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Poor Will's Almanack: February 18 - 24, 2014

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Today, the 18th day of the year’s second month, the sun reaches a declination of almost 12 degrees, the halfway point to equinox. Now, the sun, which took 60 days to travel to this point, suddenly doubles its speed, entering wet and fertile Pisces, and initiating the season of early spring, a six-week period of changeable conditions infiltrated ever so slowly by warmer and warmer temperatures that finally bring the maple trees and early bulbs to bloom.

Early spring links the deep winter cold with the lushness of April, and it is made up of clusters of color, motion and sound, and gatherings of new sprouts and leaves, birds, insects, mammals and fishes.

The benign thaws of early spring tell mallards, canvasback ducks and killdeer to check out sites for laying eggs. Jenny wrens are making nests, and the milder afternoons call out moths and waterstriders. The ground temperature often approaches 35 degrees, the point at which earthworms become active again; soon they will be crossing roads and sidewalks in the milder rains, telling all the salamanders to mate in the warming slime.

Ragwort and dock grow back in the swamps during early spring. Skunk cabbage blossoms. More yellow aconite, white snowdrops and yellow and purple snow crocus bloom. More pussy willows are opening. The pollen season, which ended with early winter, begins again across the South, all that pollen riding north on the warming winds, prophesying the honeybees and butterflies and warblers of May.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the second week of early spring. In the meantime, don’t be discouraged if the weather is cold: Early Spring is really here.

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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.