Saturday, January 23, 2016

Phenology triggers hope

The sun keeps trying to break through the clouds today. We're more than halfway through meteorological Winter. There's only about nine months left of this year's presidential campaign and, as much as, from time to time, I miss the East Coast, I don't mind missing the blizzard that's dumping wind-blown snow back there. So far in Minnesota, our snow cover has been relatively thin and our hours of deep, bitter cold relatively few this season, almost as if the climate were getting warmer or something.

Cardinal and purple finch in pine tree
Cardinal and purple finch in pine tree
Photo by J. Harrington

In addition to the monthly reports in Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac, there are three local resources I find helpful in checking on our local phenology.
  • Jim Gilbert's Nature Notebook

  • Backyard Almanac by Larry Weber; and,

  • Wit & Wisdom of the Great Outdoors by Jerry Wilber

Cardinal in oak tree
Cardinal in oak tree
Photo by J. Harrington

Gilbert notes that we're getting to the time of year that Cardinals start their Spring songs and whitetail bucks drop their antlers.

Weber points out that red foxes are starting to mate and that it's a good time of year to hear barred owls (one of my favorites, from turkey hunting trips, trying to trigger an early morning gobble).

Wilber and Weber both mention insects being active in our ponds, lakes and streams.

I'm looking forward to seeing and hearing flowing water and smelling and seeing wildflowers. Meanwhile, I work at getting organized to file taxes when their season comes and cleaning and straightening gear for this year's trout season. Just as mating seasons in Winter anticipate birth's in Spring, my Winter gear activities bring back memories of past trout trips and trigger anticipation of those to come. While phenology is about the "the science of ‘periodic events’ in nature and how they are affected by various factors such as changes in climate," for me it's also about memories and hopes.

The Human Seasons

By John Keats
Four Seasons fill the measure of the year;
     There are four seasons in the mind of man:
He has his lusty Spring, when fancy clear
     Takes in all beauty with an easy span:
He has his Summer, when luxuriously
     Spring's honied cud of youthful thought he loves
To ruminate, and by such dreaming high
     Is nearest unto heaven: quiet coves
His soul has in its Autumn, when his wings
     He furleth close; contented so to look
On mists in idleness—to let fair things
     Pass by unheeded as a threshold brook.
He has his Winter too of pale misfeature,
Or else he would forego his mortal nature.


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