5 Signs of Spring: Birds, Peepers, Tree Buds, and More

Spring Peeper
Photo Credit
Jessica Crabtree

First Signs of Spring for Nature Lovers

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Every year, we patiently look for the first signs of spring—birds singing, butterflies migrating, and forsythias budding, Tell us: What are you observing in your neck of the woods?

Even if it’s still winter and the ground is covered in snow, observe closely! There are always subtle signs that spring is on the way. For example:

1. Birds are singing!

Backyard birds are among the best predictors. A weather proverb states, “Bluebirds are a sign of spring; warm weather and gentle south breezes they bring,” and this appears to be true in the northern tier of the United States. 

Bluebirds do not come north until all chance of winter has passed, and they are assured an ample food supply. → Hear the sound of a bluebird.

We started hearing birdsong in mid-February from chickadees, titmice, and red-winged blackbirds. The cardinals sing their “cheer, cheer, cheer” to say we are turning a corner.

Many migrating birds are arriving as many as two weeks earlier than decades past (and some never leave!).

As the days gradually become lighter and temperatures lift, the chorus will become louder. In March, a chorus of birdsong fills the air as the migrating birds return. Warblers, sparrows, yellowthroats, and finchs are more favorites. You may hear the knock of woodpeckers, too! Even ducks start to return to our lakes.

What bird sounds do you hear?

Image: Eastern Bluebird.

2. Trees are budding, and the sap is flowing!

Observe the buds on your trees. Some of the first trees to bud are the willows and silver maples, followed in March by the red maples.

Another sign is the flowing sap. The sugar sheds are firing up in New Hampshire!

Mmm … there’s nothing like the taste of maple syrup, liquid gold! The first to notice seems to be the squirrels, who start poking around the trees, looking for oozing sap.


3. Peepers are peeping

As soon as the ponds and wetlands thaw—as early as mid-March—listen for the spring peppers (Pseudacris crucifer) and the western chorus frog (Pseudacris triseriata). These tiny amphibians sing loudly, creating quite a chorus at dusk!

Like its name, the spring peeper tends to call a high single “peep!” Put all those spring peepers together, and it’s a “peep, peep, peep, peep!” The call of the chorus frog is hard to describe. It sounds a little bit like someone is running their thumb along a comb.

These tiny frogs live beneath logs or underground, are freeze-tolerant, and tend to like moist, wooded areas, ponds, and wetlands.

As they emerge from hibernation and begin to spawn, look for the appearance of small jelly-like egg masses. While it may seem like there is an overabundance of tadpoles, most (up to 90%) do not survive due to predators.

Image: Western Chorus Frog. Credit: naturewatch.ca

4. Fresh, soft scents

Ever notice that alluring smell of spring? The Earth is awakening, and it smells more, well, earthy. With warmer weather, misty mornings and soft, wet smells fill the air.


5. Butterflies and Bumblebees Return

As warmer weather returns, you may start to see butterflies and bumblebees return. Both are pollination wizards.

To encourage butterflies to live in your garden, include food sources in the form of host plants for caterpillars and nectar plants for butterflies. See our article on plants that attract butterflies to the garden

We adore the slow, fat, gentle bumbles. The first bumblebees are the queens who survived the winter months. If you wish to attract bumblebees and butterflies, have available flowers and plants. 

Learn more about bumblebees and which flowers attract the bumbles.


And more from our readers … 

Some of our readers also have practical and often humorous observations. Winter will end shortly after…

  • The snow melts and reveals bumps, holes, and potholes in the road!
  • you are inside your warm home, and you hear the sound of icicles crashing from the gutters and roofs to the ground below,
  • whenever you feel motivated to peel off the 3M plastic you so meticulously taped and blow-dried tight to your windows,
  • when your mailbox stops getting knocked over by the plow,
  • when the kids lose a mitten, and you don’t bother to replace it,
  • and the first time you can drive with your car window rolled down—best feeling ever!

What are the first signs of spring in your neck of the woods? To comment, type into the field below. 

See our Spring Equinox page for facts and folklore about the start of astronomical spring.

About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann

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