There is March madness in Georgia’s wilds, too

Now we have March, the time of basketball madness, the Oscars, St. Patrick’s Day, kite flying contests — and, of course, the vernal equinox, the first day of spring (March 20).

As my late friend and AJC columnist Lewis Grizzard once wrote, “Spring time is the land awakening; the March winds are the morning yawn.”

Already I can see from my home office window in Decatur the deep pink of flowering red maples along the creek.

Then, a friend canoeing in the Okefenokee Swamp deep in South Georgia this week called to say that yellow jasmine is blooming all over the famed wetland. In several spots, he says, masses of the bright yellow blooms are reflected in the inky black water, a stunning sight.

This weekend, I plan to take a stroll in the West Palisades unit of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area to see some other early bloomers, trout lilies. Thousands of yellow-flowered trout lilies cover hillsides on both sides of Rottenwood Creek and begin blooming this time of year.

Coming into bloom within a week or so will be serviceberry, redbud, hepatica, bloodroot, windflower, spring beauty, Dutchman’s breeches, toothwort, several species of violets, Oconee bells and on and on.

Spring peepers have been calling from the woods for a couple of weeks now. Last week, when I was on Lawrenceville Highway driving back from Tucker after the annual meeting with my tax man, I looked up and saw two huge flocks of high-flying sandhill cranes heading north. Nearly half the reports on Georgia’s birders’ chat line during the past few weeks have been about flocks of sandhill cranes over the state.

A pair of Carolina wrens are nest-building in a hanging basket on our front porch. Bluebirds are carrying nesting material into the bluebird box. Brown thrashers, cardinals, robins and other year-round songbirds are belting out their courting songs.

My friend Linda Hodges, whose home is perched atop a steep hill overlooking Morgan Falls Dam on the Chattahoochee, says a blue heron rookery across the river from her has become quite busy. Egg laying should start any day now.

So much, in fact, is going on in Georgia’s wilds during March that I could fill this entire newspaper with reports of all the activity. Instead, I’ll just get outside and enjoy it all.

IN THE SKY: The moon will be new Saturday night and thus not visible, said David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer. By dusk on Monday, look for a thin crescent moon low in the west. Mercury is low in the east just before dawn. Venus rises out of the east about three hours before dawn. Mars rises out of the east a few hours after sunset. Jupiter is high in the south at dusk. Saturn rises out of the east before midnight.

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