By Laurie Sheppard
I hate winter!! That's one of the the reasons I like living in North Texas - spring comes early here. Just about the time the holidays are over, I start looking for a change in the seasons. I'm ready to give up the long dark nights and enjoy late sunsets instead. Despite recent snowstorms, I'm optimistic that warmer weather is right around the corner. No, my redbud tree is not in bloom yet and the mercury has not emerged from the depths of the fifties, but I do see signs of spring everywhere.
Driving to the Refuge, I love to look out over the autumn planted fields and see a brilliant emerald carpet. Even along the roadside, there are sprouts of fresh green grass, and I know before long I'll see blossoms on Bradford Pear trees in yards along the way. One of the olfactory signs of spring struck me as I was driving home from the Friends board meeting at the Refuge last Thursday night. In spring, skunks become more active and occasionally one wanders onto the highway and the inevitable occurs.
Another sure sign of spring is the changes in the birds. You can hear it and see it at Hagerman. Cardinals and others call loudly from treetops to attract a mate. Yellow-rumped Warblers can be seen courting - they fly out from a bush or tree and flit about before returning to the same perch, almost as if they are saying "Look at me!"
Last year's babies who looked so much like their mothers all winter are starting to come into their adult plumage. Young male Red-winged Blackbirds are shedding their brown feathers and bursting out in shiny black with brilliant yellow and red shoulders. They're gathering in groups and trying out their grownup voices. Great Blue Herons with dull grey heads are suddenly sprouting distinctive black and white, and adolescent Northern Shovelers look bedraggled, caught in between juvenile and adult feather.
New birds are arriving here everyday - I know it's spring when House Finches show up at my feeding station to compete with the House Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos. Chipping Sparrows scratch around in winter-moist soil for new sprouts and overlooked seeds. More and more shorebirds arrive at Hagerman as the Snow and Ross's Geese gather for their return trip north.
Now, where are those Redbuds?
Visit the Refuge soon to see these signs of spring for yourself. For more information, see http://www.friendsofhagerman.com.
Photos - Adolescent Shovelers, and Chipping Sparrow - by Laurie Sheppard