Nature and critters warmed up to 2012
A recent newspaper article stated that 2012 gasoline prices will almost certainly set the record for the highest average price for a single year. Other news reports predicted a record-setting year.
I'm, however, convinced that 2012 will set the record as the fastest-passing year on record.
Each year appears to go by faster than the previous one and before I know it I find myself browsing through my yearly journal and skimming my columns to summarize what has transpired during the year.
So, this is 2012, the year that was. This column looks back at the year's first six months.
Jan. 1 arrived warm and mild with a high temperature of 53 degrees. The first precipitation fell Jan. 11 when 1.25 inches of rain covered the Lehigh Valley. The mild weather and rain confused many spring bulb plants as tulip, daffodil and hyacinth leaves were observed peeking through the soft January soil.
My gray squirrel gym kept me and the squirrels very busy. I was busy adding to the equipment and restocking the corncobs and sunflower seeds while the squirrels stayed busy exercising and dining at the buffets.
The first and what would be the only winter snowstorm of any consequence fell overnight Jan. 20 and 21. The snow postponed the annual Bake Oven Knob Winter Bird Survey at Lehigh Gap Nature Center by one day.
I recorded six inches of snow in our yard while Lehigh Valley International Airport reported 3.40 inches. I've always suspected that the weather people at the airport take the precipitation gauges inside to keep them dry at the first signs of bad weather. The month ended with rain Jan. 23, 25, 26 and 27, adding to the total of 2.96 inches for the month.
Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow on Gobblers Knob, Jefferson County, and I observed my first groundhog out and about on Groundhog Day, Feb. 2. The famous prognosticator's cousin was standing atop its burrow in a harvested cornfield enjoying the morning sun as I drove east on Route 248 toward Bath. On the way home, I spotted an eastern coyote in an adjacent field about 300 yards from the groundhog burrow.
The highest February temperature was 62 degrees while the lowest was 17 degrees. Precipitation for the month was 1.11 in. The lack of rain and fairly low temperatures at night provided perfect snow-making as well as skiing and boarding conditions at Bear Creek Mountain Resort and Blue Mountain Ski Area.
March was very mild and dry. Fifteen days passed between March 9 and 24 without precipitation. Songbird courting and breeding began early with many males singing and calling for potential mates several weeks before their usual schedule.
A male pileated woodpecker, Penn's Woods largest woodpecker, pecked away on our trees, staking out his territory and drumming on the hollowest trees to announce to any nearby females that he was looking for love in all the right places.
The month ended with 1 inch of precipitation. The highest temperature was 80 degrees F and the lowest was 19 degrees F.
The April countryside was aglow with the colors of spring at least three weeks before normal. The very mild winter with the lack of snowfall had the spring blooming plants rushing the season.
Most municipalities established fire bans because of the spring drought. It finally rained April 22 when 2.50 inches of rain inundated the area.
Although, farmers and gardeners were praying for rain, most of the heavy rain ran off without soaking into the ground to provide needed moisture for growth.
Bev rescued two white-throated sparrows April 23. They had accidentally flown into our patio door window at different times. After an hour in a tissue-lined shoebox, both stunned sparrows were well enough to fly away.
A male pileated woodpecker spent the same afternoon excavating holes in the red maple tree in the side yard. I filled and hung our two hummingbird feeders the next day, April 24. I also harvested the first jewelweed shoots for dinner later that afternoon.
The last of the juncos migrated north April 28.
April's highest temperature was 90 degrees F and the low was 29 degrees F. Precipitation was 2.92 inches.
The first male hummer was seen at the kitchen window feeder May 5, which coincidently was the last day we observed white-throated sparrows.
I watched a pair of house wrens add sticks to a nest in the old gourd hanging in the dogwood on the west side of the house. Blue jays built a nest in the yew next to the chimney and two robin pairs built nests in the patio hemlock hedge and the weeping hemlock in the front yard.
Indigo buntings and red-breasted grosbeak started to appear at my new clear plastic feeder in mid-May. A male bluebird was checking out the patio bluebird box and the male bluebird and male cardinal were taking mealworm offerings.
The first lightning bugs were observed Memorial Day Eve after a rainstorm.
May precipitation was 5.63 inches. The winter and spring drought ended. The highest temperature was 91 degrees F and the lowest was 39 degrees F.
Several day lily flowers burst open to welcome the sun June 4. The baby robins fledged from the patio hemlock nest June 5. The young robins remained in the yard for about one week, dining on food provided by Mom and Dad Robin.
The male bluebird did not end up luring a mate to the bluebird box near the patio. Though he kept going to the box, hanging at the opening and occasionally entering the box., there were no signs of nest building by a female. He sure had us fooled.
June continued to follow the early blooming schedule of the spring months. Rainfall for June was 4.43 inches. The high and low temperatures were 96 and 46 degrees, respectively.
That's the way I saw it during the first six months of 2012.
In the next column: July - December 2012
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© 2012 Bud Cole