Allan Bell’s Birch Bark Nature Notes Revisited

At 3:35 a.m. CST on March 20, the path of the sun, following the line of the ecliptic northward, crosses the earth’s equator. The sun will rise due east and set due west, giving about equal length to day and night. This is the beginning of the astronomical spring. You may feel the first spring day comes later on. Much, much later.

For robins, spring arrives when the daily mean air temperature reaches 35°F. That is approximately the temperature when earthworms emerge from the soil and are available as food for the birds. These dates are not necessarily the earliest, but one person’s records show the first robin was seen or heard here on: March 19, 24, 29, 30, 31, April 2, 5, and 17. Quite a variation from year to year, don’t you think?

Buds on trees swell and open soon after at temperatures of about 43°F. Spring peepers start their long-awaited songs in wet spots when the daily mean temperature reaches about 50°F.


A full moon occurs at 4:10 a.m. CST on March 17. Do I expect you to get up and take a look? No way! You may call it the Sap moon – or Crown, or Worm or Crust moon. Can you figure out why? These Spring and Moon items are taken from the March issue of Country Journal magazine.


I saw my first eagle flapping quite low over the armory on March 5, the morning after the big snowstorm. Antonia Roth writes from Madison that she has had a redwing blackbird at her feeder since Feb. 21. If that bird is smart, it’ll stay there for a while.


During the last two months, national TV has been showing pictures of starving deer, elk and antelope. It is something that all caring individuals hate to see.

Here in northern Wisconsin, I doubt if many people (outside of DNR personnel) have ever seen starving deer or even dead deer which have succumbed to ailments probably caused by lack of sufficient and proper food. It is a time of the year when it s inconvenient or difficult to get to those areas.

We are inclined to opt for numbers of deer not in the best interests of the deer or the land. Mother Nature knows how many animals her range can support. During severe winters the weakest and smallest do not survive. Who survives? The biggest, strongest and smartest, to contribute their genes to future generations.

The DNR takes much abuse over its deer management. I, for one, would put my trust in biologists and wildlife managers who make this their life’s work. Their decisions are based, not on political considerations, but on the good of the animals and land.

Doesn’t it seem incongruous to you that legislators should have so much to say about things they are untrained in?

We accept the word of dentists, doctors, lawyers, educators, plumbers, electricians, carpenters and other skilled individuals because they have been trained in these areas.

Why shouldn’t the same be true for the people we hire to protect our environment and resources?



Late nature writer Allan Bell wrote this Birch Bark Nature Notes column for the Tomahawk Leader back on March 14, 1984.

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