Ah, the sounds and sights of spring. Northern cardinals whistle loud and clear and for long periods. They do this to declare territories. Male mourning doves that have wintered here begin their cooing songs. Canada geese fly and honk, with pairs claiming nesting territories. Ring-necked pheasants are heard "crowing" — the loud double-squawk is the sound of a courting male.

Now, too, is the time we begin to look for the first migrating American robins and red-winged blackbirds to return. Although, cold temperatures and strong winds from the north can hold them in Iowa for another week or so. House finches and juncos are the most numerous of the bird-feeder birds at many stations.

The mating season continues for gray and red fox and flying squirrels. As skunks move through the landscape searching for companionship and trying to fill their stomachs with food, they sometimes relax and pay little heed to traffic. We may see the first garter snakes getting sun. Tiny springtails, also called snow fleas, jump about on the snow when the temperature is above 27 degrees.

In southern Minnesota, wild turkeys start their spring courtship, with toms flaring their tails and gobbling. American crows and bald eagles return to the northern Minnesota.

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.