
  • When temperatures are around 50 degrees look for active overwintering adult butterflies such as mourning cloak, angel-wings and red admiral
  • Small mosquito-like winter crane flies
  • Small winter stone flies

Sylvia Marek is a highly trained and experienced naturalist. She works for the University of Wisconsin Arboretum and is a first rate birder.

Please share the biological events you notice while at Holy Wisdom Monastery below (remember to include what you see, where and when).

Comments 1

  1. Hi Sylvia,
    I was very excited to see two adult and what I think were two juvenile bald eagles flying above the monastery on Tuesday and Wednesday around 4:15 in the afternoon. I looked for them again today, with binoculars ready, but no luck.

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