I hope that wherever you are, you are staying warm during this week's extreme weather! For more information on the disruption to the polar vortex that is behind the cold snap affecting much of the country, check out this article from the Washington Post.

Only time (and your Nature's Notebook observations) will tell what impact these unusually cold temperatures will have on plants and animals this year. The cold front has certainly stalled the march of spring leaf out across the country, for now anyway!

Sending you warm thoughts of the spring ahead,
What your data are telling us
Join us to learn how your data are used
Do you ever wonder what happens to your Nature's Notebook data after you hit that Submit button? Join our Director Theresa Crimmins for a webinar to learn what scientist and resource managers are discovering with the data you collect. The webinar is next Tuesday, February 23 at 12pm EST, 11am CST, 10am MST/AZ, and 9am PST.

What did the groundhog get right this year?
Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter this year, which may feel about right for much of the country at the moment! However, while heat accumulation is behind schedule in parts of the West and southern Midwest states, heat accumulation is ahead of schedule in the Southeast and parts of the West and Great Plains. According to NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, the next couple months will bring warmer than average temperatures and lower than average precipitation in the Southwest and Southeast, below average temperatures and above average precipitation Northwest, and above average temperatures and above average precipitation in the Midwest and Northeast. Your Nature's Notebook observations show that even in January, signs of spring were already popping up in many parts of the country.

What's new at Nature's Notebook and USA-NPN
Share your experience with the media
Each spring, the USA-NPN receives various requests from reporters about when spring will arrive and whether we are receiving anomalous reports on the timing of plant and animal activity. We also receive questions about what it's like to observe plants and animals as a Nature's Notebook observer, including requests to speak with observers about their experience.

If you would be willing to share your experience as a Nature's Notebook participant, please let us know! We are looking for a few observers that we can call upon for requests like these.

What's new in 2021?
We have added several new plant and animal species to Nature’s Notebook, revised the “Falling leaves” plant phenophase definition for clarity, and adjusted several of our bird/mammal phenophase names to avoid confusion from the word "active."

Protocols for aquatic insects (dragonflies, damselflies, mayflies and stoneflies) have also been updated to include phenophases for egg laying and recently emerged (teneral) adults. All the other species and phenophases you are accustomed to are still here, unchanged, and waiting to be observed!

Recent happenings in the field of phenology
Climate change is shifting bird ranges
New results from Audubon's Climate Watch program indicate that climate change is causing a measurable shift in the winter and breeding season ranges for several bird species. The largest changes took place during the winter season, likely due to large recent changes in winter climate. It is unknown whether newly colonized areas can sustain these newcomers.

Photo: Tom Grey
Nature's Notebook Nuggets
Catch spring in the act!
The cues for a plant’s transition from dormancy to renewed activity can be subtle, yet can be quite visible if you are watching closely. It may take careful sleuthing—and sometimes previous experience—to detect the early stages. The tightly clasping bud scales of the dormant buds—or tightly packed leaves of naked buds—begin to shift or ever-so-slightly "swell" and may also shift color. These signals suggest that reporting on "Breaking leaf buds" and "Flowers and flower buds" is not long off.

Dormant bud on
sugar maple,
Photo: Ellen G Denny
More ways to get involved
Boost your observations with CoCoRaHS
Many of the life cycle events of plants and animals that you track are influenced by local weather conditions. You can supplement your Nature's Notebook observations by collecting data for the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS). Precipitation can vary significantly over short distances with dramatic effects on living organisms. All you need to participate is a 4" manual rain gauge and a CoCoRaHS account!

Are you already a CoCoRaHS observer? Please let us know, we'd love to find examples of where observers are collecting data for both programs.

Photo: Henry Reges, CoCoRaHS
Why do you study phenology?
This lovely blog post by The Nature Conservancy Washington's Ailene Ettinger describes the joy and the discovery of phenology.

Erin Posthumus
Outreach Coordinator