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THROUGH THE WOODS: When is it spring?

A male red-winged blackbird. Photo by Nancy Jane Kern

WHAT IS CONSIDERED THE FIRST DAY of spring depends on whether you are using the meteorological or astronomical definition of the seasons. The meteorological is the simpler of the two because it splits the year into four seasons of three full months each based on the Gregorian calendar. This means that every year spring begins on March 1, and lasts until May 31, with summer starting on June 1.

The astronomical season is less straightforward as it depends on the date of the vernal (spring) equinox, which means the date comes later than March 1 and can vary slightly from year to year. For us, the spring equinox falls on Sunday, March 20, 2022, at 11:33 a.m. EDT. The astronomical spring will last until the summer solstice on June 21.

We are enjoying this current warm winter weather and are pleased not to be shoveling snow and paying for more heating oil this week. In the meantime, nature seems to think it is already an astronomical spring. A few days ago I noticed buds coming out and small leaf tips on some shrubs. So far this year their flower buds survived without the usual loss of buds to the cold. Our fast-running brooks have no ice at this point. Down at the site of my parent’s old farmhouse, the snowdrops are out and cover the ground in white in imitation of the missing snow.

The sun gets higher and more intense this time of year and it is coaxing life to re-emerge. Inside the house, plants like geraniums are budding and beginning to blossom. South-facing flower beds have many bulbs sending up green shoots. They stopped growing when the temperature dropped one night and the tips were nipped.

A friend emailed to tell me she had their first red-winged blackbird of the year on their feeders, and a large flock of blackbirds, which may be many starlings. I don’t think the poor birds know if they are coming or going. Geese are flying north one day and a few days later they are flying south again. I wish I knew what they were thinking.

Our deer have their thicker winter coats but are not as furry-looking as usual for this time of year. They are out in the field today eating more grass because it is now exposed, and there are nice green patches of it. The deer are still looking fat and hopefully, there will be lower mortality rates.

We are having the Worm Moon this month on March 18. It gets its name from the earthworms that come out when the soil warms up. This helps many birds such as the robins. I am looking out the window from my warm cozy house, and am so thankful and fortunate that regardless of what this moon may bring I am prepared, and I am enjoying the sunny day today.

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