A mourning cloak butterfly in Troy. Photo by Dana Wilde

April 1: “Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote, the droght of March hath perced to the roote, and bathed every veyne in swich licour, of which engendred is the flour … thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages.” So sang Chaucer of spring in England, where I have seen crocuses in February. With today’s rain, the snow is almost completely gone from the yard for the first April 1st in years. The pilgrimage to summer starts early. Happily. Unsettlingly.

April 4: Pilgrims on the wing: Canada geese

April 10: The temperature hit 70 in Waterville yesterday and 75 today. Record highs. Too warm for Troy, too. This day last year 2 feet of snow covered the span between the deck and the compost bin. Today, no snow. Then the wind comes again. Woodpeckers drumming in all directions.

April 12: In the dark before the dawn I step outside and see atop the southeast pines and spruces, Jupiter nestled between Aquarius and Capricorn, and Saturn. Burning crystals balancing night against “the yonge sonne (who) hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne.”

April 13: Mid-60s. Silas and I spray our pants and shirts with permethrin to fend off ticks and climb the steep embankment in the woods behind the house. Intense 4-year-old vigilance for deer scat. He points out every incidence. Later we find thin-legged wolf spiders darting under the wood pile.

April 14: The phoebes are undeterred by vagaries of weather, oblivious to human calculations of climate change, and show up exactly on schedule. Perching on the wire, fluttering up under the eave of the garage to refurbish last year’s nest. Their fee-bee call is cheerful beyond human measure.

April 15: Today I’m thinking of starting to rake-replace the sods and stones churned up by the snowplow. Thinking of starting, I said. The old red maple is flowering already. This is at least three weeks ahead of recent years.

April 16: Today the “droght” of Aprille abates — rain falls. A population boom of hackledmesh weavers and sac spiders. At least a half-dozen of each has been spotted or captured scurrying behind the coffee machine on the kitchen counter or getting trapped in the slippery stainless steel of the sink. “Spiders are friends, Bonnie, don’t squash her!” Catch and release outside. When it cools back down to cruelest-month temperatures, the Western conifer seed bugs find ways inside to warmth. They fly at Bonnie, for some reason, like unclothed drunken moths to light. I coax them onto slips of paper and send them out.

April 17: A mourning cloak butterfly fluttering in the driveway, velvet-rich brown, blue spots in black, cream-colored fringe. Whoever thought that up must be found and rewarded. Bonnie’s jonquils burst forth by the deck. Little green tiger lily scions coming up in swaths on the roadside. Early.

Coltsfoot by the driveway in Troy. Photo by Dana Wilde

April 19: Bright yellow little “flours” by the driveway! Dandelions? No way. They’re coltsfoot, never before noticed on our little acres. Across the street, Rossels’ dogwood tree is in full white blossom, like an Earth-bound nebula. Seems way early, too.

April 20: Dandelions by the walking track at the Unity park. Welcome, but unsettling: They are 10 days earlier than memory’s normal, and at least three weeks earlier than their late appearance the past few years. Bonnie finds a spotted salamander in the flower garden debris. Silas picks a beetle corpse from greening grass. Spots a sheetweb weaver wandering the side of the house. By the brook, what look like black flies buzz my face. This is too much. They are a month ahead of schedule.

April 21: It always snows in April, like today. White coverlet to cool a hobbit’s toes. Or soak-freeze a palmer’s oldening feet. Forsythias bright yellow in the gloom.

April 22: Windy, raw. More fugitive conifer seed bugs.

April 23: Mid-50s. A gale. Blue-black white-capped lake. Osprey soaring over the park. Robin in the birch tree. Turkeys in the straw. I haven’t seen a junco yet, and don’t know what that means. If anything.

April 26-27: Another deer scat expedition with Silas. Raw cold. Northwest winds that brace in October scathe in April, even in sun.

April 28: “Smale foweles maken melodye.” Little fowls fresh into the Maine woods from strange beaches in various parts unknown. Meaning, birdsong is springsong and viva sweet spring. Summer seems closer than it appears in the mind’s rear-view mirror of Aprilles past. I wonder, when we reach the promised lands of June, July and August, if it will be record hot again this year. I hope not.

Dana Wilde lives in Troy. You can contact him at [email protected]. His book “Winter: Notes and Numina from the Maine Woods” will be available soon from North Country Press. Backyard Naturalist appears the second and fourth Thursdays each month.

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