Reflections in Nature: March is spring, yet winter

Although many of us consider March a spring month, we often have more winter weather, with some of our deepest snowfalls in this month.

However, in March, we also begin to see signs of spring, such as birds returning, and tinges of color appearing.

“March is a month of considerable frustration. It is so near spring and yet, across a great deal of the country, the weather is still so violent and changeable that outdoor activity in our yards seems light-years away,” said Thalassa Cruso, a plant lover who was known as “the Julia Child of horticulture.”

When I checked my diary from 2012, I read that winter had dragged on rather long:

Diary entry Aug. 28 – “The leaves on the trees are beginning to change.”

Oct. 8 – “The temperature was 32 degrees, and I built a wood fire in the kitchen stove.”

Nov. 2 – “Went grouse hunting on Armenia Mountain. Wet snow covered the ground, and I was soaked.”

Nov. 27 – “Two inches of snow had fallen through the night.”

On March 20 at 7:02 a.m., spring begins with the vernal equinox. Everywhere on this date, day and night are approximately equal, with the sun rise and set due east and west.

“The cock is crowing,

The stream is flowing,

The small birds twitter,

The lake doth glitter,

During March 2012, we experienced our first thunder and lightning storm; first sightings of red-winged blackbirds, vultures, grackles and robins; hearing spring peepers and wood frogs; seeing the yellow flowers of the coltsfoot and dandelion plants.

The green field sleeps in the sun;

The oldest and youngest

Are at work with the strongest;

The cattle are grazing,

Their heads never raising;

There are 40 feeding like one!

Our word March comes from the Latin word “martius.” It originally was the first month of the Roman calendar and was named after Mars, the god of war.

In 1752, we changed to the Gregorian calendar and, since then, the new year has begun on Jan. 1.

The month of March was known by Anglo-Saxons as either Hlyd month, meaning “stormy month,” or Hraed month, meaning “rugged month.”

Like an army defeated

The snow hath retreated,

And now doth fare ill

On the top of the bare hill;

A human sign of spring is receiving seed catalogs in the mail. My wife, Mary Alice, already has ordered her flower seeds and has started some of them inside a Jiffy green house. Some of the seed packages advise to start a particular seed inside the house six weeks before the last spring frost.

According to the 2013 Farmer’s Almanac, the last spring frost for Williamsport is April 30; however, here, in Bradford County, we are almost two weeks behind Williamsport.

The Plowboy is whooping-anon-anon:

There’s joy in the mountains;

There’s life in the fountains;

Small clouds are sailing,

The rain is over and gone!”

– “March” by

William Wordsworth,

We’ve all heard of the March Hare in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” – “The March Hare will be much the most interesting and perhaps, as this is May, it won’t be raving mad, at least not so mad as it was in March.”

The British saying “mad as a March hare” is based on popular belief about the hares’ behavior at the beginning of the long breeding season, which lasts from February to September. Early in the season, unreceptive females often acted mad, using their forelegs to repel overenthusiastic males.

It once was incorrectly believed that the bouts were between males fighting for breeding supremacy.

Bower retired after 34 years as a wildlife conservation officer for the state Game Commission. He has published several books about his experiences. Questions and comments may be sent to him at 153 Redington Ave., Troy PA 16947.