March 19, 2013 — The first day of spring is March 20 this year. This is good news for many who live in the mountains. Each day, as I look into my backyard from the window in my home office, I note the height of the snow against the fence. It is shrinking.
The days are getting warmer so I no longer need to keep the fire in the woodstove lit the entire day or grab my coat on a sunny afternoon. When I drive into the valley the grass is green and the flowers are beginning to bloom.
Traditional signs of spring, depending on the area in which you live, include birds building nests, budding trees, butterfly sightings and daffodils pushing up through the soil.
This year, when I saw the date for the beginning of the spring equinox on my calendar coincided with my deadline for the My Turn column, I decided to take a closer look at spring. My research led me to backyardnature.net, which had a list of 101 nature-oriented things to do this spring. Although the activities are most likely designed for children in middle school, there were several I found interesting. The information gave me a new perspective on spring by opening my eyes to many things I do not notice.
For example there are categories of bird nests that include a scrape, platform, cup, adherent, pensile or pendulous. Idea number five on the things to do this spring list suggests you click on the Nest Page of the website to determine what type of bird nest you have spotted.
Number 18 instructed: “Wander around looking at how the blossoms of different plants are arranged. Classify each arrangement type according to whether it is a spike, raceme, corymb, panicle, umbel, cyme, scorpioid cyme or something else. Our Blossom Arrangement Page can help.”
I clicked on the page and found blossoms on flowering plants are arranged a certain way. The cluster of flowers is called an “inflorescence.” The flowers from the umbel inflorescence type are clustered on the tip of the stem while blossoms on the spike grow along the stem in close proximity.
Number 20 also got my attention. The idea here was to create a list of all the ecological niches you could identify in your backyard. On his Backyard Niches page, the website author, Jim Conrad, wrote, “A single tree is like a whole city where, if you know where to look, a rainbow of plants and animals can be found occupying their own niches. To discover these niches and the wonderful plants and animals occupying them, you must simply always keep your eyes open, prepared to see anything … ”
Some other ideas were to notice if an insect had simple or compound eyes; familiarize yourself with the 10 most conspicuous insect orders; learn to identify your local trees by looking at their trunks; list all the butterflies and birds in your neighborhood; look for bats at dusk just as it’s getting really dark; or find the scientific name of a plant or animal by using the Google search engine on your computer and typing in its common or English name.
All your information can be kept in a Nature Study Notebook. The website had a Tools page for information on getting started.
While most adults are not usually looking for additional things to do, selecting one or two activities for a closer look at spring may be well worth your time.
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