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Roaring Fork Valley Phenology | May 19, 2014

Three years of Aspen Mountain on May 9 (click on photo above to enlarge). What do you remember about those years? 

2012 looked beautiful but what we see in the picture is the result of the lowest snowfall totals in decades and a warm, extremely dry spring. This led to fire bans throughout the valley and no 4th of July fireworks. 2012 was the year of the High Park Fire near Fort Collins, and the Waldo Canyon fire near Colorado Springs.

2013 is the snowiest of the three photos. The snowfall over that winter was not notable, but it continued until the very end of April. Though the snow was abundant as of May 9, it did melt quickly during another warm and dry May and June. Once again, our area dried up enough to cause the 4th of July fireworks to be cancelled due to fire danger. On a very positive note, the flower displays and the fruit and berry crops that followed were some of the most amazing and plentiful anyone had ever seen. Bears ate well in 2013, as did many other nectar- and fruit-loving insects, mammals, and birds. 

The winter of 2014 saw the most snow out of the three years, but snowfall peaked earlier than average. We had some dust on the snow and a couple of late storms. Trees and shrubs are leafing and flowering a week ahead of 2013 and a week behind 2012. 

Check out the NOAA snowpack graph the Snotel site on Independence Pass comparing the three years. 

Look for the early blooms of flowers like red columbine, serviceberry, Aspen peavine and scarlet gill (skyrocket). Also keep an eye out for insect eating birds that have made the return journey from Central and South America. 

House wrens, yellow warblers, and ruby crowned kinglets are all singing. Goslings and ducklings should be hatching. Buck deer are growing their new antlers; those seen at Hallam lake are about four inches long and are in a soft velvet. 

~Jim Kravitz, Director of Naturalist Programs