Although officially the Winter of 2013-14 did not last longer than any other year, perceptually it’s been the longest in memory for most of us here in Western New York. We’re well versed in terms of snow, being prime lake effect snow country, but this Winter’s total snowfall has come in at more than 40 inches above average by my calculations. And the temperatures have been well below normal since mid-January. Plus we experienced two official blizzards in a single season, one just last week, a true anomaly we are told. So it was no surprise this morning to see snow accumulating once again immediately following a few days that truly bespoke of Spring with glorious sunshine and temperatures in the 40s.
Signs of Spring have been around for a few weeks, despite the continued cold and snow. The angle of the Sun becomes more direct initiating hormonal changes in resident birds which prompts the dispersal of Winter flocks, an increase in aggressive territorial behaviors and, of course, singing among the males. Weeping Willow branches have been yellowing up as photosynthesis begins to revive and the Dogwood twigs are reddening, as well. More recently, the scent of Striped Skunk has been on the air after a long Winter pause and, sadly, carcasses of old Pepé and his deep sleeping comrades along roadsides are increasing.
Most telling, however, of Spring’s inevitable arrival came earlier this week when the male Red-winged Blackbirds returned to The Acre trumpeting their presence with choruses of “cock-a lee, cock-a-lee!”. And on the same day, the local herd of White-tailed Deer made a bold appearance behind the house seemingly overtaken by Spring fever given the playfulness they were exhibiting (see video below).
So, as I told the attendees at last Saturday’s “Gardening for Wildlife & You” seminar, Spring will become increasingly more evident – there is no stopping it. It just seems a bit more timid this year than usual. Regardless, we welcome it whole-heartedly here in Western New York.