March Madness

The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another. The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month.

~Henry Van Dyke

About two weeks ago, I blogged about what I thought would be my last snow of the season. The day I posted that topic, it snowed in the mountains of NC, and parts of the Piedmont were hit with a terrible ice storm that had thousands without power for several days. The next day, temperatures climbed to near 70 degrees and I saw my first butterfly of the season, a Mourning Cloak. After several days of about or slightly below normal temperatures, another twist in our weather took place today. It started snowing here at the house after a mix of freezing rain and drizzle most of the morning. The tiny spiders that have been out and about spinning their webs probably did not have ice crystals and snow on their capture list.

Spider web with ice pellets 1

Spider web with ice pellets (click on photos to enlarge)

Spider web with ice pellets

An icy web stands out in the meadow

While the spiders may have been hiding, the birds were definitely not. The suet feeder was especially active as some of the early migrant warblers went about searching for food in the absence of insects and the scarcity of late winter berries. About a month ago, I participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count (, an annual citizen science program where you record the greatest number of individuals of each species you see at any one time while observing an area. Back then, I recorded a maximum of two Yellow-rumped Warblers while observing my feeders. In the bout of snow and sleet this morning, there were well over a dozen at my suet feeders, along with eight or nine Pine Warblers and individuals of a few other species.

Birds at suet

Warblers at the suet feeder in late season snow and ice

And the Yellow-rumps are sporting more and brighter patches of yellow in preparation for their annual breeding season rituals. Maybe this really is the last snow and spring is just waiting around the corner. I guess March Madness doesn’t just refer to basketball in this part of the world.

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