Skip the groundhog, other creatures know when cold is ending

February 1, 2014 

For many years, folklore has held that forecasting comes packaged in a super-sized squirrel sometimes known as a groundhog, an ill-tempered, short-tailed rodent of the high country. Somehow this creature has evolved into an icon for the folks who cling to the delusion that if this varmint sees its shadow on the second day of February it means six more weeks of winter.

Here is a creature designed for living in terrain better-suited for skiing than cotton fields. He’s unlikely to foretell much about our seasons. We could do better by seeking a more dependable character to predict the ending of wintry weather.

The question remains shall we stick with the fat ill-tempered rodent of Pennsylvania fame or switch to a local proven forecasters? For any Carolinian dwelling upon our coastal plain, it shouldn’t be hard to choose. Perhaps some commonly observed bird that reliably begins migration tuned to the melting of winter ice, which would suggest nominating either the loon or cormorant, both qualified as symbolic candidates.

Rather than a rodent hiding among the rocks, most fishermen would point out how the shad or herring arrive in our rivers in time to announce the ending of winter days. Another likely forecaster might be the slider or mud turtle, who unfailingly knows when to emerge from winter’s icy waters and bask in the growing sunlight. While bluebird and robin can be seen most of the year, it’s the swallow, including the swift flying martin, which reliably announces winter’s final days.

However, the most dependable of all Carolina coastal natives that would serve as a reliable forecaster would be Alice the alligator, for not until she awakens and starts to bellow for her mate can we be assured warmer weather has arrived.

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