FOY

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Filed under Outdoor Notes

March 15, 2012

It is that time of year when naturalists start noting their FOYs (Firsts of the Year). Good naturalists note these dates in their journals so that they can compare them from year to year. I’m not a good naturalist.

But I do get a lot of pleasure out of seeing my first butterflies in the spring–normally Mourning Cloaks and Commas. I saw my first of both this year on 11 March.

Mourning Cloak

Mourning Cloak

Comma butterfly

Comma butterfly

I also look forward to my first Phoebe of the year; this year’s showed up on the 13th.

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

The first wildflower up is usually Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) on some south-facing road cut. They are followed closely by Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris) in the warming wetlands.

Coltsfoot

Coltsfoot

Marsh Marigold

Marsh Marigold

The first sunny day in the sixties also brings out the turtles. Today there were dozens sunning at the local lake.

Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta)

Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta)

And folks always ask me about the Robins–those supposed harbingers of spring. Well, actually, they spend the winter hereabouts; I often find them in low swampy areas with lots of berries and open water.

Robin

Robin

Still, in a way, Robins do harbing, a bit.[1] They start singing.

While the “peter peter” of the Titmice and the telephone call of the Juncos may be the first indicators of spring, it is a whole yard’s worth of Robins trying to outdo each other that clinches it.

And when you think about it, it is right and proper that Robins, at least once a year, should get top billing. If Robins weren’t so darned common, what a fuss we would make about these bold, brick-breasted minnesingers, with their jet-black heads, golden bills, and supercilious stares, competing for the objects of their desire at the top of their lungs.[2]

For the next two months, almost every day will yield some FOY–take notes, keep track, keep a journal, or just enjoy. Get outdoors, it’s spring.

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  1. No, “harbing” is not a word, but it really should be. The actual verb is the same as the noun: a harbinger harbingers today, harbingered yesterday, and may well harbinger tomorrow. []
  2. The minnesingers (Minnesänger, in German) were the folks who sang minnelieds (love songs) in the Germanic tradition in the 12th to 14th centuries. One of the more famous was a knight named Walther von der Vogelweide, (just say it out loud, it’s worth it) whose name roughly translates as Sir Walter from the bird meadow–so, you see, calling Robins minnesingers isn’t so inapt. []

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