Jeffers Foundation


Data from Freshwater Society Minnesota Weatherguide Environment Calendar and Almanac (Jim Gilbert for Phenology and Rod Nerdahl for Astronomy)


Phenology: Fourth Week of January

Listen for blue jays, now gathering in small noisy groups each morning, vocalizing their "pumphandle" - also known as "speelunker" spring calls. Red foxes are roaming in pairs; they are normally solitary and only seen in pairs as the mating season approaches. White-tailed deer bucks continue to lose their antlers. In northeastern Minnesota, common ravens do elaborate courtship flight maneuvers including steep dives, tumbles, and rolls.

View the January Phenology Information from the Freshwater Society Minnesota Weatherguide Environment Calendar and Almanac >>

Species of the Month

White-breasted nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)

White-breasted nuthatch (<em>Sitta carolinensis</em>)
Virginia Graves

The white-breasted nuthatch is one of the resident bird species that you can attract to a feeding station in almost any area of Minnesota. Even on minus 10 degree January mornings they are calling their spring songs and coming for sunflower seeds. This five-inch long, short-tailed, short-legged, tree-climbing bird can be identified by its white face and the solid black cap of the male and gray cap on the female. Usually seen in pairs even throughout winter, they are apparently mated for life.

Sometimes called the upside-down bird, they most often walk down the side of a tree rather than the upward motion of most birds. A characteristic pose is the nuthatch standing head downward on the trunk of a tree with its neck extended backward and the bill pointing straight out.

Astronomy: January

January will provide us with two popular lunar phenomenon: the Blue Moon and the Super Moon. A Blue Moon is not blue at all; it refers to the second Full Moon in a month. And a Full Moon is considered Super if it comes within 90% of it's minimum distance to the Earth. Like all objects in our solar system, the Moon's orbit is not a perfect circle but an ellipse. Thus, the Moon's distance varies between 222,000 and 252,000 miles. When the Moon is closer to us, it looks bigger. A Full Moon at close approach (perigee) is visually 14% larger in diameter and up to 30% brighter than at its farthest point, called apogee. While that sounds promising, it is difficult to notice the size difference, since the Moon appears by itself in the sky, with nothing for comparison.

Morning Stars

Rising about 4 am on January 6, Mars and Jupiter make a close pair - only 0.2 degrees apart. The Moon joins them on January 11. Mercury appears in the morning sky, before sunrise, on the first of the month (when it is at Greatest Western Elongation) but is soon lost in the glare of the Sun. It passes less than one degree from Saturn on January 12. The Moon joins this duo on January 14. The Moon passes Regulus by less than one degree at 1 am on January 5 and approaches again on January 31.

Evening Stars

All five naked-eye planets are setting before the Sun and not rising until just before dawn. Near the end of the month, the Moon passes through the Hyades Cluster, and near Aldebaran on the January 26. At just 151 light-years away, the stars are so dispersed it is easy to overlook this as a cluster. On January 9, Venus reaches Superior Conjunction, passing behind the Sun, as seen from Earth.

Sun Declination

View the January Astronomy Information from the Freshwater Society Minnesota Weatherguide Environment Calendar and Almanac >>


First northern cardinal "what-cheer, cheer, cheer..." spring song heard (Minnetonka):
2016 January 8
2015 January 8
2014 January 9
2013 January 5
2012 January 4




1st, Moon perigee; 221,559 miles - 3:48 pm

1st, Full Moon Supermoon - 8:24 pm

2nd, Earth at perihelion; Earth-Sun distance 91,401,983 miles - 11:35 pm

3rd, Quadrantida Meteor Shower peak - 2:00 pm

4th, Moon near Regulus in southeast - near midnight

6th, Mars 0.22 degrees south of Jupiter - 9:41 pm

8th, Last Quarter Moon - 4:25 pm

14th, Moon apogee; 252,565 miles - 8:09 pm

16th, New Moon Deep Snow (Ojibwe) - 8:17 pm

24th, First Quarter Moon - 4:20 pm

26th, Moon near Aldebaran in west - near midnight

30th, Moon perigee; 223,068 miles - 3:56 am

31st, Full Moon Supermoon / Blue Moon - 7:27 am

31st, Total Lunar Eclipse - 5:48 to 9:11 am

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