There is a remarkable lack of snow this winter in the area where I live. Only about 2 feet of snow has fallen in total, and that has been in a recurring pattern of a few inches of snow followed by several days of melting temperatures. At present the area is short of annual average snowfall by more than 4 feet. This presents a rather rare opportunity to wander throughout the woods without needing snowshoes or cross-country skis.

Taking advantage of the lack of snow enabled me to see the “mid-winter” woods in a rather different light. Almost all of the trees had dropped their leaves with a variety of aspen being the major exception. Those aspen leaves had turned a light brown while the pines and hemlocks were still their usual green. Just about everything else was a shade of grey, much like an old black and white photograph. There were a few patches of dirty snow in shaded areas but those areas were few and far between.

The winter we wish we were having.

Without a blanket of snow covering the ground, it was difficult to see individual animal tracks. However, it was clear that large flocks of turkeys had been eager to disturb the leaf litter in search of food. Several deer “highways” were in evidence due to the lack of shrub growth, the smashed leaves, and the abundance of droppings. It appeared that animal activity was enhanced by the lack of snow.

Small animals, such as chipmunks and squirrels, were active and unafraid as usual of a human intruder into their domain. Chickadees, woodpeckers, crows, ravens, and owls made their presence known through calls and by flying through the area. It is always enjoyable to have the chance to view any kind of wildlife. We humans are often closed inside our homes and workplaces during the shorter winter daylight hours so we don’t have as many opportunities for wildlife observation. And often in winter it is too cold for many to spend time in the woods.

Each winter the woods presents a different aspect to those who go into them. Some years the snow is almost too deep even for snowshoes. In other winters the snow falls wet and heavy, causing damage to trees and shrubs as well as changing the patterns of wildlife movements. And the rare years like this one present a very open woods that is easy to walk through. Every winter is different and rarely do two in a row turn out similarly.

The changing landscape of all four seasons gives many occasions to view the faces of nature in all conditions. Rain, sunshine, snow, overcast, and more present widely varying opportunities to wander the woods for recreation, relaxation, and photography. As is said in Scandinavia, “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.” Go outside in all conditions and experience what nature has to offer.