February was unusually warm and calm in the New York Finger Lakes, a quiet time for walks with friends on dry forest trails. The birds knew better than to sing love songs that early. I trusted them and knew cold would return.
By late February, the Anemoi, Greek Gods of Wind, grew bored with the quiet. The north wind Boreas and western Zephyrus blew hard to make up for lost time and pummeled the forest with sideways snow and broken branches. My hill only got a few inches of snow at a time, but the wind was unrelenting.
In early March, trails lead me through a world of damp tree trunks, slippery snow, and gray skies. Still, I notice spring’s subtle presence.
When the veiled sun breaks through thick clouds, I cock my head back to look overhead instead of looking south. The solar angle changed dramatically during the last month, and as the angle of sunlight changed, the days grew longer. When evening skies clear, the sun sets on the western horizon at 6 pm instead of close to 4:30 pm, the time it set on Winter Solstice. It disappears over the horizon on the north side of the pine and oak forest down the hill rather than on the south side where it touched down in December.
Moss turns vibrant green, soaking in the moisture of small snowfalls, while ice dissolves along the streams. The dogs wade and splash in cold water while I walk the trail in waterproof boots.
Heading home through an open field, I watch red-tailed hawks sail on the winds. Near the back porch, a gray mourning dove couple fluffs their feathers for warmth. Juncos, chickadees, and nuthatches land on the feeder to grab a seed without lingering. At the top of spruce trees, red cardinals call out, and I hear new bird songs I didn’t hear last week. At my office window, my young dog Disco watches downy and hairy woodpeckers at a suet feeder. She focuses like a child watching Donald Duck cartoons.
In February when temperatures were in the 50s, bluebirds claimed nesting boxes near the house before cold winds drove them back to the forest. I know they’re nearby, waiting for the next warm days.
Green ferns emerge in the forest. Lilac buds are red and plump and magnolia buds turn fuzzy fat promising an April extravaganza. Despite another cold day, small signs assure me spring is coming.
It won’t be long.
Just to make fun of my spring dreams, I got 5 inches of wet snow on my hill yesterday and the long-term weather forecast calls for a cold March. Has weather been wild in your world? In mid March, it’s usual to have snow and intense wind in the Finger Lakes, but I hope a late season will save fruit and flower blooms from a killing frost. For a photo of the 12 months of nature’s change see A Cycle of Bountiful Beauty. For a post about winter travel (and why I prefer staying home this time of year), see I thought I Could.
Oh, it’s wonderful to follow the seasons with you! I think that’s what I enjoy most with my nature loving friends as we enter another spring together. Thank you for sharing more field notes from your nature diary that includes lovely photos of your cardinal couple, mythical fragments of the Anemoi, luxuriant mosses, puffed up doves and sprouting ferns and lastly but not least, more snow! Let alone all the daily drama that must unfold around your bird feeders and nesting boxes, alike!
Brrr! Here in the UK it’s been unseasonably cold but luckily where we live on the south coast, we seem to have escaped the heaviest snowfalls and fiercest winds. Father Sun has also put in an appearance on occasion, here and there … but oh boy is it cold! Too cold to even go for a short walk down to the beaches. This weekend looks promising though as the temperatures are set to rise to a heady 13 degrees, positively balmy! Great because staying has meant eating more biscuits than usual!
Love and light, Deborah.
Of course, I chose to write about signs of spring and post it on the day of the biggest snowstorn of the winter. Ha! But as soon as that snow melts, the moss and greens and maybe even crocus shoots will be waiting. My son bought me four types of Asiatic lilies and will plant those after the snow melts. He likes variety. A flock of Red-winged Blackbirds showed up today–another bird you probably don’t know, but I’ll hope my photos capture their red and yellow bars under black wings. Our long-term weather forecast predicts cold weather for the next few weeks, so I don’t expect to be cozy outside. A snowy March is common here, but we’ve been spoiled this winter and it’s still a shock when the cold hits. All the wild critters go about their daily tasks of finding food and shelter in the spruce trees or in the forest. Yes, 13 C would feel balmy here, too, but I don’t think we’ll see that for a while.
You’d laugh at the way I dress–two layers of wool socks under tall insulated boots, long underwear on top and bottom, loose warm pants and shirt, and snow pants and jacket over that layer to block the wind. My outer jacket is also insulated and then a wool scarf, hat, and gloves. I also know the paths to get out of the wind quickly, so head for those. The dogs wear their vests and they’re so happy in the snow, so their joy eases my grumbling. May we stay warm and well fed. Love to you from the land of snow.
“I notice spring’s subtle presence,” you say–a benefit of living in the temperate zone. Here in Florida with a sub-tropical climate, the shift in seasons is much less dramatic.
My sister Jean, living in PA close to the New York border got the blast you describe here around the Finger Lakes: two feet on snow on her deck, coating the Adirondack chairs.
This post was an absolute pleasure to read with your characteristic clever imagery. One I especially enjoyed: your description of Disco being transfixed by the birds, focusing “like a child watching Donald Duck cartoons.”
I remember such mid-March blizzards in Pennsylvania growing up, usually announcing the dramatic exit of winter.
Marian, I know you lived in PA as a child, so you know how challenging March can be. As soon as I posted this, the weather went nutso. Unlike the wild wind and snow the last few days, today is calm. I got less than a foot of snow and that’s OK with me. Disco loves watching birds, especially on a frigid day when I don’t want to be outside for long. She doesn’t want to be outside in the cold either, but she loves watching and I enjoy watching her observe details I might miss. I’m pulling on my boots and taking the dogs out for a snow hike. Strong sun and a warm earth means it’s already melting. Hurrah! I’m ready for spring.
Beautiful description of the changing seasons towards the light. Thank you, dear Elaine. Although here, it was a cold and wet February and continued into March, it is going so up and down that we can feel it comes to Spring yet. Take care, dear friend. Blessing.
It’s up and down here, too. Today is clear and sunny with bright reflections off the snow. (I need Joe Biden sunglasses.) Blessings to you, too, as the days lengthen. May there be peace in the world.
I love hearing about nature as it changes in your part of the world Elaine, you describe it so well. I also keep an eye on the sky to see the angle of the sun (when it appears!) in these gloomy in-between days of March. The saying ‘March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb’, so far is very true this year over here, but, like you, watching where the sun is when I’m walking reminds me Spring really is nearly here. Back at Winter Solstice it was setting around 3.50pm, now its already at 6.05pm and warmer days are forecast, so hopefully we’ll have some bright days ahead very soon!!
The last few days were overwhelming with wind and snow, Lin, but today is calmer and the sky is intense blue. Weather changes quickly this time of year. My change in day length is so much less than yours, but it’s still changing fast and the Spring Equinox comes in just a few days. The dogs get me outside in the wildest weather, but I’ll stay out longer today so Disco can dig in the snow and Willow can roll in it. They have their preferred ways of playing in a snowy field, but their joy is contageous. Sending wishes for sunny days to you.
What a lovely post Elaine thank you! Loved the story of the Gods of Wind. I’m also noticing the changing of the solar angle and how the shadows are lengthening while yours are shortening.
Your photos are lovely. A coolth in the air is here in the evenings, days are warm and sunny, some unexpected rain yesterday –
Thank you, Susan. The Wind Gods quieted down today and we have sunshine. I hope the snow will melt soon, but it’s not uncommon to have big snows late in the season here. The Monarch butterflies as well as many other migrators use those solar angles to guide them to their wintering grounds or wherever they need to go. Venus was exquisite in last night’s sky. I hope you got to see her or will see her tonight overlooking your gorgeous bay. Rain is always welcome unless there’s too much of it as there is in California now. Equinox Blessings to you and your family.
Dear Elaine, Just after you posted this, we lost phone/internet until today, and I am imagining that by now the snow has melted and crocuses are sprouting! We had the most unusual sign of spring this year — a muskrat showed up in our pond. He only stayed a day, as two big dogs chasing the duck around the pond probably didn’t seem like the best environment in which to raise a family.
Your posts brighten my world. This time I loved the combination of the Anemoi with the fabulous photos, especially of the puffed up doves. And reading about spring is always enlivening. We had snow a couple of weeks ago, and I agree with you that dog joy is contagious—even when I am inclined to be grumpy about more snow.
Sending love and spring blessings , Anne
It’s always nice to hear from you, Anne. We’re all lost when internet goes out, but I fondly remember the days when I spent less time in front of a computer screen. A muskrat! It must have been fun to watch, but it was wise to leave because of dogs. That pond might not be the best place to raise a muskrat family.
The winds are wild on my hill, so it’s time I learned their proper names. “Anemoi.” I also love the puffed up mourning doves and they’re pecking through the fields now. I also see them courting near the barn. The snow melted although we’ve had big snow storms in April here, so I don’t count winter over just yet. It’s nice to walk without ice and snow on the trails. This morning the man who helps with my land came by with his two golden retrievers. Disco had an exciting time enticing his younger dog to chase her for about an hour. Willow went outside to greet everyone and then came inside for a nap. She sleeps right next to me during the day, which has a sweet feeling, and still loves a long walk. She’s failing ever so gradually and I think she’s losing her hearing. She can still hear a whistle or a loud yell. Love and blessed flowers to you.