The arrival of Spring here has nothing at all to do with weather forecasts, satellite images or the Farmer’s Almanac. Spring is evident by local animal behavior. One simply needs to know the signs of common animals: Robins, Squirrels, Cows, Geese, Colts and Mustangs. And of course we all know it starts with the Groundhog. Each year on February 2nd, we humans attempt to determine if the groundhog sees its shadow or not. But think about this; the current ceremony involves a pet groundhog that does not Winter outdoors. Punxsutawney Phil lives with his wife, Phyllis at the town Library (http://mentalfloss.com/article/54821/11-punxsutawney-phil-facts-groundhog-day). He is the guest of honor at a man-made ritual/festival.
An (almost) foolproof indication that Spring’s finally here is the presence of a Robin on our lawn. Not the snow-covered lawn, but the stubby grey-green ‘grass’ revealed when the snow melts. It doesn’t count if the Robin is seen in one of our trees, on the fence, porch steps or walkways. Not valid if seen on a neighbor’s lawn, it has to be ours. Don’t ask me why, that’s just how it works. When Mr. Robin is walking on our ‘lawn’, Spring is here.
This year, there was an odd glitch to this pattern.. A Robin trekked across the lawn several days ago; I was excited ! The next day it snowed :( BUT, this is the first time it wasn’t completely accurate. Are there statistics to back up this phenomenon ? Absolutely ! I have experienced the transition of Winter to Spring in Indiana for the past 18 years. When the Robin is on our lawn, it’s Spring. Aside from the glitch-delay this year, this method of prediction has been successful 18 years in a row. That is a far more accurate forecast/track record than any weather station.
Just outside the kitchen windowsill (lined with old bottles) we have a bird feeder tray.
This little guy showed up for breakfast recently :)
Another animal-prediction example: Squirrels. While it’s true squirrels can be seen all Winter scampering across the snow, it’s always a brief sighting as the snow is cold against their little unshod feet. We spot them year ’round in our squirrel and bird feeders. Their balancing acts and eating while hanging upside-down are very amusing antics, but in the Winter their appearances are brief. When the Robin walks across our lawn declaring it’s Spring, the squirrels really come out to play. They take long, leisurely visits to our feeders. Lunch becomes a relaxed meal with friends (other squirrels and birds). When you see a well-fed squirrel fresh from the trough, stretched out over the top of the fence napping and digesting in the diluted sunshine, it’s a sure sign of Spring.
I love cows. They are lazy, large and very curious animals. They have amazing strength and will. They are patient and thoughtful. Once when spreading hay for bedding in the barn, I was called away for a minute. When I returned, I did not see the rake leaning up against the bales of hay where I’d left it. But there was a ring of cows in the area. I got closer to see that the rake was flat on the ground and the small group of nearby cows were watching intently (probably to see if it would stand up again). They had been sniffing, snorting and pushing against it. Good thing I had gloves on because the handle was now wet from their investigations.. When Spring is here, you will see cows enjoying the great outdoors again, glad to be out of the barn. They get muddy and that’s always a challenge to wash off before milking :/ But they are happy. So when you see groups of happy, muddy cows, it’s Spring.
We live near a small river. When we hear lots of geese honking as they come in for a landing, it is a sign of Spring. They have been mostly gone for the Winter. When ice on the water melts, they return in droves. We see mostly Canadian Geese here. They have lovely markings and are graceful when flying or floating on the water. On the land, they are a proud and rather arrogant bunch. Geese have daily lively discussions, loudly honking out their opinion on water rights, the best spots for fishing and life in general.
The Colts are not so much a local animal but the closest professional football team, The Indianapolis Colts. Though fans are very supportive year round, when it’s not freezing cold, you will spot more and more Colts jerseys (short sleeves) and billed caps (in place of wool beanies). When you see a lot of Colts gear worn, Spring is here.
And what about Mustangs ? It’s true that we see them come out to play in the Spring. Folks with classic cars do not risk driving them in the snow (not sturdy road-gripping plus they want to avoid the presence of road salt). When you see people driving their gorgeous, restored classic cars like Mustangs, Karmann Ghias and the like, it means it’s finally Spring !