Natural History Notes

Monday, February 22, 2010

waiting impatiently for spring

Sunday -- We opened the day with a noisy thunderstorm, very heavy rain at 8:30 this morning. Some hail too. Springtime sort of storm. And it’s been spring weather the last few days, sixties, upper forties at night. Cold front coming tonight to chill it down. Lower than freezing? I don’t remember. I picked up the electric saw in town yesterday, but dallied on the ‘net, and got out here in the late dusk. I could still have sawed some wood, but I was tired and put it off; now it’s all soaked. Drat.

Buds are starting to push for spring. Very little is actually in flower yet save the elms, that were caught by the snow. The quince is full of fat buds, with a few somewhat open. Some dandelions and peppergrass, and a little yellow dandelion-tribe composite with narrow cylindrical non-spreading flowers, 8-inch tall stems over a rosette. In town at 610 yesterday I saw henbit, but none here at the Ridge yet. The chickasaw plum bushes have little round buds a couple of mm in diameter. Oak buds are noticeably swelling at the tips of the twigs. I am not the only one ready for spring to get here! Still, the average last frost is three weeks yet, so better not get overconfident.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

the fourth snow!

Many years we have no particular wintry precipitation - maybe a couple hours of sleet, or more damaging, freezing rain that coats branches and wires with a beautiful crystal coat that they can't support. But this winter it has been snow, more snow than in decades.

The Christmas Eve blizzard was mean. Fierce north wind and temperatures rapidly dropping through the twenties. But last Thursday it snowed from before dawn till after dark with very little wind, and a steady temperature of about 33°, dropping to 30° or so through the night. You could tramp in it for hours with soaked feet and not feel particularly cold.

I happened to spend it at the Ridge. I went out to feed Buddy, and managed to get the car halfway down the hill when all I meant to do was turn around. So, since I had food and fuel, and the cats were all safely inside back in town, I settled in to enjoy it. Took lots of pictures!

The lack of wind and the wetness of the snow meant that huge globs of it clung to the tiniest supports. A branched twig would accumulate a fist-sized clump, until one last flake too many would send it plunging.

The birds were really mobbing the sunflower seeds. Cardinals, towhees, Harris' sparrows, white-throats, a brown thrasher, and even a mockingbird.

Snow days can be great.

More pictures in my Facebook album.

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Monday, February 08, 2010


I thought I posted about these a week or so ago, but I guess not. Well, they're here in force in the yard again! Enough to be hazardous to laundry, but it's cold and rainy out there, so it's good.

I always remember Mammaw's story about the observant little Alabama schoolgirl, who got in trouble for "contradicting" her teacher. Their textbook (written and published undoubtedly in New York), said the robins were a sign of spring. She said, quite correctly, "But Ma'am, the robins come in the fall." Teacher had no ability to take into account local knowledge, and punished her. Bah!

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