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Poor Will's Almanack: February 11 - 17, 2014

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This is the week along the 40th Parallel that the day’s length becomes a full hour longer than it was on December 26th. Sunset now occurs near 6:00 p.m. for the first time since the middle of October, and the brighter afternoons tell the groundhogs and opossums that it’s mating time; raccoons and beavers seek partners, too.

Even though weather history says these could be some of the coldest days of winter, crocus, daffodil and tulip foliage often emerges. Garlic planted in November has pushed out of the ground; cloves set in early October are already several inches high. More than half of the pussy willows have opened. All across the country, people are getting ready to tap maples for sap.

Cardinals began their mating calls in the last week of deep winter. Now they are in full song by seven in the morning, sometimes sing all day. Sparrows compete for mates and nesting sites, chattering and chirping in the honeysuckles. Starlings are pairing up. Red-winged blackbirds cross the Ohio River to establish their mating territories in fields and wetlands of the North.

Owlets and young bald eagles grow inside their eggs as red-winged blackbirds, horned larks, meadowlarks, starlings, eagles, killdeer, and ducks of all kinds migrate.

The wind is still raw, and the grass and the trees are brown, but the balance is tipping away from winter. The thaws are preserved, their effects impervious to the steady progression of cold fronts, promising that next week will be the first week of early spring.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for that first week of Early Spring. In the meantime, watch for signs of spring. Signs are always what they signify.

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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.