Sunday, April 25, 2010

Spring Count, April 24, 2010

We have lived through what surely feels like the longest winter ever! Undoubtedly it wasn't but from Christmas through to April 15 seemed to creep through cold, dark, miserable days. Maybe it was because I'd decided to retire. Maybe it was because we don't usually get dreary winters. Maybe it was just age. For whatever reasons, I felt like Spring would never come. Spring means when the back yard dogwood, quince, and redbuds are all blooming at the same time. Here it is almost the last weekend in April and I've mowed once and the neighbors twice, at least. Is that more a sign of Spring? Robins come and go. Waxwings dash through. A warbler here a warbler there.

We are three inches shy in the rain gauge. Even last evening's storm that roared through Mississippi and northern Alabama won't make a dent. What we have so far is snow melt.

Instead of over night lows in the teens the overnight lows are in the low 40s. Soon, in mid-May, the overnight lows will be in the mid-50s and I can put out the orchids for the rest of the summer.

The Lee and Lois Herndon Chapter performed it's spring count on Saturday. This is a quarterly population census of the upper five counties. I was lucky enough to join Don Holt and Diane Draper, Kim Stroud and Joe McGinness surveying Unicoi county. There 37 club members out in the counties. We found 139 species which is not a record and is a little low, I'm told, but not bad. The concensus of the experts is the migrations aren't in full swing yet. Give it a week or two. Other observations by other outdoors folks suggests the same thing. This has been a peculiar spring.

My personal total is now at 70. Big deal? We had six members of our club last year count over 200 species, just in our area and cannot cross over the state in into North Carolina. If you'll locate Carter County Tennessee on google maps you'll see what we're up against and why 200 species is such an accomplishment.

The spring count is not the start of the "season." About mid-March when the weather is supposed to change we begin to see different birds moving in (or out. Buffleheads are gone now.) Some of the early flowers pop up. There is indeed that oft-spoken shaking aside of slumber by the world as it emerges from the cold of winter. The days are a tad longer. Going to work in the sun if just for a moment rather in the dark. You notice these things, don't you, and we respond just like the natural beings we are.

The naturalist rally at Roan Mountain is coming up next. Then a few trips to bird around the country. Then we settle in for a warm, over-white summer. The migration to Rankin Bottoms is already on the calendar. Summer seems to go by too quickly.

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