Signs of Spring Are Everywhere
by Ro Wauer
In spite of our very dry winter, signs of spring are all around us. Although the spring wildflower bloom has hardly begun, a few early flowering trees and shrubs have begun. Already my agarito shrubs have starting to produce bright yellow flowers, and yellow-flowering huisache trees have been detected in a number of areas. The early spring wildflowers I have so far detected include ten-petal anemone, false garlic, milk vetch, and yellow wood sorrel. Can paintbrushes, puccoons and bluebonnets be far behind?
There are also are early signs of spring from the birds. Perhaps the earliest bird songs to brighten the days are those of the cardinals, but the Carolina wrens express their pleasure as well, singing louder and more spirited than they had during the winter months. Then, Carolina chickadees and tufted titmice add their songs to the springtime chorus. In open wooded areas, Bewick’s wren songs have become more energetic. The soft, melodic songs of eastern bluebirds can be heard about open fields. And the resident red-shouldered hawks begin their courtship, flying overhead and emitting loud calls, all to impress their mates.
A few purple martins have already been detected, although it probably will be another few weeks before our breeding birds return. Their lovely, melodic chirping will soon be heard from an hour before sunup to throughout the daylight hours. To many folks the martins serve as their most important spring herald. And the many additional neotropical songbirds, such as cliff swallows, yellow-billed cuckoos, and painted buntings will return as the days progress.
At about the same time, a number of our regular wintering birds begin moving out, heading for their ancestral breeding grounds to the north. Skeins of geese, especially snows and white-fronts, form long lines as they pass overhead. The sandhill cranes will also be on the move, leaving the feeding fields during March and April, while the larger whooping cranes will begin their departure in April.
Shorebirds also are beginning to move northward. The earliest migrants are likely to include American golden-plovers and upland sandpipers. Some of their cousins, such as black-bellied plovers, dowitchers, and various sandpipers, that have resided on local mudflats and shorelines, move out even earlier. Many of these marvelous birds breed far to the north on the Arctic tundra.
Perhaps the paramount indicator of spring for many of us is the return of the ruby-throated hummingbirds. Although a few of these tiny birds have remained with us all winter long, keeping company with our resident buff-bellied hummingbird, many more ruby-throats will return by March. They will remain through the summer months, and leave for their wintering grounds in late fall, just before our colder weather sets in.
Springtime is an exciting time of year for everyone who enjoys the natural world around us.