First day of spring 2010!

2010 February 3
by David J. Ringer

VICKSBURG, MISS. — At the risk of angering my friends in more northerly latitudes, I’m once again celebrating the first day of spring on the first cross-quarter day — the day halfway between December’s solstice and March’s equinox. This year, that’s today, February 3. It’s spring!

Most of us in the United States regard the vernal equinox (March 20, 2010) as the first day of spring, but various cultures throughout time have celebrated season’s beginnings on the cross-quarter days (this is the origin of Groundhog Day, Celtic Imbolc, and Japanese Setsubun), and in the southeastern United States, I think this makes a good deal of biological sense. Plants come to life and birds begin returning in February; by the time the vernal equinox comes, many of the southern breeding warblers will already be singing on territory.

Exposed surfaces carried a light frost this morning, but I went out early, hunting for signs of spring. At Vicksburg National Military Park, Tufted Titmice were singing persistently — a new development! And something caught my eye in the grasses:

Tiny Bluet (Houstonia pusilla) 1

A minuscule Tiny Bluet (Houstonia pusilla, also called Hedyotis crassifolia) reaches for the sun, its face drenched in sparkling dew. It’s the first native wildflower I’ve found in bloom this year.

The birds — Hermit Thrush, Eastern Phoebe, White-throated Sparrow — were still the birds of winter, but songs from titmice and even once from a chickadee told me that something is stirring within them. And though the Purple Martin houses at my office remained empty today, we are expecting martins back any day.

Loess Hills forest, Vicksburg, Miss

The forest still sleeps, but it is on the verge of waking.

So how about you? Do you see any signs of spring? Or are you siding with Punxsutawney Phil and bundling up for six more weeks of winter?

Tiny Bluet (Houstonia pusilla) 2

Related posts:

  1. First day of spring 2011!
  2. Happy first day of spring!
  3. Birds of the Equinox starting soon!
  4. First Purple Martin of spring and a big flock of Rusty Blackbirds
  5. Birds of the Equinox online
7 Responses
  1. February 3, 2010

    Even in the Mid-Atlantic, we usually start seeing signs of spring in February. Already some birds (like Northern Cardinal) are singing their breeding season songs, and we should see the first wildflowers fairly soon. Spring bird migration will also be getting under way pretty soon, if it hasn’t already. Usually seabirds like Northern Gannet and Long-tailed Duck are already moving by now.

  2. February 4, 2010

    Egrets and herons building nests, bees and wasps flitting about at every opportunity, mockingbirds singing and displaying in the morning, beetle larvae wandering out of their winter burrows, the first martin reports coming in from the coast, the first scissor-tailed flycatcher being seen, millipedes wandering about the patio, red-shouldered and Cooper’s and red-tailed hawks mating and building nests and reclaiming their territories, anoles sunning on the fence, pelicans in full breeding display–and tornadoes. Yes, it definitely feels like spring is on its way in the Lone Star State. We’re not done with winter yet, but you can’t deny change is in the air.

  3. Nancy permalink
    February 4, 2010

    Can’t really report seeing signs of spring here yet in N. E. Pa… we’re even farther north than Punxsutawney Phil. When I read your first line, I did wonder if the post would bring on feelings of jealousy (didn’t really worry that I’d actually get “angry”), but – and maybe it does help that we have a nice sunny morning for a change here in the ‘Land of lake-effect snow’, those Houstonia photos were so beautiful I simply enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing your spring with us northern folks! It’ll be a few months before our Houstonia are blooming here… something to look forward to.

  4. February 4, 2010

    My daffodils started to poke through the other day here in North East Kansas. So I am trying to keep that image and your pictures in my head. We are supposed to get 2-5 inches of snow tonight so winter is not giving up with out a fight. Wow, I am rhyming. Bring on Migration!!!!!

  5. Ryan Dziedzic permalink
    February 6, 2010

    Surprisingly (even here in mid-Michigan not far from the 45th parallel) birds are singing a little in the morning even when the thermometer hovers near Oº, so long as there is a little sunshine. Songs heard just this week would be Black-capped Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatches, and House Finches. A sign of spring here would be the return of the Red-winged Blackbirds to the marshes, but that is yet about a month away. Flowers will take until April.

    Until then, American Tree Sparrows at the feeders and Rough-legged Hawks in the fields (and maybe a Snowy Owl!).

  6. Ross Geredien permalink
    February 22, 2010

    I love the cross-quarter days. I’ve always felt that the New Year should begin around Groundhog Day. It also happens to be the time when the sun first reappears above the horizon at Barrow, Alaska. This is strictly a coincidence of latitude, but the light is definitely different in early February than on January 1.

    Our Tufted titmice here in MD have also been singing since early in the month. The birds know that the light is returning, and several species do start to breed this early.

    Thanks for the interesting post.

  7. Bob S permalink
    February 26, 2010

    Hello – it is still winter in the Adirondacks well in to March and sometimes April. … Celebrate life by the day.

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