Photo caption: A hunched male red-winged blackbird returned north expecting springtime in New Hampshire. Many state residents know just how he feels! Yet red-winged blackbirds remain a certain sign of spring Photo credit: Kittie Wilson
It's All Over, Folks!
By Dave Anderson
It’s All Over Now, Folks!
Trust me: we’ve got this winter beat!
Welcome April! The calendar heading doesn’t lie despite a recent snowfall. Late season snow is heavy and wet: a back-breaker. What’s worse for those who prematurely flipped their mental switch to “spring,” it can be a spirit-breaker too.
Late snow is “poor man’s fertilizer.” It packs a slug of slow-release atmospheric nitrogen just before lawns green-up and long after the winter snowpack washed out to sea via gutters and storm drains. Folksy “fertilizer” wisdom is slim solace for those who’ve packed the winter gear and are itching to take golf clubs to a local driving range.
In the southern tier, homeowners and landscapers had begun to shovel the last vestiges of snow onto dark pavement, kicking winter to the curb to melt away faster. In haste to trade shovels for rakes, gardeners attack retreating flanks of dirty snow banks with vengeance. Those who washed cars and rolled top-down on I-93 face a new assault of road salt and the six to twelve inches of fresh snow which fell across some regions. Spring is a see-saw battle, fitful and not for the faint of heart.
In the Lakes Region, hopes for an early ice-out faded. Friday was Opening Day of open-water fishing season on the landlocked salmon and lake trout-managed lakes. New Hampshire Fish and Game manages 14 lakes for landlocked salmon: Big Dan Hole Pond, First and Second Connecticut Lakes, Conway Lake, Lake Francis, Merrymeeting Lake, Newfound, Ossipee, Big and Little Squam Lakes, Sunapee, Winnipesaukee, Winnisquam and Nubanusit Lakes. Salmon season is the true start of spring for many New Hampshire anglers. Happy April Fools Day! Trout ponds open April 23 – ice out or no.
In the Monadnock to Kearsarge highlands, Red Sox fans listened to their Opening Day first pitch vs. Texas Rangers on Friday accompanied by the rumble of snowplows clearing local roads. It’s enough to make a grounds-keeper weep.
Meanwhile in the Great North Woods, snowmobile trails will likely continue to support riders for a few more weeks. Snow coverage remains extensive. Similarly with the state’s ski resorts: an excellent base is likely to last into mid-April and even May at northern areas. Problem is: once golf clubs and lawn rakes come down and snow shovels and skis go back up on countless garage walls of Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, the ski season is doomed. Spring skiing locals with discount coupons or late season deals aren’t sufficient to entice small ski operators to continue to run lifts. Traffic drives the ski industry despite the fact that some of the finest sun-drenched skiing arrives now at the end of the season. Better to have six inches in Hartford or Boston than six feet up in Pinkham Notch!
Certain signs of spring include new returning migratory birds: woodcocks, geese, wood ducks, hooded mergansers, redwings, grackles, starlings, brown creepers. Growing aggregations of migratory robins are held back in the southern tier by a stubborn northern snowpack. Tree buds are swelling. Maple sugaring season ends when sap yellows and tastes “buddy.”
The lingering after-effects of a long “old-fashioned winter” results in two opposing mindsets now: residents are equally divided between “good riddance” and a desire for “just one more week” to snowmobile or link turns on snowboards and skis.
To those who lament a cruel April Fools Day snowstorm joke, it was ever thus. Always best to wait until tax day (or maybe blackfly season) before letting down your guard.
On our tree farm, I leave the big Ford snow-blower on the John Deere until May. That old expression “out like a lamb” is useful enough when remembering lambs born breech or presenting sideways with one leg folded back. Considering the calamities of sheep midwifery during the April lambing season, I’d say spring is just as fitful; fraught with peril. Out like a lamb indeed – a backwards lamb!
Forgive me my temerity: I now declare winter is hereby ended!
One final caveat: the difference between the March 20th alleged “first day of spring” and the “first spring day” is three to four weeks either way!
Naturalist Dave Anderson is Director of Education and Volunteer Services for The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. His column appears once a month in the New Hampshire Sunday News. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or through the Forest Society Web site: forestsociety.org.