Is it Spring yet?


Is it Spring yet?

It’s never a straightforward question. Meteorologists broadly break the year up into four seasons, and Spring occupies the months of March-May. So on that basis, today is the first day of Spring.

Another way of measuring Spring is the Vernal (or Spring) Equinox. The word “equinox” literally means “equal night” and is the point when, because of the way the Earth is aligned with the Sun, day and night are of roughly equal length all over the world. From now until September (the Autumnal Equinox), the Sun spends more time in the Northern Hemisphere and we get longer days than the Southern Hemisphere. By that measure, this year the first day of Spring is March 20th.

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly

There is also the phenological view. Phenology, as we have discussed before, is the seasonal behaviour of animals and plants. Last year I talked about this in relation to a first Peacock butterfly of the year around March 10th. But this year I saw my first Peacock on January 24th. Soon we will have the arrival of migrants such as warblers.

This is the problem with any measure of Spring. What we mean by it in many senses is not fixed, it’s defined by linguistics, by an almost poetic sense of new life, of warmth and light and the way nature feels. That cannot be easily defined to a specific date. It’s Spring when it feels like Spring. You cannot define that for a country, the signs may take 20 more days to reach the Scottish Highlands from the Cornish Coast.

A month ago, it felt like Spring. It’s been a wet and mild few months really. But with snow due here tomorrow, it currently feels more like Winter. Certainly the view of the garden at the top of the page doesn’t look like Spring.

A Robin, singing

A Robin, singing

But on the other hand, birds are nest-building, and singing, and proclaiming territories. That always feels like Spring to me.

On balance, I feel we are moving into Spring now. But if it still feels like Winter to you, that’s not a reason to feel bad. Seasons matter because, in a temperate climate, our nature has evolved to this cycle. A mild winter can be incredibly damaging. The cold is needed to get certain plants to germinate properly, they in turn provide food for insects, which provide food for birds and mammals. A mild winter can draw out certain species, like my January Peacock, which will then be killed in a later cold spell.

It’s easy to have a favourite season, and for many people they just look forward to Summer. But it’s important to see the value of all our seasons, and enjoy their own unique qualities. So, whether you are currently experiencing Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter, enjoy it for it’s own individual glory. Don’t just hark after the passing of time.

This entry was posted in Birds, Invertebrates, Phenology, Why watch wildlife? and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

I welcome thoughts, comments and questions, so please feel free to share anything at all. Thanks, David

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