Observing spring happenings is something normal in these uncertain times full of anxiety and sadness. Yes, we are in the stay-at-home strategy to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Each of us wants to do our part to protect others and ourselves from this human parasite, yet in doing so we still have the freedom to open our windows and see, smell and hear spring. Even better, to take neighborhood walks.
Spring — glorious spring — the awakening and renewal season, is a transition time when cold meets warm. Now the greatest show on earth is just outside our windows and back doors. Stone and brick walls facing south actually feel warm on sunny days. On rainy days the odor of decaying leaves could remind us of garden soil, and we may hear rushing water in the street or a fast-moving stream. The singing of birds increases many fold, not only due to migrants returning north but also because the year-round residents are responding to the increase in daylight.
On walks near our Lake Waconia home this past weekend I heard western chorus frogs calling for the first time this year. They sound like metallic clickers. I also watched the first leopard frogs leaving from the ring of open water around the mostly ice-covered lake and heading into meadowlands. I heard several newly returned song sparrows singing on territories, plus male red-winged blackbirds trilling from tall cattails, and Canada geese in pairs honking on claimed nesting sites. The buds on silver maple trees are swelling, and many forest moss colonies have become lush green and are growing. Friends from Victoria saw the first painted turtle come up on a pond log to get into the sun. Maple syrup producers report that this has been an excellent year. Gardeners are pleased to see common snowdrops blooming and rhubarb coming up. Hundreds of southern Minnesota lakes will lose their ice covers this week; dozens did last week.
These are not normal times for us, but there is something going on that is normal and that’s spring, the most eventful season of the year. Everything that takes place has a sense of beginning. Every event in spring from returning bird and opening bud to frog call, is filled with hope of better things to come.
Jim Gilbert’s 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.