The birds are starting to search for a mate.
There is a northern flicker drumming on my outdoor grill to attract a mate as I write this. I am tuned into bluebird songs and I have been hearing them sing everywhere. The birds are abandoning the small flocks that they spent the winter in and beginning to pair off. They will begin nesting over the next several weeks.
The other morning I heard a beautiful new bird song in my front yard. I had to grab my bird book to identify the bird with the beautiful voice as a song sparrow. We have lots of chipping sparrows around but I think that was the first song sparrow that I identified. You’ll also hear cardinals, tufted titmice, wrens, and some others with great voices.
It doesn’t take a very warm day for the insects to start crawling and flying again. You might not like that but the birds sure do. On a warm spring day the bluebirds and woodpeckers visit my suet feeder less frequently because they prefer to get their protein from sweet juicy insects rather than from dead animal-fat suet.
Also, as it warms up, you will hear more and more frogs. If you have a wet spot anywhere near your yard the spring peepers (tiny little frogs) will start peeping soon. So will toads and other frogs. My friend Karla spotted some frog’s eggs in a puddle already two weeks ago. Another phenomenon around here is the march of the spotted salamanders. These guys pick the first warm evening of the year to congregate in a vernal (seasonal) pool in the woods to mate, lay eggs, and then disperse back into the woods until their rendezvous the same time next year. It sounds like a political sex scandal, but don’t worry this one is approved by nature.
Spring is the peak of wildflower time in the woods and Tennessee has some of the absolute best wildflowers in the country. The book “Wildflowers of Tennessee” by Dennis Horn is a great one. If you hike with someone who really knows their wildflowers it makes it a lot easier. I am a slow learner when it comes to identifying flowers but I remember a new one or two every year…I think I am up to 10 now..only six or seven hundred to go.
Usually around the first of April is when I first start watching for ticks and snakes. The snakes will mostly be active during the day at this time of year, especially in sunny spots. As we move to summer, the snakes are more active in the cool of the night. Ticks….we have lots of them around here and they seem to be particularly ravenous early in the spring. If you can avoid brushing against vegetation in the woods, and especially in fields, you can reduce your chances of becoming tick food. Check for ticks when you get home after hiking or chasing your golf ball into the woods. It is rare to get a tick when walking around the short grass in your yard, but walk through the edge of a field in knee-high grass and you better beware.
Spring is an exciting time of year…the end of pale skin, high heating bills, and spousal overload. Time to get outside, talk about something besides the cold weather, and enjoy nature.