Phenology is the study of the timing of biological events. February 24th was Spring Surge Day in Swoope. That’s the first day of the year I notice the Earth is really on the move. It’s not necessarily the day the first daffodil blooms or the first warm day of spring. It’s a day when the energy of life seems to be surging in every creature. Every bird is singing, plants are growing, snakes are sunning and bees are buzzing. You can see it, hear it, smell it and feel it. We don’t have a word for it but I know when it happens. (This day often corresponds to the day most students skip school.) I call this Spring Surge Day and in Swoope, Virginia it’s usually the day male Tree Swallows arrive from Central America to stake out their nesting territories.
February 24th was Spring Surge Day in Swoope, the day Tree Swallows arrived!
All Swallows that we see in the temperate region of America are Neotropical migrants. This means they winter in the tropics and migrate north to nest and raise their young. Tree Swallows have traveled more than a thousand miles to get here. Their summer range is expanding northward and they have been arriving earlier almost every year since I have lived in Swoope. Last year the Swallows arrived on February 28th, the year before they arrived on March 8th, and in 2006 they arrived on March 14th. It doesn’t take ice core samples from Antarctica and NASA data to convince me that we are getting warmer, earlier. We can use just plain old scientific observation otherwise known as phenology.
They won’t be long then to arrive back here Bobby! I am hedging my bets on a warming climate and one reason why we chose back to Michigan where I grew up to be near the Great Lakes. This will be known in the future as the year without a Winter. Planted alfalfa in January this year! How crazy is that?
Very interesting post Professor Whitescarver! I enjoyed it and definitely agree that every year the earth is becoming warmer earlier. It is evident especially this year in Harrisonburg. It is already nice and feels like spring!
No, it’s not becoming warmer earlier every year. Don’t know where you live, but you wanna know what happened here in 2013? We had cold and snow later than ever (May 2 snow storm -7″ worth. We’ve also gotten snow in September (in South Dakota and Nebraska) and two Mother’s Day snow storms 2014 and 2015. Thank God for the years we have an early spring. There is yearly variability. It’s not global warming.
Bobby That’s very nicely “said.” If you don’t mind I’d like to “borrow’ those statistics. Thanks George
Thanks for introducing me to the concept of Phenology. I think Spring Surge Day may have come to Verona also. In the last week, everything has come to life, especially stink bugs in our house! I will be on the lookout for Tree Swallows. With respect to other birds returning to this area – I have seen Robins, lots of Robins, this winter? Are they returning sooner, or do they stay here throughout the winter?
Thanks for keeping track of the data. I know that tree swallows don’t read the papers, so they’re not migrating to support the idea of global warming. If they’re arriving earlier and earlier, that’s instinct and survival. If we humans could reconnect with our blessed instincts might we do better at our survival and the survival of this planet’s resources?
There is no question the tree swallows are arriving earlier, and even that evil cabal of climate change researchers couldn’t conspire to change their behavior on such a massive scale. They’re too busty writing self-incriminating emails anyway. In Philadelphia, 150 northern rough-winged swallows have quit migrating altogether and have spent the last 10 winters at a downtown sewage treatment plant (in ever increasing numbers). Rough-wings are the brown-backed swallows that nest in the old kingfisher holes all over the Valley. Unlike tree swallows, which can eat berries and regularly overwinter in the southern US, rough-wings are not known to be tough. Society is unlikely to take the necessary steps to curb global climate change, so we need to stop waiting for a miracle and shift to thinking about adapting…how are we going to deal with the increased forest fires, greater mobilization of pollutants, and drought that are likely to occur with warmer weather? Ignoring the swallows is a bad idea. Thanks for the post Bobby.
Dan, thanks for your input and addition to the blog. The Earth is definitely on the move!
Another interesting post! I really enjoy how you provided an example of bird migration and correlated it with the fact that Earth is getting warmer. Most people look to, as you mentioned, ice core samples and hard data when asking about climate change. Meanwhile all it takes is to look at what is happening all around you. One example in my life is that due to climate change, I was only able to go snowboarding a few times on fresh snow this year. I can only imagine the detriment that this years lack of snow had on the ski slopes revenue.
I wish more people took the initiative to practice phenology; I think they wouldn’t be so bent out of shape by the phrase Global Warming. I know I see it in the weather, for instance my Freshman year here at JMU we had tons of snow and it was even termed the Snow-pocalypse! After that each year we’ve only had little dustings here and there, but this year we have yet to have snow. Storm Sandy was the closest we’ve come to seeing snow, but yesterday it was close to 70 degrees! Hopefully the tree swallows will still come back; they’re beautiful birds. We’re just slowly becoming more like their over-wintering site.