Around about this time every year I begin to look for the first signs of spring.
I know it is early, but after a long winter on the northern plains the hopeful human looks for any good news that spring is just around the corner.
Only a few signs are enough to encourage us to hang on a tad longer and awaits its glory.
Optimism can lighten a cold dreary day.
And I have picked up on a few early signs.
At my bird-feeder the chickadees are coming less frequently.
In the dead of winter there is a feeding frenzy in the morning, and again in the afternoon.
Every few seconds a chickadee arrives at the feeder, takes a seed and perches on a nearby branch, grasping it with his toes and pecking to get at the fruit inside.
But as the snow recedes on these warmer Chinook days and the ground and grasses become a bit exposed they largely ignore the feeder. They can now forage for a few seeds, berries or whatever it is they find.
For the past week or so I have been hearing the mating call of the chickadees.
That little three-note trill that sounds like “Hey Baby” or High Sweety.”
And a few new birds are passing through. Redpolls, more magpies, a few pine siskins.
So the bird world is on the move, with even the winter residents going a little further afield.
Lately, I have noticed more squirrels running around on the snow, or doing their aerial ballet from tree to tree.
Over the winter I had only one regular squirrel come around but now a frisky three or four are competing for attention.
They too are looking to mate and chasing each other around is part of the foreplay.
Even people and their actions can be considered signalers of spring.
On the roads I have spotted more and more broken bungee cords and pieces of orange and blue poly tarps.
This is a sure sign of spring, in that people are moving materials or goods from one place to another.
Few lightweight poly tarps can stand prolonged snappin’ and whoopin’ in the cold dense wind before becoming frayed.
Surely winter is near the end if folks are now transporting goods for whatever reason.
The existence of spring is signalled by their actions and increased travel. Just looking out the window we can feel spring creeping upon us.
The days are longer, the sun feels stronger on cheek and backside.
The snow gets a brilliant reflective glaze.
Even at -10C on a sunny day, the eavestroughs begin to drip from the roof melt.
The trees look less stark and almost imperceptibly the colour of bark and branch change. Willows begin to unveil a feathery catkin.
It won’t be long before the first gophers will be seen, new calves will be running around all gangly gaited and the bald eagle will be cleaning up the afterbirth.
And when the first bluebirds and robins return we know for sure we have made it through another winter on the northern plains.
Paul Hemingson is a freelance writer who lives near Spruce View. His column appears every other week in LIFE. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.paulhemingson.ca