May 23: Daybook for the Year in Yellow Springs

For the past 36 years, I have kept records of weather and the progress of the seasons in Yellow Springs Ohio, a small town just south of the 40th Parallel in the Ohio Valley. Whenever I travel, I add notes about what is happening in the places I visit.

The daybook has been an anchor in my personal life, becoming a kind of autobiography of my awareness of the natural world around me. I find the consistency – among the many variations – of my habitat through the years to be a guide for awareness about the possible effects of climate change. And since there are few resources for comparative phenology in print or on the web, I feel that my daily notes might be of use to those interested in following common events in the Ohio Valley seasons, and in contrasting those things with what is happening in their own neighborhoods. 

Bill Felker


May 23rd

The 143rd Day of the Year


Doest thou not see the little plants, the little birds, the ants and the spiders, the bees working together to put in order their several parts of the universe?

Marcus Aurelius


Sunrise/set: 5:14/7:50

Day’s Length: 14 hours 36 minutes

Average High/Low: 75/54

Average Temperature: 64

Record High: 90 – 1939

Record Low: 33 – 1889


The chances for rain decline from yesterday’s 55 percent to 40 percent, and the likelihood for sun increases to 85 percent. Highs in the 80s come 30 percent of the time; look for 70s on 65 percent of the days, and 60s the remaining five percent. There is a very slight possibility of light frost tomorrow morning and on the morning of the 25th, since the sixth high pressure system of the month is due on the 24th.

Natural Calendar

When mulberries ripen and box turtles lay eggs and winter wheat turns pale gold green, then it is the first week of early summer, and the whole season lies ahead. Blue chicory flowers in the waysides. Catalpas and privets and pink spirea bloom as the first cutting of hay gets underway. Nodding thistles, Canadian thistles, the first daisy fleabane, the first great mullein, the first Asiatic lily, the first orange trumpet creeper and the first tall meadow rue open.


1981: Peonies bloom. Columbine is almost done blooming. Wild parsnips are open, Jack-in-the-pulpit gone, phlox gone, water cress almost done. Fire pink discovered, wild onion flowering.

1982: First black damselflies seen.

1984: Mountain maple full bloom.

1986: First spring field cricket heard.

1987: Cardinal sings at 4:04 a.m. The 17-year cicadas, the red, spotted cicadas, emerged after the last of the yellow poplar blossoms fell. Peonies early full bloom.

1988: Honeysuckles are declining with the garlic mustard, Osage flower clusters falling, village iris in late bloom, birdsong lighter.

1992: The first rose opens: it’s the Peace Rose, says Ruby Nicholson from down the street.

1993: Catbird pair seen in the back honeysuckles. Daisies, iris, and sweet William fall over in the rain: another sign of summer, the lodging of lush growth. The very first deep red peony was opening this morning along Dayton Street. In the yard, the first pale pink peony started, and wild mallow opened. At Wilberforce, the leaves on the Virginia creeper around my window are complete, and new tendrils are a foot long, beginning their outward summer reach. In southern Wisconsin, Maggie says the lilacs and bluebells are almost done, wild geranium just beginning.

1995: At Grinnell Pond, Solomon’s plume is in full bloom. May apples are done flowering. Along Wilberforce-Clifton Road, the wheat turns a little now, becomes pale and warm.

1998: The yellow poplar flowers are in full bloom along Livermore and Herman Streets. The blue flags come to an end, the sweet Williams and the foxglove still full. No more bleeding hearts. Late rockets. Blackbirds mating in the back yard, flying back and forth with nest material. Around the township, green frogs are calling, and the gray tree frogs are starting to sing.

1999: At the pond, swamp iris heads up. Pink and orange poppies full late, last ranunculus, full spiderwort and daisies, fleabane, early lamb’s ear, late toad flax, late full rhododendrons, red wild strawberries, late full peonies and mock orange, flags, sweet rockets, clematis. Very last bleeding heart, late lungwort. Wild geraniums have disappeared, last days of locust bloom.

2000: Purple rhododendrons ending, white beginning, honeysuckle gone, mock orange nine tenths fallen, Siberian iris suddenly completely wilted, pond iris full bloom, poppies and standard iris declining quickly, lamb’s ear early, fireflies glowing faintly in the night grass.

2001: First gold-collared black fly seen. Pokeweed six feet high, wild garlic heading up.

2002: First pale violet pond iris opens in the pond.

2003: First water lily blooms in the pond.

2004: On Kelleys Island, robins began singing just a minute after 5:00 a.m.

2006: Yellow floribunda roses seen in full bloom at Liz’s house this afternoon. Her purple allium bed is still holding.

2007: Jeanie saw a cedar waxwing in the mulberry tree this morning at about 9:00 a.m. One yellow swallowtail and one black swallowtail came by early this afternoon. Allium and Indian hyacinth now completely done, and mock orange flowers are shedding quickly. Peonies are still full, as are the Dutch iris.

2008: A bright sky of orange and pink at six this morning; I exercised outside in short sleeves. Doves and robins all around. Now more clouds have moved in, the day cooler. Some blue wood hyacinths starting to turn in the circle garden. Eight Dutch iris in bloom. The very last Indian hyacinth flower fades. In the park, the Kousa dogwood is opening as the hawthorns start to rust. Wild geraniums are dropping their petals in the east garden, and lily-of-the valley is aging at Greg’s house. First white-spotted skipper of the year seen in the front honeysuckles.

2009: Five pond iris are open today, first pink spirea downtown. One black swallowtail, first hibiscus stalk emerging, very first privet flowers, lance-leaf plantain full bloom. Smoke bushes flowering, heavy locust and mock orange petalfall, first dragonfly. Burning bush (green, four-petaled flower) has been blooming for maybe a week or so).

2010: Cedar waxwings in the mulberry before dawn. On a drive to Dayton: Catalpas and nodding thistles flowering. Tulip tree and pink spirea full across from the school. Long-bodied orb-weaver spider seen weaving above the pond for the first time. Four pale-violet pond iris in bloom.

2012: The first dahlia bloomed overnight, a giant red one, tuber planted March 9th.

2013: Pink spirea only budded. Privet buds straining. Very first growth, less than an inch, showing on the hibiscus. The pink azalea petals are gone. Weigelas continue full bloom. At the old school house, mulberries are blushing. At least half of the honeysuckle flowers have darkened, their pollination complete.

2014: Locust trees noticed in bloom throughout southern Ohio as John and I returned from our trip to South Carolina.

2015: Many locust blossoms still hold throughout the area, but their brightness is gone. Honeysuckle flowers prominent but receding like the locusts. Along the road to Oxford: yellow sweet clover full, wheat fields a soft gray green, a fringe tree seen in full bloom. Returning home at supper time, I found that the first penstemon flowers had opened. Luna moths and periodic cicadas reported in southern Illinois.

2016: A black swallowtail, the first of the year, flew through the yard as I was cutting the grass this afternoon. Privet buds showing white along High Street. Rhododendrons, iris, poppies lush throughout town.

2017: Privets full bloom, fragrant, replacing the sweetness of the mock orange. Honeysuckle flowers have all fallen. Chris Moore reported an abundance of tree frogs calling at night in the area. John Blakelock said that frogs and toads were arriving frequently at a small pond he had made for an acquaintance.


There is no other land, there is no other life but this, or the like of this.

Henry David Thoreau

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