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Poor Will's Almanack: February 13 - 19, 2018

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The Frolicking Fox Moon wanes until it becomes the new Ducks-Scouting-for-Nests on February 15.

During this February Moon, ducks actually do scout for nesting sites. Geese are looking, too.  This Moon brings more substance to the natural history of the year, an increase in the number of flower, foliage, insect and bird sightings and bird calls, a weightier accumulation of change than that of last week. That accumulation contributes a little more to the seasonal heritage of each region, adds to the composite of time that helps to define the cycles of passage.

The Sun, of course, rules all these events, and on February 18, it reaches halfway to equinox and enters the constellation of Pisces. This landmark in the solar year is called Cross-Quarter Day and is, more or less, the official entry into Early Spring.

More signs mark the change of season: Procyon, the largest star of Canis Minor, replaces the Dog Star due south near 10:00 p.m. Above it, the twins of Gemini, Castor and Pollux tell of April. To their right, Orion and the Milky Way have shifted deep into the west, and the Big Dipper has moved well into the northeastern sky - up from its low December and January position.  And by midnight, the first stars of middle summer's Hercules appear in the northeast.

In one of the most radical weather changes of the year, the weekly chances for an afternoon in the 60s swell from last week's one in ten to five in ten all along the 40th Parallel.

What happens in one village in the Middle Atlantic region is repeated in countless others clustered along that marker, reveals what has already happened in Tennessee and the Carolinas, forecasts the future for Wisconsin and even Maine.

The season of spring birdsong begins most years by January 25, but it is the middle of February that consistently turns late winter into early spring. Sometimes the weather doesn't change for the better in the year’s second month; sometimes the cold is worse than in the middle of January. But the sound changes and fills the silence of dormancy, songs accumulating like spring leaves: songs of sparrows and chickadees, cardinals, doves and overwintering robins.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the first full week of Early Spring. In the meantime, be ready: no matter what the weather today, the past is always prophesy.

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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.