Weekly Notes ~ Cycles in Nature

Weekly Notes ~ Cycles in Nature

Mount Katahdin and deer

Deer and Mount Katahdin courtesy of Paul Cyr

February did not have a New Moon, you may recall that there were two in January and there will be two again during March.  According to a quick internet search on Wikipedia, the term “Black Moon refers to the second New Moon of the month and is a good time to cast a spell.”  Perhaps a spell will cast Old Man Winter right on out of here and we can look forward to the warm sun days of a new season.

‘In like a lion and out like a lamb’, March is a month of change in Maine Nature and one of the best times to learn about natural cycles.  I would argue the month of March experiences the most change over a 30 day period than at any other time of the year.  The exception would be the higher elevations that see this change 2-4 weeks later.

The natural world is full of cycles.  While our modern culture counts the days on the calendar until spring will arrive, indigenous cultures paid close attention to natural cycles.  This is a great month to do the same and learn how the movement of the earth, water, winds and animals is interrelated.

Use a blank notebook to record daily observations between the two New Moons.  Start today, Sunday March 2 and write a few comments; note the temperature, the direction and strength of the wind, the birds you see or hear and any other events that you observe in nature.  This is an especially fun activity to share with kids, ask them what they see, hear and observe in nature over the next 4 weeks.

To get started, step outside at 8:00pm and observe the night sky.  Try to get out every night, but if you can’t, at least several times a week.  Click here to look at Bernie Reim’s Astronomy Report…  and notice the change from the beginning of the month to the end of the month, of the location of the stars in the sky.

Or in the morning, notice what time and from behind which tree or other landmark that the sun peaks into your home.  Also record the time the sun sets at least once this week and again at the end of the month.  March 20th is the Vernal Equinox, the sun will rise due east and set due west.  You are observing the Earth’s tilt that allows the Northern Hemisphere to receive more of the sun’s rays over the next six months.

Now look around at the landscape.  Click here for the current snow depth report.….   Although more snow is in the forecast, you will soon record the first mild days of sun, rain and bare ground.


group of crows

In winter Crows will gather in groups to roost.

Crows that have been part of a large roosting group will begin to disperse this month.  I consulted numerous resources but did not come up with much information on why crows gather to roost during the winter, especially in the more urban areas.  Apparently there have been roosts known to be extensive in size, numbering one-thousand birds or more.  I have seen groups of 25-50 when traveling on 95 near Portland, Auburn and Waterville and have heard reports of other places where numerous crows were flying together.  The photo above was taken at the Kennebunk Plains.

Our winter resident birds that come south to Maine will leave for the north while southern migrants will begin arriving.  Maine Audubon Rare Bird report recorded an early American Woodcock in Jonesboro on the 23rd of February.  Snowy Owls are still being seen regularly but they, along with the Snow Buntings and Lapland Larkspur will follow their instincts and head north to claim territory as quickly as winter melts her white blanket off of the tundra.

March is a time to think about the water cycle.  Ice and snow will evaporate in the warmth of the day, but much of the frozen stuff will melt into the watersheds across Maine.  Do you ever think about where the water at your kitchen faucet comes from and where it goes?  Many towns along major rivers rely on rivers for the water supply.  Have you ever followed a river or stream to its source?  Have you ever thought about what other plants or animals may have used the very water in your glass?  Or that maybe it was once part of a glacier or a rain forest in a different era of time?

What is poured down a sink or flushed down a toilet with water become part of the water system too.  After water leaves the waste-treatment center it returns to the river to support the frog, the fish and the eagle.  When we think about cycles we realize that water in Maine Nature supports not only the plants and wildlife but those of us who live here and that our actions toward water matter!

Mount Katahdin in the picture above drains into the East and West Branches of the Penobscot River.  Below are some pictures of water that I took over the winter that drains into the West Branch of the Penobscot.  Although humans can not drink any of the water directly from streams and rivers because of the waterborn parasite giardia, these waters are all very clean and support healthy systems in Maine Nature.

The spring is located high on a ridge west of the Telos Road in T3 R11.  I followed it downhill where at times it is visible and other times I could hear it running under the snow cover.  The ice on the rocks is where water seeps from the high ground behind the ledge all winter long.  In summer the area is covered in thick moss under the tall evergreens but never is there standing water nor does the face of that ledge ever receive the warmth of the sun.

Duck Brook empties out of Harrington Lake just northwest of Mount Katahdin and then into Ripogenus Lake above the dam.  All of the water in these pictures, the spring, seep and brook drains into the West Branch of the Penobscot River that ultimately empties into Penobscot Bay.  Do you recognize Vulture Rock covered in snow?  It is a favorite summer place to sit and watch the kayaks and rafters navigate the Cribworks above the Big Eddy.