Friday, October 7, 2011

Discovering the Signs of Spring

(originally posted March 9, 2011)

Whether you are living in sunny Florida or my home state of North Dakota, where your ground is still blanketed in snow, spring is on its way. The days are getting longer and as a result, nature is beginning to stir and respond in miraculous ways. The wonderful part of it all is that you needn't travel far to see these signs; you can find them in your own backyard if you just look hard enough.

Recently to quench an overwhelming thirst for spring, I took a short safari of sorts in my own Pennsylvania backyard to look for any and all signs that a change of seasons was on its way. The first thing I noticed were the leaf buds on my coral honeysuckle, which looked like they were ready to pop any day now. The first leaves of the season are always exciting!

I had prepared my flower beds last fall for a long winter's nap by blanketing them in an insulating layer of leaves. Now as I gently peeled back some leaves I was rewarded for my efforts with the sight of millipedes, pill bugs, and insects scurrying around beneath the leaf litter. Small green shoots of the native perennial plants I had planted last summer were appearing above the soil and leaves, and it had appeared that some plants had remained green all winter thanks to their leafy insulation! I was amazed at how much new growth these plants were now producing just out of sight.

I next moved my attention to the slate rocks that line my raised flower bed. Carefully lifting one, I was delighted to see a northern brown snake, a tiny native snake that likes to feast on earthworms and slugs. The tiny serpent had awoken from his long hibernation and was no doubt hungry. Looking beneath the neighboring slab of stone, a red-backed salamander had also awoken from its winter slumber.

Not far from my raised garden bed I noticed the sign of another animal rousing from its sleep; the entrance hole to the burrow of an eastern chipmunk had been cleared of leaves and other debris signaling a recent exit. My mind quickly recalled unearthing a nest of newborn chipmunks when installing a container pond in my yard last summer, and was now hoping that a new litter of pups would soon be residing beneath my pond.

All of these signs of spring were right in my own backyard! Whether you live in the north or the south, I invite you to take a close look at your own backyard this weekend. Listen for the sounds of migrating birds, dig in the soil, peel back some leaf litter, and like me, you may find that spring is right around the corner.

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