Nature at Home: What Happens When It’s Spring?

written by Kendahl Chergosky, Communications & Education Intern

Many people will note the first time they see something that to them indicates “spring”. Some people go by the first time they see an American Robin (despite the fact that many overwinter!). Some will use the calling of frogs, or the disappearance of Slate-colored Juncos.
When we use observations about nature to tell us about the changing seasons, we’re studying “phenology”. Carpenter Nature Center has been keeping track of different natural occurrences for decades. Because of this, we’re able to see patterns and even in some cases make predictions on when certain natural events will occur based on phenology! Over the years, we’ve noticed when Lupines and Pasque flowers emerge, how long the Daffodils in the garden take to bloom, the first time we hear frogs in the wetland or see a Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel. Check out the calendar below for the month of April to see what sorts of things we’ve observed at CNC over the years. Open in a new tab for easier reading.

Keeping a calendar of observations is a fun way to compare differences between years. Look at the calendar above:  Some years, April has seen very profound snowfall! In other years, temperatures above the 80s have been noticed. Most years lie somewhere in the middle of two extremes.

Phenology for fun is one thing, but what about the real scientific applications of making these kinds of observations? The National Phenology Network (NPN) uses specific seasonal “indicators”, for example when specific plants (like lilacs) transition from buds to flowers, or when certain bugs hatch, to calculate how our climate is changing. NPN notes that knowing this is important in many different fields, such as farmers knowing when to plant crops, predicting the height of mosquito season, and figuring out which species are most vulnerable to a changing climate. Their website includes a lot of information on the scientific study of phenology, including some ways in which you can get involved in citizen science.
We highly recommend spending some time exploring their website!

If you’d like some help getting started with your own observations, posted below is a printable Scavenger Hunt for different signs of spring. Look for them in your own neighborhood! If you find anything on the list, share it with us on our Facebook page or Instagram!

Check out the accompanying Story Time below! We read “That’s What Happens When It’s Spring” by Elaine W. Good!