It’s almost spring!  According to the calendar, we’ve got less than two weeks until winter officially ends and spring begins.  There are lots of subtle (and not so subtle) clues that spring is just around the corner and I love discovering them one by one.

The temperature is starting to warm up a little, the days are lighter for longer periods of time, the birds seem to be a bit more chatty, and the tulips and daffodils have started to peak out of the ground in my yard!  Note that I’m intentionally ignoring the 4-8″ of snow that’s predicted for today…

Canada Geese in flight

Look no further than just above your head and you’ll likely see or hear birds in migration.  While it’s still a little early for most migrating birds to make their way back to Wisconsin and beyond, I’m beginning to notice more geese, sandhill cranes, and even turkey vultures flying overhead.  On particularly sunny days, robins can be heard barking up a storm while chickadees belt out their classic “deee-deee” call.  It’s a wonderful cacophony of sounds that will only get better as the days get warmer!

American Bladdernut seed pod

If you’re out on a hike and you happen to be near a wooded slope, riverbank, or mesic woodland, you may stumble upon these odd papery seed pods that contain a few seeds that resemble popcorn kernels (they are roughly the same size as well).  The seed pods are usually in a cluster and connected to a short-growing shrub.

The plant is called American bladdernut and it’s a native understory shrub in Wisconsin.  The seed pods manage to hang onto the shrub well into winter and can be found rattling in the wind.

Cooper’s hawk perched in a tree

This time of year is great for watching birds of prey since there is very little foliage for them to hide in.  It seems that lately I’ve seen more hawks being chased by crows than hawks chasing their own prey, and part of that is due to their inability to remain undetected by crows while hunting for sparrows and small rodents.

In fact, one of the easiest ways to spot a bird of prey is to search for a noisy group of crows (a ‘murder’ of crows).  There’s a good chance that the crows aren’t simply making a ruckus for no reason.  Most of the time they’re actively harassing a larger bird until it leaves the area.

I hope you enjoyed my virtual nature tour and happy almost spring!

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