Spring is here. It began by the calendar on the 20th of March, one of two days of the year when the position of sun and earth make the day and night of equal length all over the world. From that day until mid-summer each day will be a little longer, each night a little shorter. But the difference is slight, a few minutes, not enough to notice the change from one day to the next.
Other changes are noticeable. Being a bird watcher I notice particularly the birds. A few robins were with us in “the north” all winter, didn’t go south, and didn’t migrate. I saw one or a small flock now and then. Now, however, robins are numerous. I see them along roads and around homes in the country. I see them on lawns and in parks in towns. I hear them early in the morning, a chorus of males beginning at the first sign of light along the eastern horizon. Cardinals, too, sing to the dawn and song sparrows, sings from the bushes at the side of my yard.
Cowbirds and common grackles have joined the cardinals and blue jays, goldfinches, house finches, chickadees and titmice that come my bird feeders year round. The grackles are bullies, crowding out many of the smaller birds.
Goldfinches are of mixed colors, the females wearing dull colors, the males splotched with bright yellow, changing from the drab colors they wear in winter to black and the bright yellow that gives them their name.
A few male red-winged blackbirds came to my feeders all winter but there were none out in the cattails of our marsh. Now there are many males coming to my feeders and even more out in the cattails of our marsh. I hear them calling from the marsh whenever I step outside throughout the day. Mourning doves are gathering sticks and building their flimsy looking platform nests.
The earliest spring wildflowers, skunk cabbage, harbinger-of-spring, also known as pepper-and-salt, snow trillium, wild ginger and spring beauty bloomed in late February and early March, even before the beginning of spring, by the calendar. Now many wildflowers are in bloom, large-flowered or white trillium, nodding trillium, sessile trillium or toadshade, white trout-lily, Dutchman’s breeches, squirrel-corn to name a few.
I undoubtedly miss many April blooming wildflowers. But April is the month when yellow-rumped warblers, the first warblers to wing their way north in spring, begin to be seen in Indiana. Yellow-rumps are soon followed by Blackburnian, chestnut-sided, black-throated green and black-throated blue, black-and-white and blackpoll and the rest of these active little birds, sometimes called feathered butterflies, that either nest in northern Indiana or migrate through to nest farther north. Most warblers and vireos, Baltimore oriole, scarlet tanager, blue-gray gnatcatcher are birds of the trees. While looking up, trying to spot birds overhead I undoubtedly step on some wildflowers and never see them.
The oaks and maples in my yard bloom in April, cast their seeds and open their leaves. The forsythia at the corner of the house, the dogwood in the neighbor’s yard bloom in April. The grass changes from yellow and brown to green. Dandelions sprout in the grass and open their yellow blossoms.
Spring peepers call, turtles clamber up on logs and muskrat houses when the day is fair and rest in the sun. The swans in our marsh have a nest and eggs and are incubating. Worms appear after every shower. Raccoons and opossums, skunks and deer are active, usually at night, but I see them in and along the roads, dead. Woodchucks, or groundhogs, are out and about.
Spring is here, the season of the year when the most change is occurring in nature, the season when bird watchers and other nature enthusiasts like to go wandering in the out-of-doors.