With the Vernal Equinox that occurred last week on March 20, spring of 2021 has officially arrived in the Tehachapi Mountains. Of course, the natural world has already been announcing spring without needing a calendar.
The return of flowers is one of the surest — and prettiest — signs that spring is back. The first flowers of spring in Tehachapi always have to be prepared for snow, and this year's early blossoms did get snow on them. Daffodils, almonds blossoms, and some of the other first arrivals have been frosted with snow in the past two weeks.
The traditional astronomical calendar is based on the equinoxes, which are the annual longest and shortest days, and the solstices, the two times when days and nights are of equal length.
The exact dates that these occur varies slightly from year to year, as does the length of each season, which can vary from 89 to 93 days. These variations cause statistical and data comparison problems for meteorologists, so they came up with another, more mathematically simple way of dividing the year into four seasons.
In the meteorological calendar, spring starts on March 1, summer on June 1, autumn on Sept. 1 and winter on Dec. 1. In this system, each season begins and ends dependably on the same days every year.
Astronomers seem to be triumphing over meteorologists in the "Battle of the Seasons," since most people continue to use the older, more traditional astronomical calendar of solstices and equinoxes, but both calendars have their merits.
The meteorological calendar is more reflective of seasonal temperature changes, and most Tehachapi residents don't think that winter truly waits until Dec. 21 to arrive — by Dec. 1, it can definitely feel like winter is back.
Both the meteorological and astronomical calendars agree that spring of 2021 is here, and animals and plants agree. There is a pair of House Sparrows nesting in the eaves a few feet from where I'm writing this, and I've seen ravens building or rebuilding their big sticks nests in a several different locations around Tehachapi.
Lizards are beginning to emerge from their hibernaculums on warm days, though they retreat back into them each afternoon and stay there on cold days. Snakes generally require longer, warmer days before they're ready to leave their winter hiding places and rejoin the above ground world.
California Ground Squirrels have become active again, as they leave the safety of their burrows to forage, they are attracting the attention of predators like hawks, eagles, coyotes and bobcats.
We've had a sadly dry winter and spring and California is once again in drought, but our small recent rains and snows have begun to bring forth some green grass. Miners Lettuce is springing up, and the yellow Bladder Pod shrubs are blooming as you descend towards Bakersfield. It's likely to be a meager year for wildflowers, unless we get some miraculous late storms, but even in the lean years, there's always some blossoms.
Whatever calendar you use — astronomical, meteorological or natural observations -- spring is here. Let us rejoice. . .
Have a good week.
Jon Hammond has written for Tehachapi News for more than 30 years. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.