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It's About Time - December 2016

Western Red Cedar, Thuja plicata
Western Red Cedar, Thuja plicata

Gray whales are headed south this month and most of next month, led by females keen on giving birth in warm lagoons along the coast of Baja California, Mexico. Whale watching is not as good as during northward migration in spring, when whales move more slowly and closer to shore. But more whales per hour pass Oregon points in winter than in spring. Seeing whales is almost guaranteed. Looking from a high vantage point helps. The West Shelter close to the observation lookout at the top of the St. Perpetua Trail in the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area is an excellent spot. From there one can see far over the ocean while being offered shelter from wind and rain should you pick a more challenging day for a coast trip.

This is Orion time of the year, my favorite night companion through winter Solstice season. When fleeting clouds part to give a glimpse of the starry night sky on my bedtime walk, Orion is an old friend. I must settle for the “Summer Triangle” as my most familiar celestial marker to track summer Solstice passage.

When I talk to my brother in New England, I come to appreciate how his woods seem to shut down for the winter. Here in western Oregon, the beginning of rainy season — our surrogate for winter — means that woods are perking up. Mosses and licorice ferns on tree branches have their prime growth surge while our valley herbaceous perennials start their flush of leafy spring greens.