Backyard Almanac

Phenology with local naturalist Larry Weber every Friday morning at 8:20 on Northland Morning. Have a question for Larry Weber? Email us and you might hear his answer on the show!


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JLS Photography Alaska/Flickr

Greg Schechter [via Flickr]

Larry Weber notes that the February snows are, as usual, light and dry; not much has fallen in the past couple weeks.  The warm temps that gave way to the cold temps have created a crusty layer of snow on top of the deep snow pack.  While this is not so much fun for deer whose legs have to punch through it, it is great for lighter, smaller animals like the fox who now can walk across the top of it.

Finland Lakeland/Flickr

"Every step was squishy."

That's how Larry Weber described his own lake walk this past week. 

Luckily the ice is fundamentally thick enough not to break through, but it's covered with a layer of slush that does make travel difficult.

Larry wraps up a remarkable January (remarkable because it wasn't), ponders how warm it will actually get this weekend, reminisces about the -60 in Tower back on Feb. 2, 1996 and observes some signs of spring.


It troubles Larry Weber that people call them "snowfleas."

©JR Kelsey. Used with permission.

Every month is like January these days.

In the sense that the Roman god Janus, from whom the month takes its name, is usually shown having two heads or faces.  Janus is the god of beginnings and endings, the future and the past, and transitions.

Brent Johns

Larry Weber's been talking about AutWin for years, but he's finally written a book about it.

Then he and Sparky Stensaas teamed up to illustrate it with lush photos of the animals, plants, birds, berries, nuts, insects and spiders you can find at that magical time of year after the leaf drop and before the first there-for-the-duration snowfall.

In other news, the first half of January has been "unimpressive," but the snow cover is great  for seeing  animal tracks.

Phil Gayton/Flickr

Larry Weber has a wrap-up of December, some good news about tomorrow (the sun starts rising earlier!) and a group of Northland residents who weren't just tolerating last weekend's rain ... they were lichen it.

Christopher Harwood

Larry Weber makes many interesting year-end observations when looking back over 2019.  Here are a few: January was colder than normal, including twice when temps dropped below -40.  We set a February record for snowfall.  March and April didn't see a lot of snow, but May did and set another record.

©Bob King. Used with permission.

Punctuation matters.

Even the Universe says so.

Larry Weber lets word nerds know when they can see the "celestial semicolon" this weekend, and Bob King even provided an illustration.

In other news, Larry speculated that, if it gets too warm next week for reindeer to fly safely, Christmas might need to be cancelled.

©Jason Mandich. Used with permission.

Some people say winter officially starts with the December 21st solstice.

The National Weather Service says it's December 1st.

Larry Weber says it's when rivers freeze, but he also says, "Who cares? Just get out and enjoy it!"

Marilylle Soveran/Flickr

The abrupt changes of November, the beginning of our darkest month, and - oh, yeah! - it snowed!

Photo Caption: The crystals that float down through the air unite with others, fusing to form units that cling together and take on new shapes. "A snow-covered branch becomes a single section of snow. After a while, gravity may cause this snow to sag off the branch, and observers call the pattern a 'snow rope' or 'snow snake." ~ Larry Weber


The National Weather Service isn't given to hyperbole. So if they say (as they did this [11/29] morning at 3:26am) "If the forecast is correct, this could be a top 10 two-day snowfall event for the region," well ... Larry says we should probably listen to them.

© USFWS Midwest Region

Grey November is upon us.  After the cold spell earlier this month ten degrees lower than normal, temps in the Northland have now risen back to typical November levels. 

The last thirty days have yielded less than one inch of snow.  

©JR Kelsey. Used with permission.

Many times in 2019, the first half and second halves of the month bore little resemblance to each other.

Perhaps November is headed in that direction also.

Scott Robinson/Flickr

While the human world debates the merits (or lack thereof) of the time change, the natural world in our neck of the woods is dealing with an earlier-than-usual freeze-up.

Luckily, many birds (unlike loons) can take off from an ice-covered pond when they mistake it for open water, but as Larry Weber reports, that doesn't mean they like it.