I’ve been trying to hold back spring, fighting a losing battle. I only hoped that winter would linger long enough to get me through last Monday. It was the day I was due to join biologists from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife on a visit to a bear’s den. I was sore afraid that the bear and her cubs would shake off slumber and wander off before we could get there.

And that’s exactly what the birds were telling me. Spring was early. For two weeks, I’ve been waging war on a pair of mourning doves whose amorous cooing indicated an intent to take over my deck again. Last year, I was too soft on them. I let them raise several broods, while respectfully denying myself the use of my own lounge chair until August.

Ever since the last snow — January, was it? — hairy woodpeckers around my house have begun each day with territorial drumming. They are mating early. Most of the year, my local white-breasted nuthatches confine themselves to one or two vocalizations. This time of year, they unleash their entire romantic repertoire. A barred owl has been hooting above my roof for a week. They’re pairing up, too.

When I arrived at IFW headquarters in Bangor at 8 a.m., a house finch was circling and singing its romantic invitation. A hairy woodpecker landed in the tree by the building, calling and drumming. From the back side of the fields, red-winged blackbirds were conk-a-reeing. My feeling of dread grew. Spring was here. The bears would be gone.

It got worse. Our little caravan of bear-seekers stopped at a convenience store in Eddington. Some of us went for coffee. One biologist gassed up the truck and an all-terrain vehicle. I stood on the edge of the parking lot, drinking in the cacophony of bird sound. More red-winged blackbirds called from a nearby wetland. Bunches of grackles flew over. A goldfinch sang. A chickadee intoned its territorial love song. Spring.

I am happy to report that the trip was successful, sort of. Our objective was a bear called Shield, named after the white shield-like pattern on her chest. She was orphaned as a cub, raised by rehabilitators and released Down East. Even as a small cub, she was a feisty little scamp, asserting dominance over other cubs on the refuge. As it turns out, she carried that trait into adulthood.

IFW biologist Randy Cross and his crew have tranquilized and handled 300 bears this winter. Shield turned out to be the toughest. Now 5 years old, she was a first-time mom with two cubs and a bad attitude. Worse, she had picked the perfect den site: a deep tunnel with a bend.

Whoever would tranquilize this bear would have to squeeze face first into this den, confronting a wide awake and irritable momma bear protecting two cubs, without enough room to get the long tranquilizing jab stick around the corner.

Lisa Bates was the first to try. Lisa isn’t much bigger than a bear cub herself, but she’s used to challenging angry momma bears. However, after crawling on her belly to within inches of the perturbed sow, she managed only a glancing blow, bending the needle with little effect. Longer arms were needed. Mitch Jackman took the next turn.

By now, Shield was pretty annoyed. After long minutes of squeezing deeper into the hole, Mitch watched helplessly as Shield lunged and angrily knocked the syringe right off the end of his pole. Nervous but undaunted, he attached a third needle and removed a final section from the pole. He would take his last jab with a pole that was only 2 feet long.

It worked. Eventually, Shield and two beautiful cubs were brought out, measured, and weighed. Which brings us back to birds, the forgotten purpose of this column.

The drama unfolded slowly. Though the bear was snuffling loudly, we were whispering. I could hear the birds around us. I was in the woods, somewhere around Mopang Stream in Beddington. It was sunny, warm, and snowless. If not spring, it was spring-like. An eagle flew over, followed shortly by the croaking of a raven. At any other time of year, the raven may not have cared. But it was spring and ravens can’t tolerate eagles in an area where they plan to nest. I never saw the chase, but I could hear it all the way to the horizon. Spring is not a good time of year to annoy mothers.

Bob Duchesne serves as vice president of Maine Audubon’s Penobscot Valley Chapter. He developed the Maine Birding Trail, with information at mainebirdingtrail.com. He can be reached at duchesne@midmaine.com.