Monday, January 11, 2010

Early Signs of Spring

This year I was hoping to really do some coverage of the signs of spring here in California. The problem is spring is arriving much earlier than I expected. Though it is only the second week in January, there are already early signs of spring all around the yard. (Past Springs 2008)

The manroot is not only sprouting up out of the ground, it has begun to bloom. Also known as the wild cucumber, the root lies dormant most of the year, but early in spring after a rain and warm days the vine emerges from the ground.

The vine twines away from its source, helping to keep the location of its large root a secret. Typically, seeing the vine emerging mid-February is a surprise. This year the blooms are already opening on January 11.

The manroot isn’t the only early sign of spring. The native coffeeberry is blooming and the French pussy willows are budding. The birds are also responding to the warm days. Yesterday a pair of Bewick’s wrens were checking out one of the bird houses in the yard. Two years ago they successfully raised 4 chicks in this house, but it was April - June.

The Allen’s hummingbirds are also showing signs of early nesting. Females are collecting spider web for building and they are chasing the male. This concerns me greatly. Last year we saw hummingbirds start to build nests on January 12, two weeks earlier than in 2008. Nesting attempts that started prior to mid-February ended in failure. Late January or early February storms destroyed nests and offspring. One of the females that got caught up in this cycle of early nesting and failure did not survive the year herself.

When I looked at my recorded temperatures for January 10 over the last six years, I found that while the temperature highs have gone up, the low temperature has increased as well. Rather than nights that dropped to the 30s and 40s, the nights have been warmer than 50 degrees F. Perhaps this is why the birds are fooled into thinking that the worst of winter is past and spring breeding should commence.

Unfortunately, despite these warm days and evenings it remains highly likely that we will experience a storm or frost before spring actually arrives. All of the plants and animals that have jumped forward will be faced with threatening cold or rain. And if the rain doesn’t come, the drought will worsen. Since the “rainy season” began in October, we have had less than six inches of rain. Connection between rain and migratory birds.

Are you seeing early signs of spring?

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