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The Wrack

The Wrack is the Wells Reserve blog, our collective logbook on the web.

Keeping Nature's Calendar

Posted by | March 31, 2020 | Filed under: Observations

Red maple trees don’t have Alexa to remind them when it’s time to flower. Black bears don’t have an Apple watch alerting them to awaken from their winter rest. So how do they know when the time is right? 

Many life cycle events are cued by day length and temperature. Examples include flowering, nesting, insect emergence, migration, and hibernation. Naturalists and scientists have been keeping records of plant and animal life cycles for centuries. You can too.

To join the ranks of careful observers like Gilbert White, Henry David Thoreau, and Nina Leopold Bradley, choose a plant in your yard, your neighborhood, or another favorite spot and visit it every week. Bring a magnifying lens and a notebook if you have them. Notice: Does your plant have flowers, newly emerged leaves, or fruits? Record your observations, making sure to note the date, weather, and anything else that calls your attention. In phenology, catching the “firsts” is vital. See if you can find the first flower, first leaf, first fruit, first appearance, or first song while at your special spot.

Apps and Activity Guides

Try out this Nature Calendar for recording your observations, or make your own data sheet to track your weekly visits. Consider joining Nature’s Notebook if you're getting excited about phenology.

Budburst offers one-time and repeat-visit data forms, either to print out or to fill in online. iNaturalist is another great place to save your sightings.

Want to get started with your family? Try one of these activity sheets:

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