Signs of spring to get you through the Arctic blast

Get outside now. That’s what I thought on Monday when I saw the weather forecast for the second half of the week. So on Tuesday I headed out to flag the boundaries of our spring prescribed burn units. Take home messages from my Tuesday outing:

  1. Winter is still here. Our recent warm weekend hardly touched the snow pack, and it doesn’t look like it will be going anywhere soon.
  2. Spring is coming. Buds are beginning to swell on the trees, skunk cabbage is getting ready to display its hot, smelly blossom, and the days are getting longer.
  3.  Spend time outside to observe the transition from winter to spring. Observing your favorite patch of woods, wetlands or prairie through the winter will help you notice the first subtle signs of spring. If you haven’t taken the time in the past to really appreciate the flurry of migrating birds, spring wildflowers, and budding trees, start planning now to really appreciate the imminent surprise of spring.

Are you seeing signs of spring in your yard? Let me know in the comments below. When it is too cold to get outside this weekend, you can participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count (http://gbbc.birdcount.org/). You can be a citizen scientist from the comfort and warmth of your home by counting the different species using your feeder. You can then submit the data online to help scientists learn more about the timing of bird migration, how birds use different habitats, and how weather and climate influence bird distributions. All that by just counting birds outside your window!

Here is my picture evidence from my Tuesday outing:

Pussy willow (Salix discolor) fuzz is peaking out of buds to see if it is time to burst.
Pussy willow (Salix discolor) fuzz is peaking out of buds to see if it is time to burst.
Rabbit tracks in the snow. A nice article about distinguishing rabbit tracks from squirrel tracks can be found here: http://www.natureskills.com/tracking/rabbit-tracks-and-sign/
Rabbit tracks in the snow. A nice article about distinguishing rabbit tracks from squirrel tracks can be found here: http://www.natureskills.com/tracking/rabbit-tracks-and-sign/
You'd hardly know that this oasis of mud, leaves, and sprouting skunk cabbage is surrounded by a deep layer of snow!
You’d hardly know that this oasis of mud, leaves, and sprouting skunk cabbage is surrounded by a deep layer of snow!
This skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) is growing in a spring fed by groundwater at O'Connor Nature Park.
This skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) is growing in a spring fed by groundwater at O’Connor Nature Park.
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About Ben VanderWeide

I am the Natural Areas Stewardship Manager for Oakland Township Parks and Recreation in southeast Michigan. I have a doctorate in biology (focused on plant ecology) and I am passionate about protecting and managing natural areas.

3 thoughts on “Signs of spring to get you through the Arctic blast

  1. Thank you, Dr. Ben, for the taste of spring! I rarely get past my bird feeders…I did have three crows mobbing a great horned owl in the woods behind my house two days ago. That was amazing.

  2. We saw a great horned owl’s silhouette as s/he swooped through the trees at sundown last week, but , alas, I didn’t see it land. That’s really early for skunk cabbage; your explanation of the springfed ground water helped explain it. The earliest photos I have of skunk cabbage buds in Bear Creek are around March15!

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