When the groundhog awakens from his long winter nap tomorrow at dawn, he will rise from his hole in the ground and think he overslept. If he lived on the Vineyard, he'd think it was already spring.
Forsythia are in bloom, and in the past week there have been sightings of honeybees and, in West Tisbury, a butterfly. Snow drops are in bloom in various places from Edgartown to West Tisbury.
Peter Simon, a Chilmark photographer who prides himself for going about the Island barefoot from spring through autumn, said he's only had to wear his shoes five times this winter.
In January, the temperature rose to 50 degrees or higher eight times; for comparison, in January of 2001, the temperature never reached 50 degrees. On Tuesday of this week, the National Weather Service cooperative station in Edgartown recorded a temperature of 56 degrees, and on the same day, Red Cross director Glenn Carpenter reported a temperature of 63 degrees at the Masonic hall in Oak Bluffs.
But even that wouldn't be a record - the highest January temperature recorded on the Vineyard was 65 degrees, in 1967. Of course, official record keeping began only in 1946.
In either event, Mr. Simon's rose bushes and hydrangeas are budding. "The grass never turned brown," he said. "I am extremely worried that if we get a bad February, everything will die and nothing will come back."
Suzy Zell, a gardener at Polly Hill Arboretum, said witch hazel there are blooming about a month early, as are small trees in the same family called parrotia.
"Our camellia have been blooming sporadically since Thanksgiving," she said. "I've worked here 15 years and I'd say it's warm. But it doesn't mean we won't have a cold March or a cold April - last year we had a very cold April and we had a late frost."
Robert Woodruff, a West Tisbury biologist, said he spotted a mourning cloak butterfly on Tuesday at his home.
But before anyone suggests that these are signs of global warming that will permanently damage the Island landscape, they should think again. Paul Z. Goldstein, curator of butterflies and moths for the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, makes frequent trips to the Vineyard and knows a lot about bugs.
Of the mourning cloak butterfly, Mr. Goldstein said: "This is a creature that overwinters and hatches out in the summer. They overwinter as adults and fly the following spring. Any time it tends to warm up they will crawl out from a woodpile and fly about. If it gets cold, they will likely crawl back into a woodpile and be okay."
There are other signs that this is just another normal winter.
Eric Magnuson of West Tisbury has an apple orchard near the Tiasquam River, that borders between Chilmark and West Tisbury. He is growing about 90 to 100 apple trees with a few pear trees. "The weather has been strange, but the trees are okay. The trees need a period of dormancy of at least two months and I think they'll get it," he said.
Norman Lobb is growing evergreens at his L&W Tree Farm in West Tisbury. "I'm shearing trees. I like it - we can transplant at this time of year native cedars."
While there are drought advisories being issued from Maine through New York, rainfall on the Vineyard is up. Last month's rainfall total through Wednesday was 4.79 inches, about an inch above normal, and December's was only slightly below normal at 3.77 inches.
William M. (Bill) Wilcox, water resources planner for the Martha's Vineyard Commission, said on Wednesday that groundwater levels are showing signs of recovery after a dry autumn. "It's at the point where it has typically gotten in January," he said.
There is good news at a number of well sites closer to the ocean. "The wells near the edge of the Island have all started to rise. The one at Katama Air Park and one in Chilmark are showing signs of going up," Mr. Wilcox said. "It seems the deeper wells lag behind."
Mr. Wilcox has been watching a forsythia plant up-Island for some weeks now. He said the plant's flowers don't look as good as they did weeks ago. "Forsythia, they have a tendency to break out early. Their normal period of blossoming is the first thing in spring," he said.