By Todd Burras
Winter has passed; spring has arrived.
Not officially of course — that won’t happen for another three weeks — but in reality.
There likely will still be more snow to fall and shovel — maybe even a blizzard or two. Temperatures will rise in and out of the freezing zone, and on occasion we’ll have to drag out the mittens, scarves, heavy coats and boots. But one would have to have been locked inside with the window shades drawn not to have noticed all the spring-like signs emerging outdoors of late.
Earlier this week, there were southerly breezes that left me sweating even in short-sleeves during a long walk around Red Feather Prairie near Saylorville Lake in Polk County. The sound of trickling water as small creeks and streams opened up could be heard while the smell of decomposing leaf litter could be identified in the surrounding woods.
Then there were the birds. Oh, the magnificent sight and sound of scores and scores of different kinds of birds.
In numerous fruit trees in and around Big Creek State Park as well as along Eisenhower Avenue in north Ames near Ada Hayden Heritage Park Lake, there were dozens and dozens of cedar waxwings, one of the most handsome birds ever created. In some of those trees, the waxwings shared both the limbs and the bounty of berries with robins, cardinals and even several bluebirds. Talk about a panopoly of spring-time colors — it doesn’t get much better than that this time of year.
In the woods there were the usual suspects — woodpeckers, juncos, chickadees, nuthatches and doves. In the country there were killdeer, red-winged blackbirds, snow buntings, Lapland larkspurs, American tree sparrows, red-tailed and Cooper’s hawks and even a barred owl on a telephone line. In the trees along the shoreline of the spillway below Saylorville Dam there were mature and immature bald eagles while in the open water there were Canada geese, mallards, a male common merganser (dressed in his finest breeding plumage) and even five American pelicans.
Overhead, azure skies all week have been host to thousands upon thousands of migrating Canada and snow geese chasing the boundaries of the ice line across the Midwest. Trumpeter swans are testing the parameters of open water as well.
During a trip to Colorado last week, my wife, Stephanie, even witnessed hundreds and hundreds of Sandhill cranes flooding into Nebraska near the Platte River from wintering grounds in the Southwest. It seemed a bit early, but there they were, their long bodies and awesome wings drifting over the interstate in small clouds.
Yes, spring is upon us. Get outdoors and absorb this ethereal time.
Todd Burras can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.