Posted By lowenby on January 7, 2013
Winter is a GREAT time to get out and visit the parks! Hiking or biking the trails is a good way to burn off all those extra holiday calories for you and your dog—and if you bring the whole family, it is an awesome opportunity to have some bonding time. There are still plenty of things to observe in the natural world during the winter and some great activities to participate in as well. Light snow brings a completely new perspective and changes the scenery entirely at the parks. We are usually open if the roads are passable—but call ahead or check our Facebook Page to make sure if you are in doubt. Below we have put together a few “must see” lists for winter for those of you who are interested in getting out and exploring Catawba County’s natural heritage! Since there is always a Ranger on duty at each park, stop in and ask what good things have been seen recently and they will be happy to point you in the right direction!
Evergreen Plants/Wildflowers/Interesting Fruit: American Holly (fruit), Heart-leaf Ginger (leaves), Downy Rattlesnake Plantain (leaves), Puttyroot (leaves), Cranefly Orchid (leaves), Trout Lily (blooming late February thru March), Round-lobed Hepatica (blooming late February thru March), Christmas Fern (leaves), Witch Hazel (blooming late November thru February), Hearts-a-Bursting (fruit), Purple Beauty Berry Bush (fruit), and Coralberry (fruit)
Winter Birds At The Feeders: Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-Breasted Nuthatch, White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Purple Finch, Pine Siskin, and Fox Sparrow along with the more common feeder birds. You never know what excitement you might find just watching the feeding stations at any of our facilities.
Winter Birds Away From The Feeders: Wild Turkey, Bufflehead, Northern Flicker, Hooded Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, Ring-billed Gull, Barred Owl, Bald Eagle, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Hermit Thrush, Winter Wren, Savannah Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, and Rusty Blackbird.
Other Things To Look For: Winter is a great time to look for animal tracks including White-footed Mouse, Eastern Gray Squirrel, Eastern Chipmunk, Raccoon, Virginia Opossum, Mink, Muskrats, and White-tailed Deer. The American Woodcock, known for its long flexible bill and short fat body, begins its whimsical mating displays. Near dusk, the males will fly up into the air from a clearing in the canopy and spiral back down while making a soft twittering sound. (This is usually the best time ALL YEAR to see them because of their very cryptic habits!) And, after a warm winter rain—look for mass migrations of Marbled and Spotted Salamanders to vernal pools where they will lay their eggs.