Retired teacher Larry Weber is the author of several books, including “Butterflies of the North Woods,” “Spiders of the North Woods,” “Webwood” and “In a Patch of Goldenrods.” Contact him c/o email@example.com.
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Spring continues to unfold in the Northland. During March we experienced warming temperatures and left the subzero readings behind. Rain showers became more common; melted puddles became a part of the scene. Bare ground, covered by snow for weeks, could be seen again and the first chutes began to appear above ground.
In early April we see a more active trend and movement with the spring migrants. The songbirds that arrived here in March from their southern winter are still with us. In the swamps we may hear the songs of red-winged blackbirds. In our yards and along the roads, robins, bluebirds, mourning doves and grackles are vocal. These and the numerous finches and sparrows are quite obvious as they feed and scatter through our parks, yards and roadsides.
By the end of March, we are past the time of the vernal equinox. Daylight is about 12 1/2 hours and lengthening each day. Though we often have chilly mornings, the days regularly rise to the 40s, 50s or 60s. We will still get more cold and snow, but the longer days have ushered us into the new season.
This is the time of the vernal equinox, the first day of spring. Though listed as the beginning of spring on the calendar, the actual arrival of this season does not follow the dates on the calendar and is not an abrupt change. Thanks to the weather of the last couple of weeks, it looks like spring has been here already and spring's arrival is early.
Due to the correction date in our calendar that we call leap year, the vernal equinox this March will be earlier than most years. We usually expect the new season of spring to begin on either March 21 or 22 annually. This year, spring will arrive during the night of March 19-20; for us, it is about midnight. These days of mid-March are classified as late winter. And yes, we can still have snowfall and cold, but there is also plenty of sunlight and warmth.
We are now in the amazing month of March. And often the weather is truly amazing. Many of us remember the huge snowstorms and even good old-fashioned blizzards that hit during this month.
February is our shortest month, but it can feel like the longest to some winter-weary Northlanders. Despite the fewer days, changes in this month are amazing. We begin with daylight of about 9 1/2 hours and end with 11 hours. Temperatures typically vary from about 20 below, not unusual this month and seen again this year, but can also rise to 40 or 50 above.
By this date in February, the pace of season changes quicken. We may still be cold with a snowpack of a foot or two on the ground, but the days are changing. As of Feb. 18 we have 10 1/2 hours of daylight, which will extend to 11 hours by the end of the month. The vernal equinox is now about a month away. On Feb. 22 we started having a sunrise before 7 a.m. for the first time in about four months. We will begin daylight saving time in just three weeks.
By the time that we get to mid-February, we are in the second half of winter and we can easily see the days getting longer. February may be our shortest month but during these days, we can readily note earlier sunrises and later sunsets. During this past week, we reached 10 hours of daylight. And just 10 days later we will have lengthened to 10 1/2 hours; by the end of the month, 11 hours. The vernal equinox, the first day of spring, is just about five weeks away.
The light snow that fell last night happened before midnight. So when I step outside this morning, I see a new covering that reveals the movements of the wildlife during the rest of the winter night. Temperatures are in the 20s and most of the wintering critters are likely to be active.