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Early Warmth Jump-Starts Nature in New Canaan

NEW CANAAN, Conn. — Many plants and animals are making an early appearance in New Canaan and Fairfield County thanks to unseasonably warm temperatures much of the first part of the year.

Apple trees at the New Canaan Nature Center are displaying a mid-May type bloom in the middle of April. And the bees began bringing in pollen in mid-February, said Keith Marshall, the center's director of education.

“They usually come out in mid-March, about three weeks later,” Marshall said. “Everything is two to three weeks earlier.” The warmer temperatures have also brought out more ticks, said Marshall, whose dog was carrying one recently.

The weather has also increased attendance at the nature center’s First Saturdays programs, Marshall said, with families more interested in getting outside and taking advantage of the good weather. “Compared to last year and the doldrums we had, we’re seeing about 1 ½ to two times the attendance,” he said.

Temperatures nationwide have averaged about six degrees above normal so far in 2012, and March set a record with an average temperature of 51.1 degrees, or 8.6 degrees above normal, according to a climate overview by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric AdministrationThe study excludes Alaska and Hawaii.

“Plants obviously don’t look at a calendar,” said Regina Campfield, UConn Master Gardner Program coordinator at Bartlett Arboretum and Gardens, explaining that plants began sprouting in mid-March because it felt like April.

Horseshoe crabs are even ahead of schedule, appearing for the first time in Long Island Sound on Monday, April 16, instead of their usual end of May showing, said Leigh Shemitz, executive director of SoundWaters. She added that there are many more plankton and jellyfish than normal for this time of year, and that even blue crabs are being seen, which is rare.

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