Everyone seems to be talking about the winter of 2011-12, or the lack thereof. Coming off two back-to-back harsh winters, this one has been, shall we say, rather tame. Will this trend continue through the remainder of February and March? That is the ofted asked question right now.
Nature has been responding to the warmer temperatures and lengthening days. Easter flowers sprang up back before Christmas and were budded in early January. By late January, the patch my late grandmother Mae planted decades ago sported a few blooms. It has not been unusual in the past to see the patch in full bloom by Valentine’s Day. However, late January was about two weeks ahead of schedule.
The early morning hours have also erupted in a medley of birdsong not generally heard until a little closer to spring. I really enjoy listening to the world coming alive right at daybreak when that occurs. I have even heard a report that the wild turkeys have already been sporadically gobbling a little bit. As the sunlight gives way to night, thousands of little spring peepers have been making the swampy bottomlands ring with the nightly chorus of frogs.
We have a “fire bush” or “flowering Quincy” in the yard that is also in bloom. The forsythia is not long off in sporting their bright yellow spring coats. Another thing I have taken note of is the sap running out of woodpecker holes in the some maple trees near home. Not only was the sap streaming down the bark, but honeybees were working it by the dozens.
Our memory of past winters often leaves a little to be desired. We tend to think things have never happened like this before. However, I was looking through some old photos recently and was reminded of another similar February.
The photo is of a very young Weimaraner and my nephew Matthew. I snapped the shot of Ruffus and Matthew sometime in February 2000. We were on one of Ruffus’ first grouse hunting trips as he was born in March of 1999. Matthew is hunting in a short sleeve tee shirt with his hunting vest over it. They are in a beautiful “laurel thicket” which surrounds them in a fine shot of greenery.
I well remember that day after seeing the photo. We had climbed to the top of Pine Mountain and were sweat soaked as the temperature had gotten up to 70 or above. Around a big conglomeration of rock, Ruffus had earlier that day held at bay a copperhead that had evidently emerged to soak up some sun. When I approached the barking dog to see what all the clatter was about, the snake just dropped right down into a crevice and vanished.
That brings to mind and old saying that when it thunders in February and March it means the snakes are waking up. I’d reckon we’ve already had about four episodes of thunder and lightning in January this year, so watch out soon for “crawley critters!” And never forget too that Old Man Winter can still strike with snow, cold and ice. The March Blizzard of ’93 is a perfect example of such a surprise occurrence.