The groundhog said winter was still with us and perhaps in some parts of North America, that may be true, but here in west Kentucky, just the opposite seems to be happening. The season is approximately three weeks early and signs of spring are everywhere. If you're not sure what to look for, here's some guidelines.
Everyone knows that robins are usually signs of spring, but ours never left. Robins tend to gather in areas where the ground isn't frozen since they are primarily insect-eaters. It is much easier to be the early bird getting the worm if the worm isn't a popsicle. So, if you are in a robinless region, it is probably because they find foraging better a bit further south. Watch for them as soon as the ground thaws.
Other birds can give the alert observer some springtime clues as well. There is a distinct difference in the winter song and spring song of many birds and instead of the solitary chirps and cheeps heard around the winter feeders, birds will sing their mating songs. We've been hearing those for a couple of weeks now and the mockingbirds are already building their annual nest in the old bramble bush out by the road.
Other wildlife are singing the coming season in as well. The little 'spring peepers', or chorus frogs have woken from their winter sleep and the lowlands, meadows and edges of the woods are alive with their trills. There are many species of these little singers on the continent, but they all share the genus Psudacris, which in Greek means pseudes (false) akris (locust), because their song is similar to that insect.
Some signs of spring are so obvious that even the most oblivious can't fail to notice. Daffodils have been blooming for several weeks now. Flowering quince bushes are full of fiery blossoms and yellow forsythia looks like rays of sunshine along the streets. The honeybees are out in full force and seem to enjoy the flowering quince too. I even saw a pink saucer magnolia blooming today, however, mine still has fat buds. Maple trees are bursting red and weeping willows have that wonderful light green haze. The forest edges have frothy white wild plum blossoms starting to show. We are averaging about 20 degrees warmer than normal for both daytime and nighttime temperatures and the weather experts say this is because of an active La Niña system.
Whatever the reason, the groundhog apparently missed here in the mid-south. However, I'm not convinced winter is over. There's still a distinct possibility that it will have the last laugh. My peonies are up and there's buds on my pear tree just waiting to freeze solid with the next cold front. I will be planting lettuce and radishes this week, but will not risk tender plants outdoors until my official last frost date is past. (April 15th) My containerized pomegranate tree will venture out from my garage this week as well.
Was the groundhog's prediction on target at your house, or are you seeing an early spring too? I'd love to hear from everyone so we can map the progress of the season. It will be fun to hear from all corners of the world and compare notes!