Spring! It IS coming!
Maybe it was when the snow shovel broke under the weight of the combined ice and snow from the last storm, or the weatherperson’s chipper voice announcing another spate of ‘weather concerns’ this week’. Whatever the reason, in mid-February in New Jersey, there is good news…Spring is on its way, regardless of what a groundhog might have seen!
The days are getting longer. The additional daylight may seem barely noticeable, but minutes are being added since the winter solstice. Dr. Emile DeVito, New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s staff biologist, states: “Right after the solstice, it’s less than one minute each day. On Feb. 1, the sun is over the horizon 49 minutes longer than on New Year’s Day. Between Feb. 1 and March 1, another 70 minutes will be added.” By March, the sun will be seen for nearly eighty-three more minutes!
Backyard birds are one of the best predictors. You may have already heard birds chirping although snowdrifts abound still. In New Jersey about mid-February is when birds begin to return. There is a bird proverb that says, ‘Bluebirds are a sign of spring; warm weather and gentle south breezes they bring,’ and this appears to be true in the northern tier of the United States. Bluebirds are one of the first returning birds. Ducks also start returning to ponds. In the next few weeks, bald eagles will start to lay their eggs, already the pairs are working to strengthen their nests adding branches.
- Salamanders, frogs, and tadpoles
In January, Tiger salamanders venture into frigid breeding ponds, often beneath the ice, to mate and lay their egg masses. As the ponds and wetlands thaw, about mid-March, the spring peepers (Pseudacris crucifer) begin peeping! The spring peeper, a small chorus frog that is widespread throughout the eastern United States and Canada. They are so-called because of their chirping call that marks the beginning of spring. These tiny frogs live beneath logs or underground and are freeze-tolerant and tend to like loamy and damp wooded areas and ponds or wetlands.
In New Jersey, one of the first signs of spring is the appearance of crocus bulbs. Crocus, which are native to New Jersey, although the plants are small, they can stand up to the freezing conditions and snow that often come with the late winter in New Jersey.
Yes, right now people are experiencing allergies to mold, all that undergrowth of old leaves and twigs. In the next few weeks, there will be the beginnings of the usual springtime allergies.
Yes, the shortest month sometimes seems the longest with limited sun and more ‘weather’ than we know what to do with. But every sunrise and sunset bring more daylight and more wonders of nature just below and above the frost line.