Tulips are popping up in Normandy, hedgehogs are skipping hibernation in Britain, Muscovites are abandoning their fur hats, and Swiss ski resort operators are complaining.
Europe is in the midst of a mild spell that not only is throwing some seasonal clocks out of whack but could cause serious economic problems for businesses and farms. Accompanying the spell is a winter drought."Skiing is impossible, but the ice rink is open and guests can play cards," said a spokesman for the tourist office at San Bernadino on the southern side of the Swiss Alps.
"Hedgehogs are not hibernating - they are running about the roads and being knocked down," said Sue Stocker, who runs a wildlife hospital at Aylesbury, north of London. "We have more than 100 hedgehog patients, more than twice the usual number."
Lyman King, who raises ponies in St. Aubin du Thenney west of Paris, predicted that "animals are probably going to cycle into their spring heat and spring functions earlier than normal. That could spell trouble if we get a late cold. Watch the birds around your house. They'll be doing things they don't do until March or April."
Indeed, a confused blackbird in Cheltenham, England, set up housekeeping in a Christmas tree on the balcony of a department store.
"It is raising three chicks, two months before normal nesting time," said assistant store manager Adam Hands.
In normally glacial Moscow, the temperature this week was 34 degrees, turning the Soviet capital's sidewalks into a slippery obstacle course of half-melted ice.