Update March 30, 2009: I woke up this morning to a snow-covered lawn and car windows that need scraped. So much for harbingers of spring. I should have known that winter had not quite let go as a frequent guest at our feeder, the dark-eyed junco, is still here. The junco actually winters here and they were at the feeder yesterday. It is truly spring when I no longer see them. I did observe a pair of chickadees checking out a nest box that I built in our yard. A pair raised two broods last year.
I ran across my last harbinger (not the last one that I’ll see, but the last one that I will post about) while walking along a stream. This is actually part of my job. How cool is that? This plant actually begins blooming in the winter and I have photos of it peeking through the snow. This photograph was the one that I shot this morning. The plant is called skunk cabbage and the reddish part next to the green sprout is actually the dying flower. It looks like cabbage when grown and has a distinctive scent.
Update March 27, 2009: Today my favorite spring wildflower started blooming in my garden. Bloodroot is a little unusual since the flower actually opens before the leaves appear. You can see the leaves wrapped around the stem of the bloom. I have been waiting for them for the past week and noticed the sprouts this afternoon, but there were not any blooms. By the time I grabbed my camera, five had opened.
If you live anywhere within a 500 mile radius of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania you are treated to annual newscasts featuring Phil the groundhog. Legend has it that if Phil sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter (or is it if he sees his shadow there will be less than six more weeks of winter?). I could never keep it straight probably because Phil always forecasts six more weeks of winter.
Hear Ye Hear Ye
On Gobbler’s Knob this glorious Groundhog Day, February 2nd, 2009
Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Prognosticator of all Prognosticators
Awoke to the call of President Bill Cooper
And greeted his handlers, Ben Hughes and John Griffiths
After casting a joyful eye towards thousands of his faithful followers,
Phil proclaimed his beloved Pittsburgh Steelers were World Champions one more time
And a bright sky above me
Showed my shadow beside me.
So 6 more weeks of winter it will be.
I had a friend who went to college in Punxsutawney and the Phil thing was an excuse to promote tourism and party. I am not sure that most consider yanking a groundhog out of his hole as a harbinger, but when Phil shows up on the front page, we know there is six weeks left.
In a related story, I was talking to a colleague near the office of my “open door” policy boss. It seems that another of this manager’s quirks is that he rarely leaves the office except for his daily lunch jaunt with another manager. He is the director of a large regional business unit, but many outside our group do not know who he is. I noticed during my conversation that he actually came out of his office and remarked that we truly must be in for another six weeks of winter.
I was thinking of true harbingers and started compiling my own list. Some you may recognize and some are based on my observations. If you live in a location where you get a decent amount of show, some of the snow lingers and lingers and lingers. After a while it looks nothing like snow and more closely resembles cooled lava. My first harbinger was spotted on February 27, 2009 in a parking lot. I would call it black snow:
Later that weekend I could not believe my ears, but I heard one of my neighbors mowing his lawn. I could not bring myself to identify the culprit, but in his defense it was a warm, sunny day. It was still February.
My first real harbinger of spring came on March 3 when I saw my first American Robin. It is always remarkable when I see my first robin. About a week later I heard another of my favorite harbingers. If you live or have occasion to be near a pond or wetland in the spring, you are sure to hear the “singing” of spring peepers.
I have only seen one in the wild once, but look forward to hearing them each spring. Two days later on March 13 I saw and heard my first Red-winged Blackbird. They also like wetlands and it was a pleasure to hear their “concreeete” call. Check out eNature.com for sites and sounds of many of your favorite critters. You can even find out what critters are in your geographic area by giving them your zip code.
On Friday the 13th I got to tour a maple sugar operation. These folks tap nearly 4000 trees to make hundreds of gallons of syrup. Their work culminates in a two-day festival that lures thousands to partake of their pancake breakfast.
Later that day I was treated to the first bloom in my yard. I have been searching for others every day since. This past winter seems to have been longer (Sorry to man-made global warming alarmists) and colder than any in recent memory. It is not even the cold or snow; it is the lack of bright sunlight that makes winters blah.
Still, with all of these signs of spring, there is one event that warmed my heart the most.
I had occasion to visit my local Rite Aid and noticed that they moved and expanded their display of sunscreen products to the front of the store.