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The first hike of spring

It's getting to be that time of year when this blog will start to resemble a birding guide. I just looked back through some of our more recent exploits/posts and realized that pretty much all of them were outside (finally!) and bird related. Other bits and pieces of nature will edge in as they appear, too, but right now the only real signs of life out there are the birds flitting through the still leafless trees.

Spring is a great time for birding, especially here in Michigan. It's this time of year that the birds are giving up their winter habits and are getting frantic about territory, nests, and mates. For some species that means long migrations, and over the next couple of months we'll be seeing birds return to our area from their winter homes, and we'll also get our one chance to see all those species who are just passing through on their trips farther north.

Back in January Calvin and I started a new species list, keeping track of "first sightings of the year" by date. So far our list includes only 18 species, but it's growing more rapidly now. Just this weekend we were able to add the return of Killdeer and Sandhill Cranes to our neighborhood.

And, inadvertently, we added another tradition or routine to our busy lives. Over the past week, with the return of our neighborhood path thanks to melting temperatures, we were getting out almost every day for short walks—short because we were fighting off colds. But this weekend we were feeling more sprightly, and we resolved to visit one of our favorite hiking spots for the first time this year. The morning was dreary and dull, but the minute we got in the car the sun came out as if to give us further encouragement. The air was still chilly and there were still patches of snow and ice. The forest seemed largely to be still asleep, but as we walked we started to notice just a few signs of life: that patch over there was little greener than its drab surroundings, and the grass at the river's edge was already perking up. And if the tulips that are just pushing their way up in our front yard weren't evidence enough, the frenetic bird activity deep in the woods was definitely another sure sign. Such a cacophony, such a fluttering, such a frenzy. We didn't add any species to our list, but we had such a great time looking for life that we decided to come back next week to look for progress.

And then we realized that we had taken our first trip back into those woods on the first Saturday of spring, just one day after the equinox. That settled it. This will be our new science and nature project for the year: we will visit these woods once a week for the next year, charting her changes. It's a rather large undertaking, but what a great plan it is, and what a splendid accomplishment it would be. It's spring, after all! Time to think big!

Redbellied Woodpecker

Looking for green

The bluebird of happiness looks kind of grouchy

Here we decided the deer have been having forest tea parties. "Clean cups, clean cups, move down, move down, move down!"

Tufted Titmouse

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