Friday, March 10, 2017

Time to pull the trigger on phenology?

The early morning dog walk took place in single digit temperatures and minus double digit wind chills. The next week or so could, if we're lucky, bring Winter's last gasp for this year. I know it's anthropomorphism, but I felt sorry this morning for the Canada geese sitting on the ice and floating in the ice-cold open waters. At least, for the nonce, local corn fields aren't covered with snow, leaving unharvested kernels for gleaning by Spring migrants. They'll be mating for the next several weeks or so and then eggs will be laid. I usually consider seeing goslings along the roadsides a sign of late Spring to early Summer.

March: Canada geese on ice
March: Canada geese on ice
Photo by J. Harrington

This morning it once again became obvious to me that I don't even know enough about phenology to ask the right questions or phrase questions correctly. I'm becoming more and more curious about what triggers certain phenology phenomena like bud burst or egg laying. Are these activities based on cumulative degree days, daylight hour increases, or other conditions. I know that Autumn waterfowl migrations are often triggered by freeze up, snow storms covering feeding fields and northern winds. A Google search on phenology triggers offered some insights but didn't seem terribly conclusive.

I suspect that our understanding of the complex interactions of the world we live in are too broad and too blunt to enable us to effectively understand it, let along manage parts of it. We seem, in many instances, to have a position of "post hoc, ergo propter hoc," [after this, therefore because of this] rather than a causitive insight. As I look at how we're mismanaging things we think we do understand (how's that D+ infrastructure working out for us?), I suspect it's just as well that nature is keeping much of her behavior as secrets and mysteries. Bearing in mind the Zen saying, I don't think the pupil is yet ready for the teacher to appear.

Not to end today's posting on a down note (pun intentional), the local goldfinches are starting to show hints of brighter yellow. Not as much as we'll see a month from now, but a few shades brighter than Winter's drabness. I've no idea what triggers the color change but do know that the brighter colors trigger a burst of happiness in me.

To the Thawing Wind



Robert Frost, 1874 - 1963


Come with rain, O loud Southwester!
Bring the singer, bring the nester;
Give the buried flower a dream;
Make the settled snowbank steam;
Find the brown beneath the white;
But whate’er you do tonight,
Bathe my window, make it flow,
Melt it as the ice will go;
Melt the glass and leave the sticks
Like a hermit’s crucifix;
Burst into my narrow stall;
Swing the picture on the wall;
Run the rattling pages o’er;
Scatter poems on the floor;
Turn the poet out of door.

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