pages from my nature journal

The Spring Nature Journal

pages from my nature journal
pages from my nature journal

A spring nature journal gets a real workout in recording the new events happening every day. Nature in spring is a very exciting time. So, many things are happening.

Spring begins on March 19, 20 or 21 with the equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. The equinox is when day and night are of equal length. During the equinox the sun is directly above the Earth’s equator. The Spring Equinox is sometimes called the Vernal Equinox. Vernal means spring.

In the Southern Hemisphere the seasons are reversed. And spring begins with the equinox on September 22 or 23.

In North America, spring moves one hundred miles north each week. In three months it moves up from the southern tip of Florida, Texas and California to the northern edges of Maine and Washington state.

In the mountainous areas, spring advances swiftly through valleys and climbing higher and higher up the mountains with each passing day.

Rain flows heavily in spring and vernal pools fill. Vernal pools are temporary swallow ponds which fill with water after snow melts in the spring. They are the breeding and feeding grounds for amphibians and insects. Vernal pools are where you may find spring peepers and wood frogs.

Green Frog in pond at Tyler Arboretum
Green Frog in pond at Tyler Arboretum

As spring moves along, the days lengthen as the sun stays longer in the sky.

Plants in Spring

Nature in spring is about reproduction. In late winter and early spring tree buds swell and bloom. The tree blossoms are pollinated by insects and the wind. A flower’s structure invites pollination by spring breezes or bumblebees.

Plants bloom in a sequence year after year. The earliest plants catch the early pollinators of insects and wind. The early bloomers are bulbs such as Canada Mayflower, irises, and lilies. Early blooming trees include redbuds, magnolias, Norway maples, and rhododendrons. Early blooming flowers include bleeding hearts, violets, and spring beauties.

Spring is a great time to start keeping a chart of the blooming sequence of the plants, trees and shrubs in your area. Phenology is observing the relationship between climate and the life cycles of plants and animals. And now is a good time to begin or continue observing those relationships.Your spring nature journal will be invaluable in years to come. You’ll amaze your friends by knowing what will bloom when and when the first warblers will appear.

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Animals in Spring

For animals, this season is a time of emergence and migration. Insects and hibernators emerge from their winter sleeping places. Insects emerge in sequence as the temperature and weather conditions warm up.

Birds migrate north and use the flyways they may have used in the autumn to go south. Birds stake out their breeding, nesting and feeding territories so they may raise their young. The morning air is filled with birdsong and is called the “Dawn Chorus”. Robins return from their winter homes in the woods, forest or southern locales.

Bees and bee mimics fly through the air to pollinate trees, shrubs and native flowers. Butterflies emerge after overwintering in tree crevices, as adults, eggs, larva, or cocoons. Salamanders, toads and frogs emerge from hibernation. Frogs sing their mating songs.

Young mammals migrate to establish their own home territories. This prevents overcrowding in ecosystems. Young animals that are inexperienced at crossing roads often end up as roadkill.

The Night Sky in Spring

The constellation highlights of the night sky include the Big Dipper, Virgo, Leo and Cancer. The stars follow a seasonal rotation in the sky.

a colorful sky over Philadelphia
a colorful sky over Philadelphia

Humans in Spring

Humans plant gardens in spring. We pop sweet peas into the ground and anticipate eating sugary green goodness straight off the vine. It feels good to feel the moist, rich earth in our hands and we turn the soil over for planting.  Windows are washed to remove winter grime. We wear lighter clothes and put away our snow boots. We adjust to the changing seasons just like our animal and plant neighbors.

Nature in spring bursts with life and activity. It is a time of birth, rebirth and renewal. Forest and field turn from brown to green. It is a good and busy season for nature study. Keeping a spring nature journal or naturalist’s notebook is a great way to keep track of all the things that are taking place.

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