Saturday, 2:15 PM
The calendar says winter, but some signs point to spring
(Richard Johnson/Mass Audubon)
If you hear a red-winged blackbird, it's an early sign of spring.
By Martin Finucane, Globe Staff
Chris Leahy heard a hopeful sound while he was out walking on Monday.
Blueberry buds at a Berlin farm
“I heard red-winged blackbirds singing for the first time,” the Mass Audubon naturalist said.
And David Fiske, gardens curator for the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, saw an encouraging sight: daffodils just starting to poke out of the ground.
“We have a quarter-, an eighth-inch, of daffodil starting to come up,” he said. “We’re just seeing the leaves starting to emerge.”
The calendar says it’s winter, the thermometer says it’s winter, and snow and rain are in the forecast today. But after a long parade of snow and ice storms, slip-sliding commutes, and numbingly cold temperatures that made the season seem a little bit more endless than usual, some of those who keep an eye on the natural world are sensing the first signs of spring.
Leahy said the red-winged blackbirds, who move south in the late fall, were among the first real harbingers of spring. Another sign: Year-round birds like starlings, chickadees, titmice, cardinals, and Carolina wrens are beginning their serenades.
“Almost certainly cued by light levels and by temperature as well, they start to sing,” he said. “Birds and other critters tend to be more silent and less intrusive during the winter.”
Fiske said that, in addition to the daffodils pushing up, snowdrops are appearing and witch hazel is beginning to bloom. People who are out in the woods may also see some budding on swamp maples, he said.
The sun is setting later every day; it will dip below the horizon at 5:20 p.m. today. The iron grip of the cold seems somewhat relaxed. But spring is still officially more than a month away and big snowstorms are still a definite possibility.
Fiske said that even if it snows or the Arctic cold returns, the early bloomers are "very durable. .... They may hide for a little longer, but they're still under there and they won't be hurt by it."
At the Arnold Arboretum, Stephen Schneider, manager of horticulture, said some snowbells are also coming up and pussy willows are beginning to bloom.
“Spring is kind of off in the distance, but it’s a sign that it’s trying to move in,” he said. “We’re getting way below freezing at night, so it holds things back, but it’s on the way,” he said.