|Hoarfrost on silver maple.|
Early March 2013
study of the timing of natural events
Signs of spring are all around us in early March, we just
might have to look a little harder this year. While driving to and from work on Highway 15 I have started
noticing more and more striped skunk fatalities; I have even heard reports from
friends that they have had late night visits near their homes by these
inquisitive mammals. Whether we
enjoy these creatures or despise their smell, they are a sure sign of spring
approaching. After months in a
state of torpor underground in a burrow or inside an abandoned woodpile the
male skunks are out there eagerly looking for a mate – this was the first event
noted in Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County
Almanac. With these creatures
abound, if you are lucky you may even catch a glimpse of the now uncommon
Eastern Spotted Skunk or civet cat.
Populations of these skunks have steadily declined due to the loss of
habitat and food availability.
Brake for skunks – its just Love in the air!
Although not always a sign of spring, one might have noticed
that there are more mornings recently where you look outside and notice the
trees are covered in beautiful white “fuzz”. This phenomenon is known as hoarfrost. Hoarfrost forms whenever it cold enough
outside to freeze yet there is an ample supply of water vapor in the air. This is why we commonly see hoarfrost
in late winter, when the temperatures get into the 30’s during the day and then
dip below freezing at night.
Lastly, as I was sitting in my garage last Saturday night my
dog, Hazel, approached me with a curious creature – A muskrat! I thought to myself, “What is a muskrat
doing out here, there is not a wetland area within a mile of our place?” Then it occurred to me, this is the
start of the mating season for them as well. This little guy was likely a young male looking to find a
new partner and expand into new territory. When I woke up the next morning I inspected the scene
further. Apparently this muskrat had
done an entire tour of the farm, looking in every nook and cranny.
When you get a moment take a look at our native river bottom
tree, the Silver Maple. These
maples are showing signs of spring preparation with their swelling buds. Often these enlarged buds are a
maroon/red color and quite striking against the backdrop of a snow-covered landscape. Soon enough these buds will break and
begin to flower, we will talk more about the fascination with trees in flower
in the near future.
As we near the spring thaw, signs of new life will begin to
show themselves more frequently.
If we pay closer attention to the trees, birds, and animals around us
they would surely tell you spring is near.
. . . . .
I am looking forward to doing phenology reports on a regular basis. I certainly do hope you enjoy them. -John