December 1 began meteorological winter, which is different from astronomical winter.
Meteorological winter is based on the three coldest months–December, January and February. Astronomical winter is based on the solstice, which this year happens on December 21.
So, since we’re in meteorological winter now, I thought I would see what my squirrels were thinking. For newer readers, what I am relying on is the time tested (sort of) tradition that squirrels build their nests based on their foreknowledge of winter cold. The higher up in a tree a squirrel builds its nest, the colder the winter will be.
I ask you, does this make any sense? No. But it has seemed to hold true for almost every winter that I have consulted the nests. So let’s look up at some nests.
This is the squirrel’s nest on my property. It’s a little hard to see because it’s almost at the top of this oak. Clearly, my squirrels are thinking “cold winter.”
And I wouldn’t disagree with them. November ran well below average, except in snowfall and rainfall.
But that’s not the whole story.
There are two nests in this tree (again, if you can’t see them, my apologies. This time of year, we’re all still cleaning up leaves, and I couldn’t get near anything because of leaf piles–which is still better than snowdrifts!)
These trees are on my neighbor’s property, directly across from my house and my oak. In the tree on the left–the one nearest their house–there are 2 nests. One is on the lowest branch and another just slightly higher. So their squirrels are thinking different things than mine.
So perhaps the “split decision” this winter means exactly that: periods of very cold weather followed by not so cold. I’ll take that!