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Poor Will's Almanack: February 2 - 8, 2016

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As February begins, natural history shows the growing power of the spring. The year is gathering a momentum in which every sound and movement carries meaning.

During the soft nights of the Groundhog Day Thaw, skunks venture out to feed. Salamanders court and breed in warmer microclimates. Deer gather together throughout the month to feed in herds.

Swept up by warm southwest winds, more robins and bluebirds return to the northern states. Starlings are whistling and chattering close to sunrise, the crows and cardinals and doves joining in. Male blue jays are bobbing up and down, talking to their mates. Turkeys are flocking. Flies and bees come looking for skunk cabbage when temperatures rise to 50 degrees. In lakes and rivers, fishes stir throughout the warming shallows.

All these movements tell us that in northern Mexico, monarch butterflies are moving toward the Texas border. They will reach the Gulf coast in small groups during mid to late March, and their offspring will find us in early summer.

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, don’t be fooled by the storm that ends the early February thaw. It’s just a fluke. Early spring is just a week away.

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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.