Thursday, February 2, 2017

Watching and Waiting for Springtime

Today is Groundhog Day.  Which will it be - spring or 6 more weeks of winter?   We all know about Punxsutawney Phil, but since we don't have groundhogs here in North Texas we decided to poll some of the volunteers at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge as to what they considered to be signs of spring. 

Here are their replies, and - full disclosure, this is by no means a random survey!

"We watch the thickness of the fur on our donkeys. They shed as they sense warmer weather coming. No shedding...there will be more winter weather coming."  ~ Holly and Dan Neal, Piece Of Heaven Ranch 

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, by Laura Cooper
"I always look for the scissor-tailed flycatchers returning from Mexico and Central America as a sign of spring.  My students and I watch for the monarchs migrating back from Mexico." ~ David Palmer

Monarch, by Carl Hill
"We watch Bees.  We look for an increase in Queen bee egg laying and at bees actively bringing in pollen to increase colony size and be able to produce honey for their pantry!!  Increased brood heralds Spring." ~ A Beekeeper/Master Naturalist

"Suddenly the American Goldfinch are no longer flocking to our bird feeders - they have left for their nesting grounds."

American Goldfinch - Winter Plumage, by Phil McGuire
"I look for two things.  First for American Robins (there were twenty or more in my yard this morning in late January). and for buds on the redbud and pear trees.  Those two things are usually good and reliable signs in my experience."  ~ Bert Garcia

Robin with Berry, by Donna Niemann
On the other hand, Jack Chiles said, "The most reliable sign for me that spring has truly arrived is when the Bois d'Arc leaf out.  Robins least reliable because they are here all winter."

"My wife, Sharon, always associates her brother's birthday which is on Groundhog Day with the coming of Spring. I watch for the Trout Lilies in our local forest, as a sign of the coming annual rebirth of nature. By emerging in February this small flower gets a jump on other plants. For a few weeks, the Trout gathers all the sunshine it needs for the year before the majestic trees of forest fill out canopy." ~ David Parrish.

Trout Lily, by Lee Hatfield
Lee Hatfield agrees, "Blooming trout lilies are a sure sign that Spring is coming! I also watch for the Dickcissels at the Hagerman!"  

"The purple glow of henbit across a lawn or roadside."

Henbit, by Linn Cates
"To me, it is the first time I drive under the shade of a tree's new leaves." ~ Patricia Crain

Several Master Gardeners who volunteer at the Refuge weighed in:

"I  know it's spring when the weeds begin to green up my yard!  Rats!  That is still winter in Texas!"

"The budding of branches in late January when I am getting the pruning finished."

Budding tree branches
"The appearance of flocks of robins gobbling up the worms in my yard;  the green leaves of daffodils peeking their heads out of the ground, and the hint of purple emerging on the twigs of the redbud."

Early Daffodils
Speaking of gardens, daffodils received several votes and flowering quince was named also.

Budding Quince

What signs of Spring do you watch for?  Add yours in the Comments!

Note:  Our average annual last frost date is March 21 - 31.   Don't put your winter gear away yet!

1 comment:

  1. American goldfinches do not leave Texoma until late April or early May. They breed only after the thistle flowers up north have bloomed. They stop coming to feeders i February because they start eating budding leaves and flowers instead of seeds. They'll be back in March or April to store up fat for migration.