When I looked out the window that morning, a couple dozen robins were hop-hopping around on the lawn and field, searching for worms and bugs. Streaming sunshine seemed to highlight their presence. When I went outside I could hear the cheery robin-song of boy-robins trying to attract girl-robins. What was wrong with this picture? Answer: it was the middle of February.
What did the robins know that we didn’t know? Hadn’t they heard that Punxsutawney Phil, that famous Pennsylvania groundhog had seen his shadow, and predicted six more weeks of winter? Similarly, Balzac Billy in Alberta, a little closer to B.C., saw his shadow. It is a little difficult to believe that these foreign groundhogs could know what the weather will be on the Wet Coast. What we need is our own local groundhog, like a Vancouver Island Marty the Marmot. Mind you, it might be a bit difficult to find Marty’s den under the three meters of snow which is what Marty’s mountain top home is likely to have, if we can use Mount Washington as an example. Mount Washington is a traditional area where marmots are sighted, but can have snow until late May. So what does Marty know, anyway? Environment Canada did predict lots of snow on our coastal mountains this year, due to La Nina effects in the Pacific Ocean. But they also predicted cooler than normal weather down here on the flatlands. But, instead we are getting near normal or nicer than normal weather. It feels like gardening weather.
It wasn’t just robins acting like spring. Other songbirds like towhees and chickadees, Junkos and Stellar jays, sparrows and wrens were also zipping from tree to tree, bush to bush. Many were singing. It looked like the spring migration was under way. Later that day I also saw swans heading north, and small flocks of geese and ducks also heading that way. In the garden, irises, crocuses, and daffodils were sending up shoots to feel the sun; at least a few weeks early. The catkins on the alders and hazelnuts were bushing out. The lawn was looking greener. (Maybe that was moss.) A person has to wonder whether we all aren’t just being fooled. Maybe there’s some cold weather still coming.
Update on the Floppy-eared rabbit. Last year I mentioned seeing a floppy-eared rabbit hanging around my orchard, possibly just “dumped” by someone no longer wanting to care for it. I cited a number of hazards like dogs and owls. In fact, I had seen Floppy hanging around areas dogs rush to, invited by numerous new scents. And I hear numerous owls whoo-whooing every night. So, I am glad to report that Floppy was sighted on February 17 and appears to be healthy and contented. There’s even been a black rabbit hanging around for company!