Poor Will’s Almanack: Moon calls forth robins in Clark County

Now Spring returns with warming breezes,

Now wild March skies

Retreat before the west wind.

Catullus

Weather history suggests that equinox will bring one of the last brisk cold fronts of early spring. Full moon on the 23rd is likely to keep next week’s temperatures a bit below normal until the waning moon combines with the approach of middle spring to encourage wildflowers and pastures to have their day.

Lunar phase and lore

As it waxes through the week, the Robin Chorus Moon continues to call forth the robins to mating. Rising in the middle of the day and setting after midnight, this moon increases the likelihood of angling success when it passes overhead during the evening, especially as the cold front of March 19 lowers the barometer. Lunar position in Cancer on the 18th is very favorable for seeding all crops that will bear their fruit above the ground.

Natural calendar

Today: Motherwort swells into clumps, and purple deadnettle is in full bloom. Lamb’s quarter, beggarticks, pigweed, and amaranth sprout, and the first periwinkle flower petals unfold.

Saturday: Equinox occurs at 11:30 p.m., and although this solar event is more statistical than meteorological, it usually accompanies the intrusion of a strong high-pressure system from the North.

Sunday: Clematis leaves emerge beside new growth of the dodder. Comfrey leaves reach two inches long.

Monday: Beginning today and lasting through the 30th, the second major March storm period increases the threat of sudden blizzards in the North and tornadoes in the South.

Tuesday: Watch for May apple plants to push out of the ground in parks and woodlots. When May apple “umbrellas” open, then the morels should be swelling in the dark.

Wednesday: In central Minnesota, robins finally arrive; between Tennessee and Wisconsin, red-winged blackbirds are nesting along the fencerows; sugaring is in full swing throughout Vermont.

Thursday: Throughout most of North America, the normal average air temperature rises at the rate of one degree every three days as middle spring approaches.

Field and garden

Today: Throughout the Deep South, this date signals the start of planting sweet corn and corn for grain. In Texas and Arizona, farmers put in cotton. Peas and potatoes go in the ground across the Lower Midwest as St. Patrick’s Day approaches.

Saturday: As pasture season spreads north, be sure baking soda is on hand for bloat in sheep and goats. And consider culling before you put your animals out to pasture.

Sunday: Today is Palm Sunday, the last Sunday before Roman Easter. Expect Easter Market sales to peak.

Monday: In western states and the Lower Midwest, farmers are planting spring oats and barley when soil and weather conditions permit.

Tuesday: Past equinox, the sun moves from Pisces to Aries; even if you don’t read a horoscope, you can improve your reading of livestock (and your children’s) behavior as the months reveal different powers.

Wednesday: Spring can be a “dying time” for your rabbits, often because of stress from exposure to rapid changes in the weather. Continue to provide adequate shelter after cold fronts pass through, and plenty of ventilation when heat builds up. Hay also seems to help rabbits deal with change.

Thursday: Caulk or put up new trim around the house. Openings need to be closed because yellow jackets and carpenter bees come back to the same nesting sites year after year.

Journal

Watching Starlings (Sturnus Vulgaris)

Over the years, I have paid attention to starlings, both as visitors to my yard and also as creators of dramatic murmurations that dive and spin through the winter. Their behavior does not always keep a strict schedule, and many of their activities overlap from season to season, but my scattered records reflect something of their periodic movements.

After spending the late autumn and early winter in great flocks that visit and feast in the fields throughout Clark County (and much of the nation), starlings frequently break into smaller groups early in the year.

Sometimes, as they did on Jan. 4, 2012, the first small flock comes down from the woods to eat suet in my yard. On Jan. 12 of this year, in the midst of snowbursts, the first starlings joined the cardinals, sparrows, doves, cowbirds, chickadees, tufted titmice and a red-bellied woodpecker at my birdfeeder.

I have notes from the middle of February about clusters of starlings visiting the neighborhood more frequently, even courting then, and it seems that most of the larger flocks have broken up and pairing has begun by March 1.

Starlings complete their first breeding in March and April, and by May 15, the earliest fledglings have emerged to whine and beg for food – which they do, depending on the permissiveness of the parents, throughout June and into July.

Then, by the middle of August, I notice the high wires filling with the sturnus vulgaris and the first murmurations dancing in the sky. Some starling families do remain in town, clucking, chirping, burbling, and whistling through the autumn and early winter. Usually, however, by the beginning of November, there are fewer small flocks in city trees, and most of the birds gather to soar and feed as one until the sun starts to rise earlier in the morning and the breeding cycle divides and scatters their winter assemblies.

Almanack news

Did something unusual happen in nature in your yard or town? Did you observe different behavior or a different type of butterfly or bird? Did you notice a different cloud formation — and was it followed by a certain kind of weather? Did some tree or flower bloom especially early or late?

Poor Will wants to know. Send your observations to Send your notes to Poor Will’s Almanack at P.O. Box 431, Yellow Springs, Ohio 45387 or to wlfelker@gmail.com. As space permits, I will include your notes (with first names only) in The Almanack News section of this column. Nothing is too small to report, but not all reports will be used in this paper.

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