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      March 19: TIme-honored Signs of Spring

      The forecast for the evening of April 2nd shows essentially the same pattern we are currently in--colder than average.

      Today a time-honored sign of spring is commemorated at Californiaâ??s most famous mission, San Juan Capistrano. Itâ??s the miracle of the return of the swallows on March 19th every year. The sure sign of spring in the Upper Peninsula are the peepers (Image 1 above).

      Last yearâ??s historic warm spell brought out the peepers earlier than ever. Peepers were already singing in the swamps all over the U.P. just after St. Pattyâ??s Day. I would have to say on average, the peeper is first heard in places like Menominee and Escanaba around the first week in April. Farther north it takes longer. Around Negaunee, the little tree frogâ??s song starts toward the end of the third week in April.

      The spring peeper is a sure sign of spring here in the Upper Peninsula. Snow can melt, but the ground can still be frozen. However, once the song of the peeper is heard, it means that the wetlands have thawed out, which means the ground is beginning to warm. Once this occurs, thereâ??s little doubt spring has arrived.

      Another sure sign of spring is the time-honored tradition of tapping maple trees. Again, last yearâ??s warmth ruined sap gathering. The best weather for this activity is for temperatures to warm into the 40s during the day (this gets the sap flowing) and then to below freezing at night (to slow the process). Last year, there was over a week where temperatures never fell below freezing. This warmth kept the sap flowing and the leaves started developing. The sap gathering season ended almost before it began last year.

      This year, the opposite is true. Itâ??s so cold that the sap is likely not flowing at all. It does appear that the air will moderate late in the week into the weekend. That means with some sunshine, the trees will begin coming out of their dormancy. The overall pattern looks cold right now into the early days of April (Image 2). Hopefully this slow transition will mean a season of redemption for Upper Michigan maple syrup producers.