No winter lasts forever (even if it seems so this week), and April proves it.

Each of us has something special that catches our attention and tells us personally that spring is on its way or has arrived. For me it was the more than two dozen species of migrating birds that first arrived in March, and especially the trilling sound from a very early returning male red-winged blackbird singing in a marsh near us March 3.

A sign of spring for others may be the lengthening of daylight. We have gained more than four hours of daylight since the winter solstice. Other signs: the taste of maple syrup; crocus flowers; open windows; ice-out on a favorite lake; or the first farm field work. Whatever it is that gets us thinking spring, it lifts our spirits and nudges us onward — a period of newness.

It seems that only those of us who have been close to nature during the length of a Minnesota winter can truly appreciate the subtle signs of spring and rejoice in each happening fully. But if you have been away enjoying the Arizona desert or beaches of Florida, it won't take you long to get back in the Minnesota groove.

Each of nature's spring events — returning bird, opening bud, frog call — is filled with the hope of better things. Opportunities abound to observe multitudes of changes with our own senses. Those of us who are students of spring feel the days fly by. We also feel behind in making the personal nature discoveries that help us keep pace with the world around us.

Try to get outside as often as you can. Feel the warm rays of the sun on your face and arms, listen to the American robins singing, smell the wet soil, look for new green blades of grass next to sunny walls. Take time to learn about and enjoy nature.

Jim Gilbert's Nature Notes are heard on WCCO Radio at 7:15 a.m. Sundays. His observations have been part of the Minnesota Weatherguide Environment Calendars since 1977, and he is the author of five books on nature in Minnesota. He taught and worked as a naturalist for 50 years.