Bee at Ferrier property (Photo by Brent Calver)

Bee at Ferrier property (Photo by Brent Calver)

Signs of spring

Baird's sparrow (Photo by Alan MacKeigan)

Baird's sparrow (Photo by Alan MacKeigan)

Spring is approaching, which means that the days getting longer, the snow is beginning to melt away and the familiar songs of birds are ringing out. These seasonal changes signal a time to re-fresh and re-set.

For many, there are distinct changes in the natural world that announce the arrival of spring. Maybe it’s the return of your favourite migratory bird or the first set of waxy green leaves on the tree outside your window.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada’s natural area managers across Alberta shared some of the first signs of spring that they look forward to each year.

For Carissa Wasyliw, natural area manager, northeast Alberta, “there are many signs that let me know that spring is on the way, like hearing the territorial and courting calls of owls in March (I was lucky enough to hear a great horned owl and a barred owl early this spring). It might be seeing the slow-moving insects on the snow during an early spring day when the warmth of the sun is finally noticeable again. Or, it might simply be the emergence of pussy willow catkins throughout the ditches and other riparian areas that inform me that warmer days are just around the corner.”

In the Red Deer Area, Delaney Schlemko, natural area manager, central Alberta, looks for the buds forming on the trees and the migratory birds returning to the area. “At the end of March, I visited the Rachel Agnes Hayes property and I noticed buds forming on the poplar trees. I also visited the Pine Lake Moraine Area and noted Canada geese on the frozen wetlands. I know when spring has really kicked off when I see my favourite flower blooming — prairie crocus.”

Prairie crocuses at Waterton, AB (Photo by Karol Dabbs)

Prairie crocuses at Waterton, AB (Photo by Karol Dabbs)

In Medicine Hat, Morganne Wall, natural area manager, southeast Alberta, looks for the yellow blooming of the buffalo bean as the snow begins to melt around it. “We were taught in college that First Nations used observations of the flowers blooming to indicate that bison were ready to hunt every spring, which indicated the end of winter! I also just think it is a really pretty (although toxic) native plant.” Morganne also looks forward to the cross-over in the spring when rough-legged hawks are headed north and other migratory raptors return, such as ferruginous hawk.

Whether you are a novice naturalist or a professional biologist, taking a moment to notice seasonal changes can help you connect to nature. Take a moment each day or week to notice changes in your backyard or neighbourhood. Over time you may be surprised with the subtle changes you notice!

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