On phenology

img_0771Crocuses in snow is a phenophase of spring’s arrival

Friday is the best day on public radio in my humble opinion.  We get Diane Rehm’s weekly wrap-up in national and international news, and we get Science Friday.  This last Friday didn’t disappoint:  one topic was back-yard climatology.

I thought of this show on Tuesday when, while on trip to the greenhouse for dinner’s onions and carrots, I heard the year’s first frogs.  This is neither early nor late as far as my limited experience tells me, and I did feel a twinge for them because of course the daily high on Wednesday was 25 chilly degrees.

“Phenology is the study of periodic plant and animal life cycle events and how these are influenced by seasonal and interannual variations in climate. The word is derived from the Greek phainomai (φαινομαι)- to appear, come into view, and indicates that phenology has been principally concerned with the dates of first occurrence of biological events in their annual cycle,” according to Wikipedia.

Some of you, I’m sure, are such great record-keepers that the emergence of the first forsythia blooms or the arrival of the first robin has made it into your garden notes.  Well!  You want to help figure out the effects of global warming on these events, at least as it relates to your piece of the planet?  You can sign up and actually make these recordings known.  Check out the USA National Phenology Network:  they’re looking for volunteers to record just these very same observations.

11 responses to “On phenology

  1. My mother in law does this. She drives to one of the county nature centers and counts the frog sounds. She had to learn all the different noises each species makes to record them properly. She even does impressions. It’s hilarious 🙂

  2. We are so on the same page. I just signed up to be a “citizen scientist” for the National Phenology Network.

  3. Isn’t that just interesting!

  4. I love coming here, this little blog of plants, and food, and animals, I feel rested and healed.


  5. funny, I was just talking (briefly) about phenology in one of my workshops yesterday – tying garden tasks to natural phenomenon around us. They may not happen on the same calendar date every year, but typically happen in the same succession, and many (very) old-time gardeners use to do things in the garden based on thins like “when the lilac leaves are the size of squirrel ears” or “when the red maple are in buds” etc. That very local knowledge is no longer readily available. Hopefully initiatives like NPN will help to rebuild it.

  6. The world would be in a sad state of affairs if things depended on my record keeping; it’s March, and I just picked up a calendar for 2009.
    I am going to have to work Sylvie’s lilac phrase into a conversation; it’s a good one.

  7. Science Friday is my fav NPR program by far, I wait for it all week as a “reward” at the end of the day (I listen via download because I’m at work during the live airing). Always learn something from that, or get that “hummmm” feeling. Its exciting that there is a move to use the observations of home gardeners in a coordinated way.

  8. Well, I might rather talk about phrenology, but the Friday News Roundup is my absolute favorite show! I love kneading bread because it gives me an excuse to savor it even with other work to be done.

  9. Great topic! I am publishing an article on this in an upcoming issue of my magazine.

  10. Lindsay, that is so cool! Especially with the dwindling numbers of amphibians in general: it’s really cool she does that, you know? Ribbit!

    Yay Kristi. I am too much of a slacker to note these things in a journal but I still like to think I am fairly attuned to these signs. Good for you though, as it seems like a really worthwhile venture…plus it’s fun.

    Jules I think so too!

    Linda, hah, I am so glad SOMEONE feels rested. Mondays are the days I just drag around the office, nursing the muscles I ruined over the weekend. Thanks 😉

    Sylvie, I know. I wish I had more time with the guy we bought the property from to find out what signs they looked for: he lives out of state now but does drop by when he’s in the area. (His parents founded the farm at the turn of the last century and raised 10 kids in our house, of which our seller was the 3rd.) There is something rather cool about looking at nature’s signs to tell you when to plant things though.

    Pamela you are not alone, truly. I wish I took better notes. Oh well; something to always aspire towards I suppose.

    MC, I think it’s pretty worthwhile, and like I mentioned, I am sure there are many worthy garden scribblers out there that record these things!

    Danielle, well there’s a fine thing to do with those 2 hours! I *love* that woman and hope she never retires. I’m usually just working but I am able to pause the stream if I get too busy so I don’t have to miss a thing. It’s great!

    Cool, Elizabeth! It’s something that seems to have gotten moved out of our busy lives and it’s too bad as there’s a lot to observe at the turns of the seasons, wherever you live.

  11. My sweet husband last night called me outside to sit and listen to the frogs. I forgot was a beautiful little sound it is.

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