It’s the vernal equinox, and while we’re still enjoying a good layer of snow, things are beginning to get more lively out there among animals, insects, and birds.
The vernal (and autumnal) equinox means that at noon somewhere along the Equator, the sun was directly overhead. It happened at noon in central Africa, and our time at 6:29 this morning.
Even during last week’s cold temperatures and heavy snow, the stalwart mourning doves were singing, and a few intrepid red-winged blackbirds stuck around until it got really bad. I expect they’ll return this week.
Woodpeckers are drumming, marking their territories. Ravens are cavorting, flying in pairs and executing barrel rolls. Coyotes and hares are very frisky, even rushing about in broad daylight.
Snowfleas have been active for weeks, finding mates. They look like black dust sprinkled in the snow – until you notice them jumping about.
Our Groundhog Day was Thursday. Someone emerged from his/her den and trooped across the deep snow on the Bronson Hill field, crossed the stonewall, headed westward, and eventually returned by the same path (see the photo).
I saw a turkey vulture last Thursday in Concord. It used to be that these big birds rarely never came this far north, and now the trend is they arrive earlier every year. However, this time last year we already had vultures and woodcock were singing. Bluebirds arrived this very week. The forecast doesn’t sound like bluebird weather, but I know they’ve been in southern Vermont and no doubt with a few warm days we’ll see them here.
A nice piece in the Times examines this phenomenon of the earlier spring. Among other issues, it raises the question of how birds are affected. In a warmer early spring, flowers and insects comes out sooner, and birds that migrate in the hundreds of miles, such as blackbirds and phoebes, can respond to those conditions and begin their move. Those who come thousands of miles, like bobolinks or warblers, may arrive too late for some preferred food source or habitat.
I’ve been keeping records of bird arrivals and frogs singing in their breeding pools for over 20 years. While cold weather like we’ve had can slow things down, the trend is definitely toward earlier arrivals. I’ll be starting our e-mailed spring bird alert within the next few weeks.