As I wrote this column Monday, I noted statistics that told us so far this month temperatures have averaged 20 degrees below normal in the metro area. In fact, the first week in April for the Twin Cities was the coldest on record.

Spring development has been slow, but we have gained 44 minutes more daylight in the last two weeks.

Spring signs are numerous. Consider:

1. Great horned owl and some bald eagle parents are busy feeding young nestlings.

2. Birds that are here year-round, such as northern cardinals, house finches, black-capped chickadees and red-bellied woodpeckers, are very vocal as their nesting season soon begins.

3. Migrating bird species such as sandhill cranes, red-winged blackbirds, ring-billed gulls, great blue herons, American white pelicans, wood ducks, and many other waterfowl have arrived. Where there is open water, like at Wells Lake in Faribault, the holding ponds at Le Sueur, and on southern Minnesota rivers, there are thousands of waterfowl held-up waiting for more.

4. Maple syrup producers have reported a few good sap flows. This week should end up with the best sap runs of the season.

5. The fuzzy silver-gray catkins are out on pussy willows, so twigs can be cut and brought indoors for a touch of spring.

Yes, most of our lakes still have 20 inches or more ice cover, and tree and shrub buds are still tight, but spring is going to move forward at a fast pace in the next few weeks.


Jim Gilbert taught and worked as a naturalist for 50 years.