Outdoors with Forda Birds—By John Andreoni
February happens to be one of my favorite months, even though I really don’t care for it very much. That sounds contradictory, but not when you consider that it precedes March, which is at the top of my list, and it’s short. Evidently, I’m not the only one preoccupied with February since the month begins with a celebration designed to predict how long winter intends to hang around. Back in the day, that information probably had more significance than it does now. I imagine our ancestors trying to survive winter with a limited supply of stored food would be very concerned, and I’m sure they would be looking for anyway to find out if they were going to live or die before the next harvest. How they decided that a groundhog seeing his shadow, or not, could give them this information is anyone’s guess. Regardless, if it made them feel better, so be it.
One would think that today we would know better. There is no scientific justification to think that a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil, “Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators and Weather Prophet Extraordinary,” can predict the next six weeks of weather just by standing in the daylight. If this were true, I would be changing my early March fishing plans since Phil reportedly did see his shadow in 2018, and that means we will have six more weeks of winter. Fortunately, I still have hope for an early spring since Brother Phil has only been right 39% of the time.
As far as reliability, the Old Farmer’s Almanac has always been a fair predictor of the weather, at least they say they are. If they are anywhere close this year, the first three weeks of February could be a bear. That means colder than average temperatures with chances of significant snow. By February 20, the Almanac’s forecast predicts sunny and mild weather with warm weather continuing through the end of the month. The March predictions call for temperatures 4 degrees above average with above average rainfall.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is backed by the top weather people in the country. They provide precise weather maps which, if you have a degree in meteorology, can be used to predict mid-range weather. If you don’t understand anything about high and low pressure areas and weather movement, the maps don’t tell you very much. At the same time, their general information is concise, to the point, and easy to understand. The way I interpret their next six-week weather forecast is that February will be average cold and dry. March will be warm and wet.
I prefer to follow the guidelines provided by my father who considered himself a skilled weather prognosticator. His forecast for 2018 would be that by the end of the third week in February, winter would be over, for the most part, and that the lake would be open by March 15. That would also be his prediction for every other year as well. He was consistent, and the accuracy of his predictions were far greater than any of the weather groundhogs. In terms of weather, this was the word in our household. “One extreme follows the other and it’s going to be warmer in March than in February.”
Over the years, I’ve lost most of my concern about the changes of seasons around here since I can’t affect them anyhow. Consequently, I don’t need any forecast to let me know when winter 2018 is history. Winter will be over when my boat is cleaned, serviced, and ready to take me fishing. Winter will be over when I have to get my new fishing license. Winter will be over when ice fishermen finally give up going out on punk ice and switch to open water gear. Winter will be over when I see the first bass boat hit the ramp. Winter will be over when I start seriously thinking about catching big catfish, big crappies, and big bass.
The bottom line is that February is here, the days are getting longer, and our next season change is just around the corner. I’m ready for those fresh, mellow, breezy days of early spring. That’s a great time to be outdoors, and I plan to be there.