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Spring: Get Out and Enjoy!

The spring equinox is behind us. Spring is officially here, and that means the activity on our prairies, woodlands, marshes, and lakes will be ramping up soon if it hasn’t already. And the next month or so is one of the best times of the year to get out and enjoy nature.

We are already hearing and seeing flocks of geese overhead. They often stop to rest and stoke their biological furnaces on their way north. Some will stay of course. And along with geese will be other waterfowl and shorebirds to observe as well.

The robins are back in some areas already. Seeing the first robin is always a special spring treat. And hearing their liquid song makes it even more special.

And it is time to start paying closer attention to all those little brown birds flitting around the trees. Sometime in April, certainly by early May, a closer look will reveal that many of those small birds are quite colorful. They are warblers, which are known for their bright and interesting colors. Some are migrating through, while others will stay. But they are most easily observed before the trees and shrubs leaf out.

With the help of a bird guide and perhaps a pair of binoculars you may become familiar with several species. The warbler I most frequently see in the spring is the yellow-rumped warbler. They are bluish-gray with a bright yellow patch on the top of the head, on the wings, and as the name implies, on the rump.

Every North Dakotan owes it to themselves to watch the sharp-tail grouse on their dancing grounds at least once in their lifetime. And if you have done it before, do it again this year. They can be found over much of the state. On a calm morning around sunrise on a tract of prairie during the spring, the cooing, cackling, and stomping sounds may be heard off in the distance. That is a sure sign there the males are out dancing on the dancing grounds, strutting their stuff to impress the ladies. Find the dancing ground, Keep your distance. Don’t spook them. Then get out the binoculars and enjoy the dance competition.

And of course, there are the spring wildflowers. They will be blooming soon. The pasque flower, whitlowwort, little bladderpod, Nuttall’s violet, and Hood’s phlox are among the early wildflowers on our prairies.

There is much to see in the next several weeks. All we have to do is get out there! So, make a concerted effort to get out and enjoy it!

Chuck Lura has a broad knowledge of “Natural North Dakota” and loves sharing that knowledge with others. Since 2005 he has written a weekly column, “Naturalist at Large,” for North Dakota’s newest newspaper, the Lake Metigoshe Mirror. His columns also appear under “The Naturalist” in several other weekly newspapers across North Dakota.
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