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Poor Will's Almanack: January 31 - February 6, 2012

Flickr Creative Commons user Stephen Downes
Skunk Cabbage

Poor Will’s Almanack for the Second Week of Late Winter.

As February begins, natural history shows the growing power of the spring. The year is gathering a momentum in which every sound and movement carries meaning.During the soft nights of the Groundhog Day Thaw, skunks may venture out to feed. Salamanders court and breed in warmer microclimates. Deer gather to feed in herds.

Swept up by warm southwest winds, more robins and bluebirds reach the Great Lakes. The starlings are whistling and chattering close to sunrise, the crows and cardinals and doves joining in. Male blue jays are bobbing up and down, talking to their mates. Turkeys are flocking in the woods. Flies and bees come looking for skunk cabbage when temperatures warm to 50 degrees.

All these movements say that in northern Mexico, monarch butterflies are moving toward the Texas border. They will reach the Gulf coast in small groups during mid to late March, and their offspring will find the Ohio Valley in early summer.

Signs are accumulating, spring a matter of quantity, numbers of sprouts, numbers of leave and birds, landmark after landmark. When one of the signs is present, the others are there too. Each sign becomes a gauge for the rest of the cycle, standing for the gathering of signs.

Next week on Poor Will’s Almanack: notes for the Third Week of Late Winter. In the meantime, look for signs. That would be almost anything you can see.

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Bill Felker has been writing nature columns and almanacs for regional and national publications since 1984. His Poor Will’s Almanack has appeared as an annual publication since 2003. His organization of weather patterns and phenology (what happens when in nature) offers a unique structure for understanding the repeating rhythms of the year.