February takes a nod toward spring

January is over; the time for wishing folks Happy New Year is past. It’s February, the last full month of winter, the time when our part of the world takes a decided turn toward spring.

There are quiet stirrings in the ground now as countless seeds, bulbs and rhizomes get ready to spring forth with new life. Any day now our earliest wildflowers — trout lilies, hepatica, trailing arbutus, bloodroot, yellow jessamine — will grace the woods with cheerful blooms.

In low wet areas and along streams and roadsides, red maples are beginning to glow with pink-blossom halos. Coming soon will be the bright blooms of Eastern redbud, serviceberry and Chickasaw plum.

Winter-breeding frogs have revved up, calling stridently to lure mates. The loud piercing “yeeps” of spring peepers and the regularly repeated “crreeks” or “prreeps” (resembling the sound of running a finger along a comb) of upland chorus frogs provide an amphibian serenade now on rainy, misty evenings.

Numerous other Georgia wild creatures, from mole salamanders and striped newts to coyotes and striped skunks, are looking for love in the right places. Opossums and gray squirrels are having babies this month. White-tailed does are pregnant with fawns; black bear cubs are being born in dens.

In the bird world, some purple martins already are returning to Georgia from winter homes deep in South America for the spring nesting season.

With the days getting longer, bird song once again is starting to fill the morning air. I’m hearing now the ringing “tea-kettle, tea-kettle, tea-kettle” song of Carolina wrens before dawn, and very soon I expect to hear the “what cheer, cheer, cheer” singing of Northern cardinals.

The feathered creatures most associated with February, though, are Eastern bluebirds. They’re already warbling softly and checking out bird boxes and other potential nesting sites for their baby-rearing season, which gets underway next month.

IN THE SKY: From David Dundee, Tellus Science Center astronomer: The moon will be last quarter on Wednesday. Mars and Jupiter rise out of the east just after midnight. Jupiter will appear near the moon Wednesday night and Mars will do so on Thursday night. Saturn is low in the east a few hours before sunrise.

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