A Globally Warm Spring

Yesterday was the Vernal Equinox. When I looked back to my spring blog of 2016 I noted that it was 70+ degrees outside, that trees had blossomed, and daffodils and crocuses had bloomed. Well, here we are just a couple of days prior to last year’s date and temperatures and plant activity are the same.

Much of what I have learned about the habits of trees and other blooming plants has come from botany and ecology courses I’ve taken. Much more has come from careful observation and the recording of events in nature. The practice of observing and recording these natural events is called Phenology, and for as long as we’ve been together, Jim and I have kept phonologies. Admittedly, living in the urban environment has not given us as much “natural” to observe or record, but we do take note of the few things that go on around us. When we have reread our phonologies for years past, we have found that events occur at the same time every year, regardless of the weather at the time. The obvious examples are blooming trees and flowers, the return of migratory birds, and the births of baby bison and other large mammals.

During the past two weeks, Jim and I have birded three state parks and a county park, and still have not seen any bluebirds, but we have seen meadowlarks and red-winged blackbirds. Although temperatures have been in the high 70s and low 80s for weeks, it is still too early for spring migrants. BUT, last year on March 29th we had bluebirds. Needless to say we will be looking for them again at the same time this year. In the meantime, we have seen white-breasted nuthatches, white-crowned sparrows, hooded mergansers, common mergansers, goldeneyes, white pelicans, downy woodpeckers, red-tailed hawks, bald eagles, and the usual suspects: crows, magpies, starlings, house sparrows, Canada geese and flickers.

Right now, its those house finches I’ve written about so often in the past that are the most observable. They are so busy now that the dark time is over. They wake us before dawn with their cheery songs and are gathering nesting material throughout the day. This year they are using the bird bath I installed for them. I find it quite thrilling to watch them take turns drinking — one bird stands sentinel while the other drinks, then they trade places.

Much of what I have learned about the habits of trees and other blooming plants has come from botany and ecology courses I’ve taken. Much more has come from careful observation and the recording of events in nature. The practice of observing and recording these natural events is called Phenology, and for as long as we’ve been together, Jim and I have kept phonologies. Admittedly, living in the urban environment has not given us as much “natural” to observe or record, but we do take note of the few things that go on around us. One of the things I learned in school and in reading textbooks is that the only force of nature that compels trees to start leaf-producing photosynthesis is light, and only light. As the days lengthen the cells within tree tissues that have been resting all winter, wake up and begin to turn sunlight and stored proteins into sugar which feeds the roots, which feed the branches, and turn buds into leaves.

This cycle of light predictability has been going on for tens of millions of years, yet in only the past two hundred years has man been able to affect these cycles by artificially warming up our planet. Biologists have noticed a shift in our seasons which is confusing the natural life cycles of plants and animals. One thing we can each do to wake up that nascent curious naturalist in each of us is to plant a tiny tree seedling and watch it every single day. Water it by hand, observe every change and write it down, draw it, talk about it, notice it, and you will see how each of us, in our own small way, can have an effect on our natural world.

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2 responses to “A Globally Warm Spring

  1. Thank you so much for reminding me to open my eyes and pay attention to what is most important. Lovely writing.

  2. Jim & Sharon,

    You don’t have bluebirds because we’re hogging them all up here at the Arctic Circle. Western bluebirds showed up yesterday, and mountain bluebirds today – Far Out.

    The first male G Bears were reported out last week, and we’ve been seeing or hearing tundra swans for a couple of weeks. With temps at or near 50 for a week, We’re hoping that we’ve finally gotten past the snow.

    Cheers,

    Brian & Linda Lu >

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