I saw my first sandill cranes of the season yesterday afternoon, poking around in a recently cut field of alfalfa in Albuquerque’s south valley. Johnny_Mango saw his first last week. And one of my correspondents saw his first cranes over the valley Oct. 12, and thinks this is about 3-4 weeks earlier than usual based on his two decades living here.
So here’s your word of the day: phenology. It’s the study of biological phenomena that happen in response to seasonality and climate, like when flowers flower and when birds migrate.
I was first exposed to the word last summer in the excellent climate blog of Roger Pielke Sr.. He was talking about a workshop in Tucson organized by the ubiquitous Julio Betancourt, who’s trying to set up a National Phenological Network. This sort of data is incredibly relevant to understanding the effects of climate change writ large, but Julio and others say we haven’t been very systematic about collecting it.
If I have time today, I’ll call down to the Bosque del Apache and see if I can find out whether the cranes really are early this year. I bet they’ve got the data to back up our anecdotes.