The Light is Coming
I honestly have no clue what Punxsutawney Phil declared on Groundhog Day. Of course we’ll have six more weeks of winter. The shadows may come and go. What is certain, however, is the light. Here in Vermont we’ve just crossed a threshold: 10 hours of daylight — and increasing every day.
Yeah, it’s an arbitrary threshold. But in nature’s response you will find no artifice. Sure, spring remains a long way off here in New England. Even so, our first avian migrants, Turkey Vultures and Red-shouldered Hawks, as predictable as the daylight itself, are drifting northward on schedule. And the squirrels, like those groundhogs, are getting amorous.
I’ve included below for you a couple of relevant readings from my archives. But lest you get too optimistic or wistful for warmth here in the north (after all, the skiing is still great), I’ll present you with two arthropods now walking around on the snow: a spider in the genus Cicurina and a wingless fly in the genus Chionea.
Oh, and that flower above — okay, that’s simply a gift because, well, I just like its looks. I came across it while tagging and filing digital images the other day (winter is when northern biologists do that sort of thing). It’s Bogbean (Menyanthes trifoliata), which I photographed on 8 June 2019 at a fen in Brookfield, Vermont. We won’t see it in bloom for another four months. So keep your pants on — well, er, at least your long-johns handy.
Shadows and Sex
You don’t need Punxsutawney Phil to know which way the wind blows. Groundhog Day isn’t about shadows or winter or spring. It is about sex. Birds and rodents now begin a season of foreplay. And for those squirrels, mating can amount to "pure and unadulterated chaos."
Pick your favorite early sign of spring: squirrels mating, mud oozing, maples flowering. Mine is a Turkey Vulture soaring. But more than being a vernal messenger, the Turkey Vulture is an avian iconoclast, toppling simplistic notions of migration.
Hope and Rebuilding
Speaking of the light, and in case you missed it, here's my essay for Inauguration Day — our challenge of rebuilding, expressed in the life of an ephemeral insect I encountered while backpacking in the Grand Canyon.