I consider myself a fan of all four seasons, which I’d recommend as a strategy to anyone who wants to live here in the midwest. That being said I’ve struggled to find delight in the interseasonal space between winter and spring. That slushy grey intermission on the tail end of winter, no green yet in sight. Pretty much where we are now.

Phenology – the science of studying natural cycles – has been on my mind lately. We’re talking about this topic in my class, mainly for the purpose of garden and landscape management.  The naturalist in me finds myself gravitating back to the seasonal migrations of birds – which is a somewhat more pleasant distraction when there is this wet blanket of wet snow over the landscape.

I’m not sure how many of you particpated in the recent Great Backyard Bird Count, but E and I played along, the highlights being a number of waterbirds, including Buffleheads and Coots.  Also we saw a big black raptor, which we first thought was an immature Bald Eagle, but more likely a Rough-legged Hawk.

As I have been poking around the local phenology sites I have learned that in just the past couple days that Sandhill Cranes have returned to Horicon Marsh and Great Horned Owls are breeding. So despite all appearances spring is on the way. The days are brightening, there is a different quality to the light – apparent even on these grey days.  It makes one a little bit sad to know that another February has flown.    

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Dave Coulter

I have been a horticulturist for thirty years working in the Chicago area and beyond. I have lived in Oak Park for over thirteen years. My writing has recently appeared in the journal Ecological Restoration...

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