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Poor Will's Almanack: February 20 - 26, 2018

Just last year, after a January six degrees above average and  a remarkable first three weeks of February over eleven degrees above average, the land responded with change not seen since the warmest January-February on record in 1890.

The thaw began with a record high temperature of 66 degrees on February 18th. Many daffodils were budded that morning, and snowdrops, aconites and snow crocuses were in full bloom,  pussy willows about half emerged; tulips and hyacinths and even a couple of peony shoots were up three inches. In wetlands swamp, skunk cabbage was red and tall and open, no longer hidden in the grasses. Along the river, hemlock was bright and bushy, almost a foot high

And each day, the thaw grew in power . After the sun burned away the fog on the 20th, the first mosquito came in my open porch door and attacked. Throughout the day, a flock of grackles (that often arrive with the robins) came to my feeder. Violet crocuses were opening all over town. In the afternoon, I found the very first blue squill of the year,.

By February 22nd,  leaves were emerging on the lower honeysuckle branches. A precocious white hepatica was in flower along the river. In the alley at home, I found the first henbit and bittercress blooming, and forsythia buds were ready to open along the street.

The 24th was the last and the warmest day of this February heat wave (with a record high of 76 degrees). Three daffodils opened all the way overnight; two more came in throughout the dayMore mosquitoes were flying in the afternoon, small moths and ichneumans in the woods. I found maples in bloom, some already shedding their flowers. Pussy willows were all white against the blue sky. The first cabbage butterfly flew across my dooryard garden.Later in the day, Ed called to say he had seen bees in the crocus and a garter snake out in the sun. And then Chris even told me he heard peeping spring peepers, maybe the earliest they had peeped around here since the hot winter of 1890.

Whether such warmth occurs this week in this year or not, precedent always unlocks possibility. Natural history, like social or political history, always tells a story, more often than not, a story of the future.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the second week of Early Spring. In the meantime,  Here’s the story: pussy willows opening, snowdrops blooming, daffodils budding, maples trees dropping their flowers on the street, even mosquitoes coming to find you.

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