Although central Alberta could have benefited from a deeper winter snowpack (let’s hope we get some dousing spring rains), it is uplifting to welcome the early return of warmth and life. The last remaining snow banks are melting, the ponds and rivers are starting to open up, and the pussy willows are erupting.
While I have yet to see a mountain bluebird, reports of first-of-season sightings have been pouring in since the earliest report was made of a male near Delburne on March 12. Since that time, images of bluebirds have been posted on social media from locations all around the province.
There are so many other signs of spring in central Alberta. At the time of writing (Thursday), I have observed that the Richardson’s ground squirrels, beavers and muskrats are out, the snowshoe hares are starting to turn brown, common ravens and house sparrows are hauling nesting material, and bald eagles and great horned owls are on their nests.
Spring migrants are also starting to appear, especially the Canada geese, which have arrived back in droves and are squabbling over wetland territories.
Other early migrants include Northern pintails, red-tailed hawks, rough-legged hawks, American robins, Tundra and trumpeter swans, dark-eyed juncos and American tree sparrows. Most common redpolls, which over recent weeks had become increasingly tetchy with each other, have departed for their Arctic nesting grounds.
The downy woodpeckers in my yard are scrapping, the house finches are singing enthusiastically, the black-capped chickadees have been issuing their cheeze-burger songs, male Northern saw-whet owls are singing their toot toot toot arias, the Northern flickers have been kee keee keeing from the treetops, and our resident pileated woodpecker has found a resonant snag to tap out his distinctive Morse-code messages of love.
Within the next days and weeks, we will expect more and more migrants to start flooding back. If you are an observer of nature, I recommend you join the Red Deer River Naturalists Facebook group and share your first-of-season bird and other spring sightings.
Myrna Pearman is a retired biologist and passionate wildlife observer, photographer and writer. She can be reached at email@example.com.