I'm going to start this post with an ecopsychological observation as well as a phenological one. This past January 8th, I sensed (rather than saw) a fluttering outside my study window, and turned just in time to see an eastern comma flapping -- somewhat frantically, I thought -- against the glass.
Granted, commas are often the first butterfly species I see every year. But not in January. I felt little joy in seeing it. It was way too early. With some urgency I wondered if I was missing new phenophases of other species I observe in the holler. I often reduce the frequency of holler walks in the winter months. Physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually for me, it was still winter. I did not feel ready for it to be spring. And if there were things popping up and out already, I had concerns for the consequences to each and every one of them.
As calendar-winter went on -- with continued warm spells punctuated by serious cold ones, and more rain, more often than I have ever seen since I moved to Tennessee -- I noted that no trees, shrubs or forbs were taking the bait. My quince bushes eventually began to produce small flower buds, but they didn't swell or open, and endured a few 9- and 10-degree lows very well. By mid-February, daffodils were up and flowering throughout the larger Terry Creek drainage to which my holler's creeks contribute. Orange day lily and Siberian iris leaves began poking through the leaf cover on raised beds around my house.
By the end of the first week of March, I had observed new, full leaves of Amur honeysuckle and multiflora rose, forsythia flowers, and first leaves of one of the cutleaf toothworts I have flagged (photos above).
Now I'm also seeing leaves of sharp-lobed Hepatica, and Dogtooth violets (though not in the 2-sq.ft. plots I have marked). All of the red maples I observe for Nature's Notebook have open flowers, and members of this species all the way from the holler down to Knoxville are in some stage of emergence.
Up in the bird world (I saw/heard very few birds this winter up here in the holler, another point of concern) I've seen and heard an eastern phoebe hanging around old nest sites and calling for a mate. Blue jays, chickadees and cardinals are moving back up into the holler from fields down below. Many of these birds come up here to nest in the forested areas around my house.
And, of course, with the movement of these smaller birds comes the more frequent hunting parties of a resident hawk (red-shouldered or broad-winged, not sure which). I even saw some wild turkeys up in the air last week. And heard some barred owls.
I think it's spring. I've increased the number of phenology observation days significantly. And that feels okay now.