Weather lore and birds calling for early Spring
By Ken M. Blomberg
Throughout history, people have observed domestic and wild animal and bird behavior variations during seasonal and weather change. In Scotland, cats were observed scratching walls or posts before windy days, washing their faces before a thaw, and sitting with their backs to fireplaces before snowfalls. Dogs they said, that dig, howl, eat grass, or refuse to eat predict coming rain. If horses stretch out their necks, sniff the air, sweat in the stable, or rub their backs on the ground, expect rain.
Season length and weather patterns have influenced weather lore and gathered a collection of proverbs, sayings and rules concerning meteorological conditions. Minute changes in the atmosphere can trigger eating activity, restlessness, and migration movements in wild animals and birds. You have heard the saying, when squirrels lay in a large supply of nuts, expect a long, cold winter – and beavers, in turn predicting a harsh, early winter, will cut his winter supply of wood and prepare his house one month earlier than in mild, late winters. An early migration of woodcock in the fall they say, indicates the approach of a severe winter. When prairie chickens gather at creeks and timber and sit on the ground with all their feathers ruffled, expect cold weather. Weather lore follows that rain is forthcoming when crows scream, thrushes sing long and loud, blackbirds sing in the morning, woodpeckers cry, ravens croak at long intervals and robins sing long and hard from the ground in the morning.
The Aldo Leopold Foundation’s phenology report online last week reminded us that, “It may still be winter and feel every bit as much, but the black-capped chickadee reminds us spring will come soon enough; they’re beginning their spring territorial songs.” Wild birds communicate through both calls and songs. A bird’s call gives up its location to other members of their flock, or presents a warning. Its song, usually produced by a male, is reserved for the breeding season. In turn, they both can also denote changes in weather and seasons.
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