By Derek Stoner, Conservation Project Coordinator
On February 19th, the Second Annual Signs of Spring Contest officially began. The contest should really be called a “Challenge” as that is what faces participants when filling out a sheet that proposes trying to align twenty different Signs across ten weeks. The Challenge lies in guessing when the Signs might appear based up0n knowledge of natural history, understanding of seasonal rhythms, a bit of climate forecasting, and admittedly, a bit of luck!
The first day of the contest saw the expected observations of blooming Snowdrops and emerging Skunk Cabbage. These plants actually started bursting forth in the early part of February this year, with the incredibly mild temperatures spurring the emergence of many plants.
As Week 2 began, the next two official observations made the records: On February 27 Sarah Stapley reported Wood Frog egg masses at the vernal pools along Sharpless Road, on the northern edge of Ashland’s property. These frogs are busy laying dozens of egg masses and creating quite a commotion with their persistent, duck-like chuckles.
On February 28th, a Groundhog ran by outside the window near David Pragoff’s desk, thus becoming the first groundhog of the official count period. Earlier in February, a groundhog dared to appear before we had even filled out our contest spreadsheets!
Today, March 1, the Wood Frog activity has begun around the Ashland Nature Center Building, with more than 20 frogs gathered in the pond adjoining our butterfly house. This pond is a featured section of the Backyard Wildlife Habitat Garden, and will be host to many species of frogs throughout the coming months. But for now, the Wood Frogs own the pond! Come out to Ashland in the next few days to catch this show before they disappear for another year.
Thank you to the 26 entrants in this year’s Signs of Spring Contest. Next week we will have an update of how our contestants are faring– in another installment of the Signs of Spring. In the meantime, please share with us your sightings of Signs of Spring from your backyard or favorite natural area nearby.