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February Phenology

Did You See That?

Are you observant? Phe-nol-o-gy is the study of changes in plants and animals as they respond to weather, climate, and the seasons. Each spring we anxiously await the first returning robin in the hope of warmer weather. That is a phenological event. It happens every year but the return date depends a lot on the weather. Migration and flowering are two more examples of phenological events.

Look around for the following seasonal/phenological changes...

  • February is a time of waiting--winter hangs on but spring is not too far away. Watch and listen for changes outdoors.

  • Keep your eyes open for snowfleas. They gather at the base of trees on sunny days early in February.

  • Listen for male cardinals singing "what cheer" as they try to attract a mate. Chickadees sing "fee-bee" more frequently. Tufted titmice sing "peter, peter, peter" over and over.

  • Red osier dogwood bark is a brilliant scarlet red -- a wonderful touch of color to let us know spring is just around the corner.

  • Look to see where deer and rabbits have chewed on twigs to feed themselves this winter. Bark chewed off at the top of a tree might be from a porcupine. If the edges are clipped off cleanly at a 45 degree angle and near the ground, then it was probably a cottontail rabbit in southern Wisconsin or snowshoe hare in the north.

  • Many animals breed this time of year including raccoons, gray squirrels, timber wolves and coyotes. Great horned owls also begin nesting.

  • Watch forred-winged blackbirds to return late this month.

  • By the end of February skunk cabbage might be poking through the snow. Can you smell it?

  • Warm and sunny weather triggers maple sap to run. Will we have any warm weather in February?



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