Yes, it’s only the end of February. Yes, we just had record cold temperatures in the double-digit below-zero ranges across the nation. However, we can see the finish line… spring is coming!
Here in Southwest Michigan, it’s subtle. There is still frost on the grass at night, or snow on the ground, but the days might warm up to as high as 40o Fahrenheit. Migratory birds are returning. Sap is running. Hibernating animals are awakening. And it SMELLS like spring!
Here are some signs of Spring:
Snowmelt circles around the trees: Because the days are a bit longer, and warmer, the dark tree trunks absorb sunlight, and melt snow in a ring around the tree roots. Dry brown grass with a hint of green is showing. Some plants are peeking above the earth. Snowdrops are blooming in some sunny locations. Crocuses and daffodil leaves are sneaking up from underground. Springtime herbs like chives are beginning to emerge. We’re reminded of the legends of Persephone / Kore / Rhiannon, who escape from the Underworld to return to the surface, bringing spring weather.
Hibernating Mammals: Of course, the first to show their head in legend is the groundhog, seeking after his shadow on Feb. 2nd, in order to predict six more weeks of winter (or not). As mentioned in a previous blog entry, in the UK, it’s a folkloric badger that foretells the weather. The little brown bats who dwell under my porch roof have awakened, and are talking at night, squeaking, cheeping, and scrabbling around on the wooden surfaces. “Where are all the insects?” “I dunno, do you think we can eat shield-shaped stinkbugs?” “If we can, we’re gonna get so fat we can’t fly!” Raccoons have emerged from their hollow trees and are leaving handprint-shaped tracks in the snow, checking the bird feeders for suet and corn. Up North, there are tales of bears coming out of hibernation, grumpy and hungry, so lock your cars and garage doors.
Migrating Birds: Here in SW Michigan, the bluebirds return around Candlemas. I’ve been hearing their musical calls, along with redwinged blackbirds, song sparrows, and a few robins. Some of the latter overwinter, and local news sources have been publishing photos of robin flocks for a couple of weeks now. Starlings have again invaded our yard, searching for gaps in the house soffits and holes in tree trunks to build their nests. They’re pretty, but the invasive species sometimes crowds out other birds for housing and space at the feeder. Wild turkeys, which stay all winter, are chattering to find the perfect mate. “Hey Gladys, wanna go out with me?” “Oh, Tom, you surely have the most gorgeous tailfeathers!” Blue herons seek open waters to hunt fish. Just this morning, I saw a couple of Canada geese, scouts for the main flock, soaring over my house, squawking their heads off.
Alban Eilir / Oestara / Easter candy and baskets in the stores: We bought some. Will it last until the Equinox? Hopefully Dave hid it well enough…