I’m not the kind of person who get’s worked up about Groundhog Day. Despite my German heritage, this Pennsylvanian custom from the 18th and 19th centuries has it’s origin from ancient European weather lore. Back in those early days they preferred a Bear or a Badger instead of a Groundhog when it came time for the critter to crawl from it’s lodge and predict the coming of Spring.
Now whether you believe in Punxsutawney Phil or not, the fact remains that the first day of Spring is on March 20th, roughly 6 weeks away. However birders in my little area of Ohio know that when he hear our first PEENT from a American Woodcock, that Spring is just around the corner for us in Southwestern Ohio. The Winter of 2012 is the year we didn’t have a Winter. So if we’re not going to have a Winter, bring on Spring.
We just had our first reported PEENTS. The first one comes from January 31st at Crooked Run State Nature Preserve, and the second one was on February 1st in Felicity. Now according to “The Birds Of Ohio” by Bruce Peterjohn that during mild winters, (like the one we’re experiencing) they may appear in the first half of February, but are normally expected between February 20th and March 5th. So are these Woodcocks a precursor of Spring, or a few accidentals? Either way it’s a sign of Spring as far as I’m concerned.