Nature Nut: Wildlife also awaiting 'real' spring

This robin, which could be a winter resident or migrant, was caught in Nature Nut's owl net earlier this week.

It is hard to get into a conversation with anyone without the topic turning to the looooooong winter.

Although I remember many a March state basketball tournament competing with a snowstorm, I am not sure I recall going into spring so cold, and with so much old snow yet on the ground. However, if the forecasts are correct, the day after this column goes to print could be a 50-, or maybe even 60-degree day that might have us finally turning the corner.

Signs from wildlife also show they are awaiting the "real" arrival of spring. I believe meteorologists use March 1 as the start of spring, and celestial bodies tells us it is late March. But it is weather factors that tell most animals and plants when spring is really here, and they are anxious. For many people this is the arrival of robins, or their relatives, the bluebirds, neither of which have shown up in large numbers yet.

The cranes that usually show up in early March sounded their arrival to Weaver Dunes resident, Larry Kelly, just 10 days ago. And red-winged blackbird males who usually show up in early March, arrived to look over the frozen pond in our backyard just a couple days ago.

I got reports of large numbers of bald eagles at Wabasha just two weeks ago, probably a bottleneck while they await water opening up further north. And, two weeks ago, many ducks and geese were seen in fields between here and the Twin Cities, undoubtedly also waiting for real spring.


Two geese arrived on our pond 10 days ago and staked out their nesting site where the goose I wrote about last year was on nest during the May 2 14-inch snowstorm. I wonder if it is the same goose that hung tough for a week before high water destroyed her nest. And five deer jumped over the nesting site to make their way to my neighbors bird feeders, off limits most of the winter due to deep snow.

I tried unsuccessfully to call in and net saw-whet owls earlier this week. Although they came through in early March last year, I was thinking they would be later this year, and possibly have not come through yet. And I am still awaiting sighting of my first turkey vulture, as well as the sound of arriving killdeer, both somewhat late.

Spring for the plants, many of which have internal "apps" to keep track of "heating degree days," is also behind. Sara Grover at Whitewater was doing her last sapping program Monday and indicated she has had only one day of good sap flow, again very late. Also in the Whitewater Valley I've been watching a small group of trumpeter swans holding up in a small patch of spring-fed water.

If I were a mouse, vole, or shrew, I would welcome an opportunity to see and feel the warm sun, even though being safe and well fed under the snow for the last four months.

And, if I had a crystal ball a month ago, I'd have enjoyed more warm sun by staying in Cozumel for another month. But soon flowers will be blooming, frogs croaking, and mushrooms popping up, helping us forget the winter that was.

Greg Munson is a volunteer naturalist and freelance writer. If you have questions, comments or column ideas, contact Munson at


Did you know?


• Most of us grew up with spring being on March 21 and being told that was one of two days when the amount of daylight equaled the amount of sunlight. Not true; spring is often technically on the 20th, sometimes even the 19th and the official spring equinox has a few more minutes of daylight than darkness.

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