Signs of Spring: A Contest!

 By Derek Stoner, Conservation Project Coordinator

How soon will this scene take place in the Ashland Marsh? Warm weather(and a little rain) will coax the Wood Frogs out from their winter refuge and into the marsh for the short breeding season. Image by Derek Stoner.

Who is ready to see flowers blooming?  How about listening to the first Wood Frogs of the season, chuckling like ducks as they thrash about and breed in local marshes?  Are you ready to shake off the heavy cloak of Winter and welcome Spring?

Through all the temperature swings that nature throws out during the coming months, there is one constant: length of daylight is increasing. Every day there is a bit more sunlight reaching this region of earth, triggering the biological cues in both plants and animals to grow, to procreate, and to spring forth with life.  This process is known as photoperiodism , and is the trigger that sets forth the series of dramatic changes  in plants and animals each spring.

Bloodroot is a beautiful early-blooming wildflower: a true Sign of Spring. Image by Derek Stoner.

March 20 is the official day that Spring begins according to the calendar.   But nature does not read the calendar, and many signs of spring appear well-before March 20.   Groundhogs are stirring in their burrows, sap is flowing in the trees, and birds are beginning their spring migrations.

To further the interest and excitement in Spring’s arrival, I created a contest to help track the Signs of Spring as they appear.  I chose 20 commonly-observed plants and animals whose appearance practically shouts “Spring is Here!”  

The Eastern Phoebe: how soon until this little flycatcher brightens the landscape with its cheery call? And how soon until we see a green background like that in this photo? Image by Derek Stoner.

The contest concept is simple.

For the next 10 weeks (February 21 through May 1), the selected 20 Signs of Spring will likely be observed at Ashland Nature Center.  You pick the week you think they will occur.  If you guess the correct week, you are awarded 5 points.  If you guess all 20 correctly, you earn a perfect score of 100 points.

Click here for the contest sheet:  Signs of Spring Contest 2011  (Write-able Excel file)    Signs of Spring Contest 2011  (Read-only PDF file)

If you need help identifying these selected Signs of Spring  (or want to get ready for their arrival!), check out the following video.

We will provide updates on this blog as each sign makes it first-of-season appearance at Ashland.  Be sure to also keep track of when you see these signs in your backyard or local natural area.  Get excited about the weekly changes as the season turns! 

Since this is a contest, there must be a prize, right?  Of course!  We will offer a selection of natural history books, a gift certificate to Wild Birds Unlimited, a framed poster of all twenty “Signs of Spring,” and best of all, bragging rights as the Winner of the First Annual Signs of Spring Contest!  Just fill out the contest sheet and send it in by February 20th!

For questions about the contest(and hints about the timing of these signs) , please email Derek Stoner at or call 302-239-2334, ext 106.

2 thoughts on “Signs of Spring: A Contest!”

  1. What a great idea, Derek! I forwarded this to a bunch of friends who I’m sure will have fun with this!

  2. Love this! Just to let you know–it’s the first warm day and we already have wasps flying around!

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