Spring Sightings: The Early Birds at Gustavus

Geena Zebrasky – Features Writer

With the arrival of warmer weather comes the arrival of the sounds and sights of many different organisms. You might have noticed that you can hear the birds every morning again and that there’s buds on the trees around campus. The squirrels seem to be more active, and there are perennials poking out of the ground. I could take you down a pathway with all of the organisms you might encounter in the Minnesotan spring season, but that would require more space than just these newspaper pages. So instead, I’ll focus on your favorite morning song writers: birds.
Not all of our birds migrate south for the winter and return in the spring. Year round, you might see a chickadee or two, finches, and even a cardinal or a woodpecker if you’re lucky. This may be surprising because it may seem like all birds disappear over the cold winters, leaving us to a snowy silence. This is because birds tend to be a lot less active during the winter months, roosting somewhere to preserve heat and energy. However, leave a feeder out, and you’ll see plenty of the over-winter birds stowing away seed. Our habit of leaving feeders out can actually encourage more birds to overwinter because they have access to a steady food source they might not otherwise have had.
In the spring you start to hear birds singing more because the weather is warmer, and that means it’s almost mating season for many birds as well. The robin is a classic sign of spring, being one of the first birds to return to Minnesota in early March, along with red-winged blackbirds and tree swallows. You’ve also probably heard the Canada geese and trumpeter swans flying overhead as they head back here for the summer as well.
April will bring even more birds, and many will begin to incubate their eggs. You might catch sight of purple martins, and much of our waterfowl begins to return at this time as well. This continues into the rest of spring, and over the course of May you’ll begin to see as many different warblers arrive to, and often pass through, Minnesota. By the time May comes around, the first eggs are hatching (baby Canada geese! Bluebirds!), and spring has brought life back to Minnesota. As for the rest of the summer, keep an eye out for what birds you see the most, and which leave the earliest as well!

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