CATEGORY: COL Columns (Journal)



Watch those woolly worms, folks, they're already out there and they may be telling us something.

Katydids won't be far behind, so keep your ears open, and get ready to report what you see and what you hear, because your scientific observations will be needed in making fall weather prognostications concerning the severity of the winter ahead.

Accuracy is our aim, of course, but we must remember that in seasons of drought, all signs fail - and nature's weather signs can be downright perplexing in wet weather as well as dry.

Those learned in folk weather lore have followed nature's signs for years, and though their predictions occasionally go askew, the same holds true for forecasters of more scientific bent.

Remember, folks, I do not read the signs; I only report the news from those who do. About all I can tell for sure is that we're going to have some kind of weather.

And a year so so ago, when I started a column with "We're going to have some kind of weather," I heard from folks who read "some kind of weather" as meaning exceedingly bad weather. And that simple sentence, when used orally with an emphasis on "some kind," does portray that meaning

Anyway, Paul James in Amory provided our first woolly bear report of the year, though I believe he called them woolly boogers, which is another of their various names.

Paul saw the first woolly on his front door, a solid black little fellar taking it easy because his instincts tell him winter is nowhere near, and he's got plenty of time to enjoy a long hot summer. Paul said he went out to his car a bit later, and there was another woolly critter, this one a solid dark brown.

The darker the woollies, or the wider their dark stripes, the harsher the winter ahead. When light-colored yellow woollies outnumber their black and brown cousins, it foretells a mild winter.

Wondering about the different names, I checked a dictionary and learned that "woolly bear" was used in writing as early as 1841, meaning "any of various large and very hairy caterpillars; especially one that is the larva of the tiger moth. A tiger moth, named as early as 1816, is any of a family of stout-bodied moths, usually with broad striped or spotted wings.

As to woolly boogers, I found nothing a'tall, but I learned that "booger" probably is an alteration of "bogeyman." A "booger" "or "boogie" apparently has nothing to do with the boogie-woogie music style that developed in the 1920s. A "bogey" once meant a phantom or specter, and has nothing that I can think of to do with "bogeying" in a game of golf.

But back to weather... Paul said his nandina bushes are as heavily loaded as he's ever seen them. A big crop of seeds and fruits means nature is preparing for a long hard winter.

Old-timers said a heavy mast meant a bad winter, the "mast" being their name for the ground cover of fallen acorns and seeds and cones that provide food for wild creatures.

Gene Conlee mailed an "update on my poor purple martins that came close to losing their wings back in March flying South, then returning. Today have ten happily married couples in ten gourds. ...

"The barn swallows have a concrete nest on one double-tree in carport. ... Believe it or not, they are building in a hundred-year-old sausage grinder and a same-age flour sifter. These birds must like life on my Ignorant Ridge."

Joyce Lee called about two new birds at her feeders, she thought they were ringed turtle doves, and she also had two great crested fly-catchers nesting in gourds. My only expertise in identifying birds is finding them in a book with color photos.

Phyllis Harper is Daily Journal feature editor.

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