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Poor Will's Almanack: January 21 - 27, 2014

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By the end of January, deep winter moves to its close, and late winter is carried into the nation by the lengthening days and the relentless south winds that always follow each cold spell. By the end of the month, normal averages break their stagnation, edging up a full degree almost everywhere above the Tropic of Cancer. Local thermometers not only see the progress within their own microclimate, but across the entire continent.

The full onslaught of change now starts to ride over the land, momentum building inexorably and mightily, pulling the Northern Hemisphere with the godlike energy of the entire solar system back toward summer. Influenced by massive meteorological changes, cardinals, start mating songs half an hour before dawn. Blue jays intensify their morning calls. By the close of the month, the first major waves of robins and bluebirds cross the Ohio River

Now fresh growth emerges on the Japanese honeysuckle, leaves dark violet, venturing out from the axils of their woody vines. Where the ground is not frozen, new mint grows under the protection of a southern hedge or wall. In the pastures, basal leaves of thistles and mullein are deep green beneath the snow. In town, winter-blooming hellebores and Chinese witch hazels blossom in the warmest microclimates. In the garden, a few red nubs of peonies appear In the swamps, young poison hemlock is feathery and spreading. New ragwort and sweet rocket leaves are pushing up.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the second week of late winter. In the meantime, listen for cardinal song a little before sunrise.

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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.