Welcome to the second day of spring or, to be more exact, the second day of meteorological spring.
The 90 coldest days, statistically, are behind us, so those who study weather in the Upper Midwest have chosen March 1 as the first day of spring. New birds observed on the first day of March are officially spring migrants, according to many bird observers and bird-listers. For meteorologists, spring runs from March 1 to May 31. That definition of spring makes sense to me as a naturalist and to many outdoor enthusiasts I know.
Equinox-watchers will wait three more weeks before switching seasons. The vernal (spring) equinox (equal night) occurs March 20 when the sun reaches the celestial equator, an imaginary line through the sky above the earth's equator. As the sun's center crosses this line, the season officially changes. Astronomers tell us that this year, spring begins at 11:15 a.m. March 20. We will then reach the midway point between the two solstices, with 12 hours of sunshine and 12 hours of night.
Spring signs first appear in early January with black-capped chickadees singing their whistled "fee-bee" songs and woodpeckers drumming. In February, the sunlight melts snow on days well below the freezing mark, northern cardinals sing loud, the first skunks are out, and the first bald eagle eggs are laid. Now, in early March, we can expect the first migrating Canada geese to arrive, maple sap to run, and turkeys to start courting in earnest.
Jim Gilbert taught and worked as a naturalist for 50 years.