The week started with temperatures in the mid twenties, and nighttime lows of around zero. After the subzero temperatures the week before, the "warm up" felt pretty good, like a warm spring breeze. By Wednesday the temperatures were up to the low 30s, and Sunday, spring felt like a slap in the face, reaching 48 degrees and sunny. That two feet of snow on the ground is melting away by the minute and the water runs in small streams everywhere the ground is bare.
Several signs of spring caught my attention this week. Monday, a pair of handsome, bold Fox sparrows were at the bird feeders. These are large sparrows, and their rust-brown plumage made them stand out as they hopped around on the snow with a flock of Juncos.
Tuesday, the Fox sparrows were gone but there was a Red-winged blackbird in a tree along the creek. The very sight of him raised my Spring fever by several degrees. He too was gone by late afternoon, and I haven't seen another one since.
Wednesday, a male Marsh hawk soared low over the tall grass in the river valley—the first one of his kind I've seen since late last fall. Thursday I heard several robins chirping at the edge of the woods, and a male bluebird with bright orange breast feathers sang from a fence post in the nearby pasture. He sang one of spring's favorite melodies, a soft whistling "chur-wi" or "tru-ly."
Friday, a flock of Canada geese clamored excitedly as they passed over, high above the trees. Their feverish instinct drives them further north, north, where they will revel in the summer sun. The calls of migrating geese are a heart-warming sign of spring for everyone.
Friday is also the day that a friend told me he starting tapping maple trees, and the sap is running. If that's not a spring sign, I don't know what is. Good news for a lot of folks around here who like to boil down the sap, making some of the finest maple syrup around. My friend also said the snow was deep in the sugar bush, and he didn't have snow shoes. Tapping 70 trees was hard work, but only because of the deep snow. My thoughts returned to a sugar bush long ago that had been covered with two feet of snow three days after the sap pails were hung. When I walked into the woods at sunset, the grove of maple trees was a beautiful sight indeed. The new snow had piled up almost to the pails. All was perfectly quiet except for one one of my favorite spring sounds—the musical "ploink" of the maple sap as it slowly dripped into the pails. "Ploink! Ploink!"
Saturday the Red-tailed hawks chased another hawk out of their nesting territory. Their fierce screams and aerial attacks drove the intruder down the valley, and the pair of Redtails returned to soar proudly over their nest.
I saw a single buck cross the meadow behind the house while on my morning walk. I wasn't far away, and I could see that he had shed one of his 4-point antlers. The deer are feeling the spring changes, and soon will be finding green buds and shoots of new grass to eat. They will begin to shed their coat of brown winter guard hairs as it gets warmer.
Sunday morning started frosty, but it looked to be another sunny warm day. While putting out some bird seed and enjoying the spring songs of cardinals and chickadees, I heard the distant calls of a flock of Sandhill cranes. There's no turning back now— winter's cold is surely melting away to the warming promises of spring.
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