On the first Wednesday of every month, you can find us checking in with what’s coming up on the calendar, both literally and figuratively.
It’s 50F as I type this. I’m at the kitchen table, and the ground outside is covered in a blanket of snow, but there’s a steady drip of water as the snow on the roof begins to melt.
March is truly a month of transitions as we leave winter behind and take that first confident step into spring. Of course, there were a few warm days towards the end of February that hinted at the coming spring, and Mother Nature has started to make her move.
Deciduous trees and shrubs that have stored sugars and nutrients in their roots all winter begin sending it up their trunks to their outer branches as the days warm. That stored energy will be used to open the tree’s buds, making leaves and flowers. It’s during this time of year, that we tap the sap from the maple trees and boil it down into syrup. Maple syrup festivals abound throughout the tapping region and follow the slow warming of the east coast beginning with festivals in Virginia in early March and PA and NY festivals in mid to late March. Along with the maple trees, the opening of the Cherry blossoms are a cause for celebration throughout Japan and here in the US. The month-long National Cherry Blossom Festival begins in DC on March 19th.
Even before the deciduous trees fill out, the earliest of bulbs begin to flower. Crocus may be the typical early spring bloom that pops into your mind, but they are preceded by winter aconite (Eranthis) or snowdrops (Galanthus) bloom. Of course, all of these will soon be followed by daffodils, hyacinth and tulips.
March is a month of intense activity for many of our migratory animals, including some of our favorites: the monarch butterfly, whooping crane, and ruby-throated hummingbird. Monarchs* are leaving Mexico and southern US for their multi-generation trip north. The endangered Whooping Crane, which is North America’s tallest bird at around 5 feet, take off from their Texas wintering grounds in mid-March. Ruby-throated hummingbirds that flew all the way down to Panama for the winter are now well into their migration north. Many have reached the Yucatan peninsula by now where they will gorge on insects before making the non-stop flight across the Gulf in early March. From there they will continue north following the blooming flowers they rely on for nectar.
Robins have already arrived in central PA. They differ than the other species we’ve mentioned in that they don’t have a direct north-south migration, and their movements are not well understood. They move in large flocks, avoiding areas with deep snow, looking for the availability of fruit in the fall and then returning to their summer breeding grounds as the soil warms and earthworms are available.
The vernal equinox and first official day of spring occurs on March 20th when the sun is positioned directly over the equator. While it may be the most anticipated, that’s not the only fun celestial activity this month. Coincidentally, also on March 20th an extremely rare event will take place shortly after 2 a.m.. An asteroid known as 163 Erigone will pass in front of the bright star Regulus in the constellation of Leo, causing the star to disappear. This event is even more special because it will only be visible (invisible?) along a 45-mile-wide path that begins in the span between New York City to Oswego, NY and continues northwest into Ontario, Canada. If you’re in the center of this path, the star will remain invisible for 12 seconds.
March’s full moon occurs on the 15th. The native american tribes of the US named the full moons in order to help them keep track of the seasons, most names have to do with natural phenomena or seasonal activities. Many of the moons have a single name, but March’s moon takes the cake in naming. It’s known as the Worm Moon because earthworm casts appear (with the worms feeding the aforementioned robins). The more northern tribes referred to the moon as the Full Crow Moon or Full Crust Moon; the cawing of crows signaled the end of winter, and as many readers can probably relate to this year, the carpet of snow still present in the north thaws during the day and then forms a hard crust overnight when it freezes. In conjunction with the tapping of the make trees, March’s moon has also been called the Full Sap Moon.
Back in the human realm, Mardi Gras was celebrated yesterday on March 4th (maybe you’re still recovering? or still snacking on those donuts?). Daylight savings time begins at 2:00 a.m. on March 9th; spring ahead lovelies! March 14th is Pi Day. March 17th is St. Patrick’s Day, don’t worry, we’re doing the heavy lifting and planning a little beer review for you. This year the 17th also happens to be India’s famous Holi Festival, also known as the Festival of Colors, celebrating the coming of spring and the victory of good over evil. If you can’t make it to India, there’s a festival on March 8th in LA and the 29th-30th in Spanish Fork, UT.
Finally, just a little warning from Scottish folklore ~ the last three days of March have a reputation for being stormy, and the story has it that these days were borrowed from April. So if the sun is shining today, enjoy it, but be prepared for the end of March and those pesky April showers.
So, that’s a little bit of what’s going on around here, what we’re excited for, and what we’re looking for in our backyard. What’s on your agenda for March?