Thursday, March 14, 2013

Signs of Spring

Turkey Vulture
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)
(photo by Dori, Wikimedia Commons)
Unlike some, I find the return appearance of the American Robin (Turdus migratorius) a poor indicator of the coming spring season. Too many times I have seen these birds looking cold and miserable as a late winter snow storm pounds the area. No, I find a less beautiful bird a much better indicator and harbinger of the coming spring. The Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) doesn't make his return to my area until spring is very close - usually syncing their appearance with the emergence of pussy willow catkins and skunk cabbage flowers which are other seasonal signs I look for.

Over this past weekend I saw my first turkey vultures of the season plus my pussy willow tree is also getting large and fuzzy catkins. I'll have to go out hiking to look for other pussy willows (Salix spp.), skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus), and coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) to get a better guess as to how close spring is.

Either way, I had better finish my garden planning for the upcoming season - it will be here soon!

Update: Shortly after publishing this article, I happened to spy another one of my key spring signs. A Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) was visiting my place and looking to lay his claim again to my yard. These highly territorial and migratory birds are warm weather only visitors at my house. All summer long I get to hear their bird "Top 40" - as I call their repertoire of copied bird song. Many times the male mockingbirds have they fooled visitors to my house thinking I have resident bluebirds. No bluebirds here but their copied song by proxy!