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Every year, we patiently look for the first signs of spring in the air—leaves budding, birds singing, and butterflies migrating. Tell us: What are you observing in your neck of the woods?
Even if it’s still winter and your 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 one of the best predictors. There is a weather proverb that 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.
We started hearing bird song in mid-February from chickadees, titmice, and red-winged blackbirds. The cardinals sing their “cheer, cheer, cheer” to say that we are turning a corner.
Many migrating birds are arriving as many as two weeks early compared to decades past (and some never leave!).
As the days gradually become lighter and temperatures start to lift, the chorus will become louder. In March, a chorus of birdsong fills the air as the migrating birds return. Warblers, sparrows, yellowthroat, and finch are more favorites. You may hear the knock of woodpeckers, too! Even ducks start to return to our lakes.
Observe the buds on your trees. Some of the first trees to bud are the willows and silver maples, followed in March with the red maples.
Another sign is the flowing sap. The sugar sheds are firing up in New Hampshire right now!
Mmm … there’s nothing like the taste of maple syrup, liquid gold! The first to notice seem 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 and 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 are an overabundance of tadpoles, most (up to 90%) do not survive do to predators.
Image: Western Chorus Frog. Credit: naturewatch.ca
4. Fresh, soft scents
Ever notice that entrancing smell of spring? The Earth is awakening and it does indeed smell 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.
We adore the slow, fat, gentle bumbles. The first bumblebees are the queens who survived the winter months. If you wish to attract butterflies and butterflies, be sure to have available flowers and plants.