The Winter Solstice

January 3, 2024

While walking through the Willits Mitigation Lands in Little Lake Valley, I noticed a shift in the quality of light. The holidays have passed, and the winter solstice has arrived and gone. A few more minutes each day doesn’t seem to be a huge difference, but I see and feel it. On the solstice, the sun’s angle is at its lowest as the Northern Hemisphere is tilted away from the sun. This year’s solstice fell on December 21st and since then, each day has been approximately four minutes longer. The tilting of the earth and the sun’s angle (approximately 23.5 degrees) also cause our days to be cooler since the sun is not directly overhead, unlike in the summer when the air is warming for up to twelve hours per day.

Yesterday we received a lot of rain, with periods of heavy rain and showers. Today, the air is fresh, with blue sky and sunshine showing through. Hearing Outlet Creek rushing along to the east of me and Canada Geese honking to the west is enjoyable. The water is still muddy from yesterday’s downpour, and some recreational equipment is stuck in the debris islands formed by branches hanging in the water. There is a soccer ball, basketball, and volleyball just out of my reach. When the water recedes, we will get them out during our annual clean up.

White Alder trees, Alnus rhombifolia, are growing along the creek and are full of yellow catkins swaying in the breeze, attracting Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Bushtits, and Yellow-rumped Warblers. Northern Flickers and Nuttall’s woodpeckers are noisily moving among the tree limbs, and a White-tailed Kite calls in the distance, but overall, it is a quiet day for birds. Earlier, a small group of Black-tailed deer bounded away as I approached. It is a beautiful day this winter.