March 1: First Day of the New Year

A naturalist once said to me that, in our climate, the new year begins in March, not January. I definitely agree. March is the month of new beginnings, new beginnings that I do not observe in Eliza Howell Park in January or February.

March is the month that the first of the birds returning from winter to the south arrive back in Detroit. Red-winged Blackbirds (the males come back earlier than the females) are often the very first.

Photo courtesy of Margaret Weber.

Another welcome return to the park each March is the Killdeer.

Photo courtesy of Margaret Weber .

March is the month when hibernating animals begin to emerge. On a sunny day in the middle of March I often see the first Garter Snakes of the year, warming in the sun’s rays on the brown grass.

And usually a little later in March, depending on the weather, Eastern Chipmonks can be spotted, venturing outside for the first time since they sought refuge for the winter.

It is nothing new to think of the new year beginning in March. Calendars have varied with cultures and have changed over the centuries.The Roman calendar which we use is a revision of an earlier Roman one that started the year in March. The month names “September, October, November, December” come from the Latin numbers seven, eight, nine, ten — an annual reminder that March once was the first month of the calendar year.

March in Eliza Howell is also the time when perennial flowers, long dormant, begin to green and grow.Two of the earliest are Blue Flag Iris and Violet.

While I have long recognized that nature’s new year begins in March, this is the first year that I am noting the beginning of a new year in my records.

If you happen to see me during my visit to Eliza Howell Park on March 1, perhaps we can exchange “Happy New Year” greetings.

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