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Poor Will's Almanack: January 5 - 11, 2016

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Although the second week of deep winter is often marked by severe weather and a landscape either dull and brown or hidden by snow, its nature can be known with just a little attention.

The name of Skunk Mating Moon suggests that, especially in milder winters, skunks do emerge to dig in your lawn as well as to look for mates. To those in need of hope that spring will eventually arrive, the smell of a skunk on the prowl is sweet and promising. It is, as well, a sign that other small mammals are getting ready to breed, and that owls are building nests in the woods.

To complement the skunk’s forecasts, the tufted titmouse, a relatively common songbird in the eastern half of the country, starts to give its steady piercing calls as January progresses, initiating the procession of birdsong that will be joined by cardinals and doves and jays in three weeks and by robins and song sparrows in just two months.

In fact, the skunk’s odor and the cry of the titmouse begin the relatively brief and beautiful countdown to full spring, announcing just four weeks until the blossoms of yellow aconite and violet snow crocus, until the flowing of maple sap and then the flowering of the maples and daffodils and tulips and the entire summer. Time is only the sum of its parts, and if you hold close every small change you see or hear or smell, the weeks of deep winter fill with signs enough to fill time to the brim.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack, I’ll be back again next week with notes for the third week of deep winter. In the meantime, sniff around. You might just smell a skunk. And then, it’s almost spring.

Bill Felker’s Poor Will’s Almanack for 2016 is now available. For a sample of this new annual, and for information on how to order your copies, visit www.poorwillsalmanack.com.

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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.