Late, cold spring hard on gardeners, birds — and bugs

Winter continues to hang on in Central Alberta, keeping gardeners and naturalists wondering if they’ll ever get their plants in the ground or if birds will make it through a difficult spring.

Winter continues to hang on in Central Alberta, keeping gardeners and naturalists wondering if they’ll ever get their plants in the ground or if birds will make it through a difficult spring.

There was a bit of good news from the cool and snowy weather that began late Sunday, carrying into Tuesday and today.

Fire bans have been lifted in all Central Alberta counties and the Town of Olds.

Bans had been ordered prior to the Victoria Day long weekend for 20 provincial parks and recreation areas until snow fell in many parts of the province Monday.

Myrna Pearman, biologist at the Ellis Bird Farm southeast of Lacombe, said tree swallows and purple martins are struggling to make it.

Bluebirds are late. Virtually half their population was wiped out by an April 2008 storm.

The martins and swallows take insects on the wing but the lingering cold weather has halted insect flights.

“If the weather warms up soon our purple martin numbers should be as good or even better than last year when we had a record,” Pearman said.

Pearman said bird numbers appear to be down generally.

“I was out walking in the forest a while ago and was struck by how quiet the woods were. It was silent.

“Usually it’s pretty noisy with birds. Hopefully everything is just late,” Pearman added.

Today isn’t expected to be great.

Possible rain showers could turn to snow flurries with winds reaching 20 km/h in the afternoon. Today’s high is predicted to climb to only 10C.

Environment Canada is calling for warming temperatures by Thursday with a high of 12C and 16 to 19C Friday through until Monday.

The miserable weather forced cancellation of all activities at Great Chief Park Tuesday.

John Bouw, owner of Dentooms Greenhouses, said business was good up until a few days ago with people buying bedding out plants and shrubs.

However, the weekend weather slowed the shopping.

Bouw said a lot of garages and sheds around the area are filled with plants waiting for gardeners to get them in the ground.

“Everything seems to be late this year,” he added.

Red Deer, Ponoka, Lacombe and Camrose counties lifted their fire bans Tuesday morning.

Clearwater County never had a fire ban this spring.

In Red Deer County, fire permits are required for all open fires, including burning barrels within the county. Permits for burning barrels issued before the fire ban are still valid and a new permit is not required. Campfires are allowed without a permit but must be contained within an acceptable fire pit.

As of May 14 the fire ban was lifted for the Town of Olds.

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