January 1 – 10
This time period has the latest sunrise at 7:29 in Madison and 7:53 in Superior. Even though the days are getting longer, the elliptical orbit and tilt of the earth in reference to the sun creates this effect of latest sunrise. The earliest sunset occurs in mid-December. Racine has 9 hours and 16 minutes of daylight at the end of the period and Superior has 8 hours and 49 minutes of daylight.
The full moon will be on the night of January 4-5. Prior to written language, the tracking the moon cycle was most significant requirement for making decisions regarding future activities. Different cultures and nations have different names for full moons, which correspond to those activities. Over the centuries names such as Wolf Moon, Bear Moon, Great Spirit Moon, and Winter Moon have been given to this January full moon.
Quadrantid meteor shower: This meteor shower can be spectacular if you hit it just right. Unfortunately, this meteor shower lasts just a few hours, therefore, timing is paramount. The peak is around January 3 or 4th and can be seen just below the tip of the Big Dipper’s handle. As many as 100 “shooting stars” per hour have been seen. Chances for viewing hampered by clouds, a full moon, in addition to the brief duration does not give the Quadrantids much press. Your best information should come from sky observation web sites that track the timing and duration much more precisely.
End of fall bird migration: In years with a milder November and December, especially those without any major cold fronts, oft times will have an early January cold blast. Bird migration is still occurring at this time of year. As the last open water freezes, bird associated with this last open water can be seen migrating in January. Bluffs along the Mississippi River or along Lake Michigan are good vantage points to watch as sometimes thousands of waterfowl, gulls, eagles and even Swamp Sparrows move south.
Surprising winter birds: Nature observers near my boyhood home in west central Wisconsin would herald the start of spring with the first American Robin. Keen nature observers near my adult home in the Madison area see robins nearly every winter. In addition, Eastern Bluebird, Song Sparrow, Hermit Thrush, and Gray Catbird are occasionally seen spending the winter in southern Wisconsin. Those fortunate enough to live north of Wausau are graced with presence of Gray Jay, Boreal Chickadee, Pine Grosbeak and Evening Grosbeak – species seldom found south of this city – nearly every winter.
Deer Yard: This time frame is the most common for white-tailed deer to start congregating in deer yards. Areas that are well protected from the harshest winter temperatures and still supply some food are much sought after locations for deer in the north. Areas of white cedar and eastern hemlock are preferred locations due to the thermal protection of the needles and palatable food for the deer.
Juniper berries: An ardent naturalist in southern of western Wisconsin should note the location of juniper berries (actually tightly packed cones). More accurately called red cedar, these trees sometimes have an abundance of grayish green berries sometimes thousands of berries per tree. These berries are an excellent food source for many bird species. Especially fond of this cornucopia are Cedar Waxwings, and also Eastern Bluebird, Bohemian Waxwing, American Robin and even Yellow-rumped Warbler can be found in the juniper thickets.