It’s early February, midwinter by the calendar. Spring’s first day is nearly six weeks away. Even so, some birds already are singing and some wildflowers are blooming.
They are the unfailing harbingers of spring. Around this time each year, they announce that winter’s silence and dullness are breaking, that our world already is tipping toward the season of new life and growth.
Among the early songsters, Carolina wrens seem to vie now with cardinals (males and females) over who can sing most exuberantly. Carolina chickadees occasionally join in with spring song instead of winter twitter.
Song sparrows and mockingbirds may burst out in brief songs now, and some springlike singing may come from pine warblers, house finches, bluebirds and American phoebes. On warm days, mourning doves may sing full throttle.
As if not to be outdone by the birds, Georgia’s earliest blooming wildflowers are setting their own mood for spring. The earliest bloomer — mostly in North Georgia‘s moist, deciduous forests — is the round-lobed hepatica, whose little white to dark blue flowers can cheer the spirit on a wintry day. They tend to poke out just above the leaf litter on the forest floor.
Hepatica blooms as early as January. That fact drew my nature photographer friend Don Hunter into the woods on a cold day a couple of weeks ago to photograph the flower.
Several other blooming wildflowers give Georgia an air of spring in February. Starting to bloom now is trailing arbutus, with fuzzy stems and clusters of small, sweet-smelling pink or white blooms. Showy yellow jessamine already is in full bloom in South Georgia’s piney woods. In the woods and along Georgia’s highways, blooming red maples are casting reddish glows.
In another week or so, the trout lily, perhaps Georgia’s most popular February wildflower, will be in abundant bloom in bottomlands and moist forests of North Georgia.
IN THE SKY: From David Dundee, Tellus Science Center astronomer: The moon will be first-quarter on Tuesday. Venus rises in the east a few hours before sunrise and will appear near Saturn on Monday morning. Mars is low in the southwest at dusk and will appear near the moon on Sunday. Jupiter and Saturn are low in the east just before sunrise.
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