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Poor Will's Almanack: January 20 - 26, 2015

Sam Leech
Flickr Creative Commons

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.

The sun approaches a declination of 19 degrees on the 25th, putting it at its mid-November noontime height, and marking more than 20 percent of the way to spring equinox.

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.

Influenced by these massive meteorological changes, cardinals, start mating calls half an hour before dawn. By the close of the month, the first major waves of robins and bluebirds cross the Ohio River. Resident crows, sparrows, starlings and blue jays become more active, contributing to a substantial increase in the volume of morning birdsong. The first dandelions can be flowering, snow crocus and henbit budding. Sometimes moss is growing on logs, and pussy willows catkins are expanding.

Sometimes tulip and grape hyacinth leaves are pushing out of the ground. Sometimes daylily foliage is up three inches, daffodil spears four to eight inches.

When the sun is strong enough for all of that to happen, then flies hatch to warm themselves on the south side of your house, their soft presence on the delicate scales of time

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.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back next week with notes for the first week of late winter, the third week of the Skunk and Opossum Moon and the second week of the sun in Aquarius. In the meantime, listen for doves to join the cardinals with their mating calls before sunrise, a sure sign of late winter.

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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.