Spring is often regarded as a wonderful time of year. Birds are returning from their winter migrations, perennial plants are starting to grow and bud and from these buds, a few hardy flowers start to bloom. Rain is also associated with spring, filling our creeks and helping those plants grow. Often with rain storms, we also see wind!
Spring can be a very windy season. This March the Prescott area saw gusts of up to 12 mph and with these gusts we see lower temperatures. What may begin as a sunny, warm day may suddenly turn cold and cloudy as the wind begins to blow. But why is wind important? What does it do besides bring a nice breeze or chilly gust?
Just like every other part of nature, wind has a role. Before every light or heavy rain, there is the wind that brings us the storm. Besides bringing the cool, spring rains, the wind also brings us the warmer days of late spring and early summer. It also brings the dust storms in the desert, and the monsoon rains across the region, which fill our streams, lakes, and keeps the plants alive during the summer. Without the wind we would not have the weather that is an integral part of our climate.
Many of the plants native to the Mogollon highlands of Central Arizona are wind pollinated. Those of us with allergies to pollen may dread the spring winds, but without them we would not have alligator junipers, ponderosa pines, and our many species of oak trees, which are important to the many mammals, birds, and insects that share our habitat. Many of our native grasses are also mostly wind-pollinated and an important food source for pronghorns, rabbits and many species of rodent.
While it is true that our winters are usually mild, occasionally our winter winds are strong enough to produce snowdrifts and even uproot trees. However, the winter winds also clear the deciduous trees of their remaining dead leaves of autumn, leaving the bare branches free to prepare the buds for spring. The bare branches make it easier for the birds to snap off twigs for their spring nests.
If we focus on the wind as a force of nature it can be awe-inspiring. We can marvel at the storm as we watch from the shelter of our homes or if we feel particularly adventurous, we can dress warmly and go out into the wind to feel its strength! Most of all, we need to recognize that the wind is one of the myriad pieces of nature, and as such is neither good, nor bad, but rather, essential to every organism.
Contributed by HCNH Naturalist Sandy Stoecker