First Posted: 3/14/2013
It was a good sign.
I heard the calls emanating from the middle of a neighbor’s pasture, shortly before dusk. A sharp series of whistles meant a killdeer was fussing about something, but to me it signaled a return. When the killdeer comes back, spring weather is not too far behind.
All it takes is a bit of mild weather to make the signs of spring explode out of nowhere.
The killdeer is but one example.
Last week I spied a gobbler strutting in the corner of a field while a group of hens pecked the ground, acting uninterested for now. I’ve gotten reports that the gobblers are also sounding off, shattering the early morning woods with their dominating call.
Very few sounds can match a gobbling turkey when it comes to signaling spring. A gobble resounding from a hollow or on a hilltop commands attention. Everything else in the woods goes quiet when an old tom gobbles. Gobbling is a way for male turkeys to announce their presence to potential mates. To me, a turkey gobble is the definitive sound marking the end of winter.
Well, one of them at least.
The sounds of spring can be heard day and night. While birds such as gobblers and killdeer dominate the daylight hours, a diminutive frog takes charge when darkness falls.
In addition to the killdeer, I also head the first Northern spring peepers calling from a marsh last week. Their call is just as the name implies, and when dozens congregate in the same wetland or pond, the sound can be deafening.
But in a good way.
A chorus of spring peepers provides the perfect backdrop for an early spring evening. The calls I heard last week were a bit early, but it was a welcome sound.
Like the sharp call of the killdeer and the booming gobble from a turkey, the sound of spring peepers is another sure sign that winter’s grip is giving way to a new season.
Every year I make a mental note of when I hear the first signs of spring. It’s a welcome respite from a winter season that stubbornly lingers.
But not all of the signs of spring are sounds.
There are plenty of sights as well.
Clusters of sassafras trees stand with a bright green hue as swollen buds appear at the tips of limbs, waiting to bust out with leaves.
Robins return to the area from their winter hideouts down south and can be seen pulling earthworms from yards. And though I haven’t seen any yet, bluebirds will be returning for the summer as well.
The once dormant moss around spring seeps is quickly transforming from a lifeless brown to a bright green, soaking up the light afforded by longer days.
And almost instantaneously, crocuses spears are poking from the ground, soon to be topped by vibrant, purple flowers.
Not of all the sights of spring center around beauty, however.
The onset of spring brings plenty of mud as the winter’s frost thaws. Heavily used deer trails are churned into paths of mud and rural dirt roads heave and swell as the frost beneath the surface melts.
Perhaps one of the worst signs of the warmer weather to come was reported by a friend, who told me ticks were already attaching to his clothes during a recent hike.
But in the big picture, the appearance of ticks is only a minor one. After a long winter, the sights and sounds of spring are a benefit that all of us who enjoy the outdoors have been waiting for.