This Thursday is Groundhog Day which is one of the worst examples of phenology.
Phenology is nature’s calendar. It is the recording and analysis of what happens in nature – first leaves and blooms, the appearance of certain insects, birds, or animals. If you read earlier posts about silly Groundhog Day, you find that at one time the careful observation of animals emerging from hibernation naturally (not for TV cameras) was a way of tracking the natural calendar and even making some predictions about things like planting.
Many birds time their nesting so that eggs hatch when insects are available to feed nestlings, and insect emergence is often synchronized with leaf out in host plants. Things are connected.
I’ve been tracking my little corner of the world. You can do it too. Climate change gets lots of attention and rightly so, but phenology may be altered by changes in things like precipitation. And on a very local level – like my garden in Paradelle – it can be affected by a tree being taken down, a neighbor putting up a fence or the growth of trees. Changes in phenological events like flowering and animal migration are among the most sensitive biological responses to climate change. Across the world, many spring events are occurring earlier—and fall events are happening later—than they did in the past.
The USA National Phenology Network was established in 2007 to collect, store, and share phenology data and information. I looked this weekend at the “status of spring” across the country on their website. Based on observations, as of January 23, 2023: “Spring leaf out conditions have arrived in southern states. Spring is up to three weeks earlier than average (the period of 1991-2020) in parts of Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. Austin, TX is 9 days early, Jackson, MS is 12 days early, and Charleston, SC is 10 days early.”
So far in my Paradelle, no signs of spring, even though January has been mild and snowless. But February is typically the most wintery month here.