THROUGH THE WOODS: When is it spring?

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 June 1.

The astronomical season is less straightforward as it depends on the date of the spring equinox, which means the date comes later than March 1, and can vary slightly from year to year. In 2021, the spring equinox falls on Saturday, March 20. The astronomical spring will last until the summer solstice in June. We are enjoying this current warm winter weather and are pleased not to have snow and paying for more heating oil this week. In the meantime, nature seems to think it is already astronomical spring.

A few days ago, I noticed tree buds coming out. Our fast-running brooks have no ice at this point. Down at the site of my parent’s old farmhouse, the snow drops 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 the plants like geraniums are budding and beginning to blossom. South facing flower beds have many bulbs about to send up green shoots. 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 Algonquin full moon called the Snow or Worm (insect larva) Moon this month. An old Farmer’s Almanac says, “The tribes kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring full moon.

“Their names were applied to the entire month in which each occurred.”

The snow moon was referred to as the hunger moon or little famine moon, ice in river is gone moon, bony moon (they were making soup from bone marrow), the wind moon, the out of food moon, purification moon, makes branches fall in pieces moon, or the sleet moon. The Apache had a cheerier epithet, Frost Sparkling in the Sun moon.

This must have been a very difficult season for all of them. If you were weak from hunger, hunting game and fishing would be almost impossible in the harsh weather. 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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