By David Wagner
Entering another La Niña season has meant a long, mild introduction to our winter. We have had no hard freeze before Thanksgiving in Eugene, quite unusual. Common lore has it that frosty nights are needed for the best fall colors but the glorious gold on the bigleaf maples this year is the best color we’ve seen in a long time. The urban trees have been no less delightful. Great fall leaf color does mean having to rake leaves up when the show is over. Adding to the leaf piles are incense cedar cones, thousands of little duckbills with long tongues. Each one produced four seeds before falling to the ground.
Mild weather — rainy and cool — makes the mosses and lichens happy. Their growth has been dramatic everywhere, even in sidewalk cracks and on concrete walls. A good moss year means a good weed year, too, as the winter annuals are already robust. Anybody who likes to keep the little goddaminies from blooming in their garden had better start pulling them right away.
Winter residents fill our backyards with cheerful chirps. Keep the bird feeders full. With the humidity of the rainy season, feeders are particularly vulnerable to mildew. Cleaning the feeders weekly before refilling is important. Keeping water available now is not critical except when it does freeze, if it does freeze. The 70th anniversary of Lane County Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count will be New Year’s Day. Call 485-BIRD to participate; it’s really fun.
David Wagner is a botanist who has worked in Eugene for more than 30 years. Every year he makes the Willamette Valley Nature Calendar, available this month at Down to Earth and the UO Museum of Natural and Cultural History. Reach him at email@example.com.