Happy new year! It might not feel like spring near you (sorry Midwest and Northeast folks!), but according to our maps, many parts of the country are seeing an unusually warm spring and early leaf out . The map below shows how often we see a spring like this year in locations where spring has already sprung. Some parts of the Southeast are experiencing the earliest spring in the 39-year record.
How will plants and animals respond? Your observations submitted to Nature's Notebook can tell us!

Happy observing,
What your data are telling us
Flowering phenology and fire
Flowering in chamise, a widely distributed plant in fire-prone chapparal California, is a good indicator of fire risk. Your data contributed to  Nature’s Notebook helped researchers identify that a critical live fuel moisture threshold is crossed after the plant has flowered but before fruits have developed. Accordingly, managers can readily and inexpensively assess live fuel moisture status simply by looking at chamise flower and fruit status. This study shows the potential for your data to inform critical management decisions.

Photo: Emery et al. 2020
Ecological Indicators

An early start to spring in the Southeast
Spring leaf out   is off to an early start this year in much of the Southeast. Some locations are seeing spring leaf out three weeks ahead of normal (a long-term average of 1981-2010). Our Director Theresa Crimmins joined Jim Cantore and Stephanie Abrams on The Weather Channel to talk about the implications of an early spring .

What's new at Nature's Notebook and USA-NPN
Explore seasonal happenings near you
Our new Visualization Tool lets you explore how the seasons are shaping up at your location - how quickly temperatures are warming, whether spring arrived early or late, and what plants and animals have been active this year.

New campaigns for 2020
This year we have two new campaigns that need your help! Pollen Trackers launched last December focused on documenting pollen release in mountain cedar ( Juniperus ashei ) in central Texas. We are also interested in your observations of eastern red ceda r ( Juniperus virginiana ) as part of this campaign this spring.

Midwest and Northeast observers can take part in an effort to document phenology of invasive plants including Japanese knotweed ( Reynoutria japonica ) and wild parsnip ( Pastinaca sativa ) . Look out for more details on this campaign soon!

Updates to our species list for 2020!
This year we've added several new plant and animal species and updated protocols for butterflies and grasshoppers. These insect groups now include phenophases for egg laying, eggs and pupae for species where these stages might be visible to a careful observer. All the other species and phenophases you are accustomed to are still here, unchanged, and waiting to be observed!

Recent happenings in the field
The impacts of warming winters
A new NPR article describes how warming winters are impacting plants and animals across the country from reductions in crop yields to longer seasons for disease vectors.

Illustration by Cornelia Li
for NPR
The best garden to support monarchs
Authors of a new study in  Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution  looked the impact of different garden configurations of milkweed, nectar plants, and ornamental grasses on presence of monarch eggs and caterpillars. They found that gardens with milkweeds evenly spaced in a 1 m corridor surrounding nectar plants and grasses led to higher numbers of eggs and caterpillars.

Once your garden is set up, submit your observations nectar plant flowering to our  Nectar Connectors  campaign!

Nature's Notebook Nuggets
Catch spring in the act!
The cues for a plant’s transition from dormancy to renewed activity can be subtle, yet can be quite visible if you are watching closely. It may take careful sleuthing—and sometimes previous experience—to detect the early stages. The tightly clasping bud scales of the dormant buds—or tightly packed leaves of naked buds—begin to shift or ever-so-slightly "swell" and may also shift color. These signals suggest that reporting on "Breaking leaf buds" and "Flowers and flower buds" is not long off.

More ways to get involved
April is citizen science month
Citizen science month is a time to celebrate all the important work you do as a Nature's Notebook observer! You can learn more about citizen science and find an event near you to join others in celebrating citizen science.

Observation Guide and 5-year journal
The Naturalist's Notebook is an observation guide and five-year calendar-journal for documenting your observations of nature. Authors Nathaniel Wheelwright and Bernd Heinrich also include illustrations to guide new observers with tips on what to look for where you live.

Erin Posthumus