March 19, 2018
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Signs of spring heard in bird song

By Judy Kellogg Markowsky

Spring is coming! A few signs of spring begin as early as February. One of my favorites is the chickadee’s spring song. It is a whistling song of “fee-bee,” with the first note higher than the second. Even with snow on the ground, measured in feet, the chickadee song gives assurance that spring is on its way.

Ed Grew recently picked up on bird optimism:  “I heard mourning doves cooing for the first time yesterday. Chickadees have been whistling ‘phoebe’ for more than a month now, and cardinals singing even longer.” The cardinal’s song is a whistling, “What cheer, cheer, cheer.” That song really does bring cheer!

Another of my favorite signs is leaves melting down into the snow; a half-inch, 2 inches or more. The leaf is dark and absorbs the sun’s heat, melting the warm leaf into the snow.

If you go to a wet area, you will see pussy willows are opening. Some appear in January and February, but they are still good symbols of spring.

Another sign — springtails, which are small insects that look like pepper on the snow. With a magnifying glass, you can see how the springtails “spring” or hop or jump around on the snow. I never use the name “snow fleas,” because springtails are not related to fleas at all. They are in the same phylum, Arthropoda, but fleas are insects and are in the class Insecta.  Springtails are in the class Entognatha.

Pretty soon, redwing blackbirds and grackles will come, and robins are here. Some robins stay all winter, mainly from northern Canada. Then the killdeers will come back and walk in the mud and sandy areas.

Sometimes you can see footprints of a large male fox and the smaller female fox in parallel lines about a foot apart. They walk together in mating season.

I recently saw footprints of a raccoon in the snow. They don’t venture out in the middle of the winter, but they do now. I believe it’s about mating.

Spring will come!

Join word enthusiasts at the Fields Pond Nature Center in Holden for an evening for poetry at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 15, with leader Christina Diebold. Share your favorite nature or environmental poem. Your poem could be obscure, well-known or one you wrote yourself. Or, if you prefer,  just listen to the beauty of poetry about nature. The event is free.

For information on Fields Pond Audubon Center, call 989-2591.

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