Harbinger of Spring
Is it spring yet? The calendar says its spring, but I’m not quite ready to believe it. It seems that spring is the only season that we look forward to with such anticipation that we won’t believe it’s here (and winter finally over) until we’ve made some particular observation.
What’s your “harbinger of spring?” What does it take for you to declare spring is here? Odds are it’s not the calendar or spring equinox, although they both tell us its spring. The harbinger of spring for most of us is some local observation of nature.
Maybe it’s the first thunderstorm or ice-out on a lake or river. For the botanically inclined, it may be the trees breaking bud, or when a particular plant flowers. But for most of us, it’s probably the return of some migratory bird.
As kids, many of us learned that robins are the official harbinger of spring. Seeing the first robin made it official. Robins are a good choice because most kids are familiar with them, and their song seems to hold the authority and joy of such an important event. Perhaps like you, even now when I hear the first robin’s song after a long winter, it evokes thoughts of childhood wonder and summer fun.
As always, the sights and sounds of skeins of snow geese flying overhead certainly announce the coming of spring. Their cackle sounds as though they’re all giddy with the excitement of the season. Other birds heralding spring include the drumming of ruffed grouse, sharptails on their dancing grounds, and for some of our Manitoba and Minnesota neighbors, the return of the loons to area lakes.
As a botanist, I look a little more carefully at the plants, and it’s the wild crocus or pasque flower that I use to assure myself that spring is truly here. They’re common on the prairies across the state, and perhaps like you I will be on the lookout for them.
There’s going to be lots of changes occurring over the next few weeks. They all, each in their own order, will reaffirm to us the inexorable passage of winter to spring and the coming of summer. It’s going to go quickly though, so savor it while you can.
Natural North Dakota is supported by NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center and Minot State University-Bottineau, and by the members of Prairie Public. Thanks to Sunny 101.9 in Bottineau for their recording services.
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