When I began my garden, I dreamed of all the things it would have: paths and perennials, wildflowers, water, fences, gates, a shed and somewhere to sit. What I never gave a moment's thought to were all the things that turn a garden into a living landscape: the bugs, bees, birds, butterflies and critters whose comings and goings I now watch with as much enthusiasm as I regard any of my plants. From Kingfisher to Cooper's hawk and turkey to fox, the garden has hosted an amazing parade of creatures in the years since we started planting.
But the real stars of our garden are Fred and Ethel, a pair of mallard ducks. They flew in mid-morning on April 3 this year. I look forward to seeing them even more than the first snowdrop or robin. They are in their second decade of making our garden a sort of pied-a-terre from March to the Fourth of July. They are the true harbingers of spring in the garden.
If they are the harbingers of Spring, the notes I've been keeping since their initial arrival tell a story about when Spring itself has been making its appearance over the years. How they even discovered our pond or what their arrival date (4/01/1998) meant that first year is an open question.
But sixteen years of tracking our ducks does seem to suggest something, though I am not quite sure what. According to my records an initial arrival date in April has happened only four times in those 16 years. One, as I mentioned, was the first time they ever came to the garden.
The other April arrival dates occurred in three of the last four years: April 2 in 2011, the 6th in 2013 and April 3rd this year. This data would seem to suggest Spring is coming later and yet, climate experts say it's coming earlier. I'll keep recording Fred and Ethel's data and eventually an answer will no doubt be clear.
In the meantime, this story in Tuesday's New York Times takes a look at what signs of Spring scientists are seeing — and when they occur — in various parts of the U.S.