Thursday, March 26, 2015


Boston is climbing out of a difficult winter, and spring is barely daring to peak out from the remaining piles of snow. Yes, we can see grass in spots, but next to the bare patches are slowly melting snow drifts, many still measuring in feet rather than inches. And any public outdoor space—think local soccer fields or parks—were used as dumping grounds for plows this year, so who knows when they’ll be clear. They still look like miniature mountain ranges right now!

The point of this is that we’re all on a desperate lookout for signs of spring. So with that in mind, I thought I’d talk a little bit about what makes spring spring.

1. We get access to more sunlight.

Image by Colivine
Earth moves to a point in its orbit where the Northern Hemisphere (or Southern Hemisphere, if you’re reading this post from below the equator) is tilted towards the sun, rather than away. This gives us longer days and more concentrated sunlight. We aren’t any closer to the sun than we were before, we’re just angled more advantageously.

2. The ground warms up.

While we tend to measure air temperature to judge if it feels warm enough to go out in a lighter jacket, spring is really about what’s happening below our feet. The thawing ground allows for a multitude of things to happen.
  • Faster snow melt. (Ask yourself, is a chunk of ice going to melt faster on a surface warmer or colder than 32 degrees Fahrenheit?)
  • Water begins to filter through the soil once more, and naturally mixes the nutrients from dead autumn leaves into the ground.
  • The frost line below the ground rises until it’s gone completely, cluing in life below that it’s safe to come out!

3. Life wakes up.

We all know about animals who hibernate for the winter, and the return of birds from migration is a classic sign of spring as well. But spring is also about the plants and insects (who have been rendered essentially catatonic for months) finally resurfacing and going on with their way of life. They’re the powerhouses of spring. Buds form on trees, flowers bloom, and every around you, billions of creepy crawlies emerge from the earth and the water, busting back out to the surface like tiny, six-legged zombies. Or, in many cases, the grubby larval forms laid in eggs from last year.

Thanks to them, the entire circle of life revs up once more. They are the basis for everything. All hail springtime, the Great Bug Awakening! (And the Great Amphibian Awakening, which I will likely post about soon. For now, take a look below at a Great Reptile Awakening.)

4. Babies on the way.

Once life is awake again, it goes on with…well, making more life. It’s important to take advantage of the warm season when possible, so a great number of plants and animals capitalize on springtime to reproduce. The result: spring, hands down, is the cutest season we have. But it also is a dangerous time for many creatures, especially because of human activity.

Image by Guido Strotheide
So try to remember—as you go to bask in the sunlight of spring, all around you your entire extended family is distracted by (adorable) babies who need their attention! Be careful when driving. Watch out during yardwork. Keep cats and dogs controlled and indoors when possible.

And if you find a baby animal that you’re worried has been abandoned, please do some research before taking it away from wherever it’s nestled. It may actually be just where it’s meant to be, and mom may be coming back for it later. This site has good information about whether or not a baby animal is in trouble, and if it is, what you can do about it.

Sitting here, looking out my window at all the snow still on the ground, it’s hard to believe that the above processes are actually heading our way. But I hear it may hit 50 degrees today, so perhaps I’ll open up a couple windows and keep my fingers crossed.

And hey, look at that...I forgot that slide was back there! I wonder what other treasures the Boston Meltdown of 2015 will reveal...

Happy Spring, everybody!

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