An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Time To Start Looking For & Recording Signs Of Spring

Moles are digging, Woolly Bears are emerging and preparing to pupate and develop into Isabella Tiger Moths, and Painted Turtles are emerging and warming their cool bodies by basking in the sun. Red-winged Blackbirds, Killdeer and Wood Ducks are back.  Silver Maple buds are beginning to swell.  Ticks are out and about.  New signs of spring are appearing on a daily basis, and those of us who keep nature journals are busy recording our discoveries.  These events may happen every year, but they never get old.

Studies based on the records that Henry David Thoreau and other naturalists kept for Concord, MA in the middle of the 19th century have found that the flowering of plants, leaf-out, butterfly emergence and the arrivals of some migratory birds are occurring earlier now than they did 165 years ago — anywhere from a day to three weeks earlier depending on the species — driven mostly by warmer spring temperatures.  Since the mid-1800’s Concord has lost roughly a quarter of its wildflowers while an additional third have become rare.

Whether it be through a written journal, sketches, photographs, videos or taped voice recordings, the observations we make today are a valuable resource for phenology (the timing of biological events) and climate change studies and for our own personal histories of natural places we visit year after year.  We are so fortunate that the current state of the world doesn’t prevent our appreciation of and participation in this annual spring ritual.

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11 responses

  1. Joan Ray

    Thank you again for your posts! As many of us go into self-isolation it is wonderful to read about the natural world. I will look forward to these every day.

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

    March 18, 2020 at 8:28 am

  2. Margo Nutt

    What a lovely upbeat thought for the day! Maybe this self-isolation will give us time to stop and appreciate the wonders of nature. Thank you, Mary, for reminding us.

    March 18, 2020 at 9:08 am

  3. And buds on trees are swelling! In these crazy times being outside is healthy for spirit and body. Thanks, be well!

    March 18, 2020 at 9:25 am

  4. Susan Holland

    How wonderful to have this emerging of Spring to bring a little joy. A walk through the woods, or fields, or the back yard can help heal the soul and remind us that there is still beauty and hope around us. Thank you 🙏

    March 18, 2020 at 9:35 am

  5. Sarah Zuccarelli

    Amen….the Church of the Natural
    World is all around us and we need to pray there daily, hourly , every minute in order to be able to weather this storm. Spring Fever has suddenly developed a whole new meaning for us. Keep the faith and stay peacefully solo for a while. Contemplate your good fortune to be alive and living in this country. Search for the very first crocus blooming!!

    March 18, 2020 at 10:07 am

  6. Randi Filoon

    Lovely! I love reading your e-mails Mary. Randi

    Sent from my iPhone


    March 18, 2020 at 10:56 am

  7. Mary Sloat

    While walking at Rivercrest the past few days, I have seen a number of woolly bears, but they have all looked healthy and smooth, not ragged. Mary

    March 18, 2020 at 11:25 am

  8. Alice

    That’s very sad about the loss of Wildflowers. Aren’t there seeds that can be planted? No one needs to ‘remind’ me to enjoy being out in nature, I’ve been an ‘enjoy-the-outdoors person’ my whole life. Born in ’50, so that’s a long time. Keep on finding even more to enjoy! Photos of a Honey Bee in a white Crocus, today.

    March 18, 2020 at 4:17 pm

  9. Char Delabar

    Hi Mary, Last evening there was a bear “hooting or huffing” in the woods out back of my house. We spotted a pile of what looked like bear scat from the deck overlooking my back yard. My friend Jim checked it out and found it to be a “plug” formed before hibernation of bark, wood and whatever would form this plug. I’d never heard of such a thing and after we’d disassembled the scat I thought it was too back we’d not just preserved it to send to you for your mystery column. Also, is this a true thing that happens prehiberbation?

    Jim and Natalie went around the edge of the back yard (not very big) and found numerous other signs of a bear as well as clumps of deer fur that seem to be being pulled out in some sort of ritual.

    I’m recovering from a fractured right hip from Jan. 7th; but Jim and Natalie have taken great care of my birds and other wildlife. Now we’re finding the hidden winter with the disappearing snow.

    Thanks for your wonderful Naturally Curious column. Char Delabar Cornish, NH


    March 19, 2020 at 5:57 pm

    • Hi Char,
      I am so sorry about your hip, but VERY excited for your bear plug find. I have looked for and hoped to find one for years and years, but never had any luck. They form this fecal plug at the beginning of hibernation, and it remains in place throughout hibernation. When they wake up in the spring, they eject it. If you know where a bear dens, your chances of finding it nearby are pretty good, I’m told. At any rate, thank you for telling me about it. I would love a detailed list of the material you found it contained (bark, etc.). Thanks so much for sharing this great discovery! (If you find another one, I would LOVE to see it! 🙂

      March 20, 2020 at 8:38 am

  10. helen

    The Naturalist’s Notebook (for Tracking Changes in the Natural World Around You) by Nathaniel Wheelwright and Bernd Heinrich is a wonderful book for recording signs of spring or anything. I make note of when I hear the owls, when the woodfrogs emerge and start their “quacking”, when the woodcocks return and “peent”, when I spot the first mourning cloak, etc. etc. This book is great for recording changes or sightings in every season of the year.

    March 26, 2020 at 7:30 am

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