With warm days and sunshine appearing more frequently, spring seems to be on the way. Nature seems to know when spring is drawing near, too — sometimes better than we do! Whether wildlife beginning to appear after a long, cold winter or certain flowers popping out of the soil, there are several signs you can spot around The Parklands of Floyds Fork to confirm your hopes of spring.
Cheerful daffodils hint that the dark days and long nights of winter will soon be drawing to a close. Bursting with the promise of sunny days just around the corner, these joyful yellow flowers blossom from late February to early April. For a glimpse, check out the Creekside Center in Beckley Creek Park very soon!
As early as February, we hear the spring peeper frogs! These small, inch-long frogs like wet areas so we know the ground is thawing and the winter snow is melting. These tiny amphibians sing loudly, creating quite a chorus. These tiny frogs are best heard in the Humana Grand Allee in Beckley Creek Park or behind the Ben Stout House in Turkey Run Park.
Turtles sunning on logs
In the winter, aquatic turtles become less active, slow their metabolism and use less oxygen. Some will burrow into the mud. The sight of turtles lined up on a log, basking in the sun, is one of the earliest signs of spring. Basking in the sun helps turtles absorb heat to maintain body temperature and vitamin D to harden shells. Turtles can be seen up and down Floyds Fork but Floyds Flats in Beckley Creek Park is one of our favorite places to look!
During the depths of winter, crayfish are rarely seen. They become less active in the wintertime, moving to deeper waters or burrowing into mud and under rocks. Their burrows may be a few inches to more than a yard deep. Crayfish will begin to emerge and spawn as water temperatures rise in the spring. Try the gravel bar off the Sycamore Trail in Beckely Creek for a glimpse of these invertebrates!
Love is in the air…and it stinks! February through March is mating season for skunks. Females will generate an aroma in order to reject an unwanted suitor. If you see a skunk this spring, be sure to keep your distance, and keep your pets away from them. Skunks can spray up to 15 feet. Skunks are most frequently seen in the forest so try Turkey Run Park to spot these critters although keep your distance!
Woodpeckers use drumming both as a territorial announcement and as a part of spring courtship. Among our common drummers are pileated and downy woodpeckers, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, and the northern flicker.
The bare, leafless branches are about to burst into color with spring leaves. Maples and willows are among the first trees to show signs of budding. The warming temperature and increased daylight spur the growth of new leaves on trees, causing a burst of green from Earth’s plant life that gives the season its signature color.
Killdeer’s spring migration is very early, they return to our area in February or March. Do not look for killdeer in trees, as they nest on the ground in open areas of shallow gravel or soil. Many people have been fooled by the bird’s “broken-wing” act, in which it flails along the ground in a show of injury, luring intruders away from its nest. Try searching the Humana Grand Allee for these crafty birds!
Listening to nature is one of the simplest ways to find out when spring will be coming back to stay. By early March, a chorus of birdsong fills the air as males try to find mates and defend their territory. Listen for the songs of sparrows, chickadees, cardinals, indigo buntings, and red-winged blackbirds as these are some of earliest arrivals.
Late winter and early spring are excellent times for raptor watching. Red-tailed and red-shouldered hawk pairs are already courting each other, complete with acrobatic flights, dives, and piercing screams. A vantage point near a wooded hill is the perfect place to watch their rollercoaster-like displays in which you can see them corkscrewing down from a great height, then soaring back into the skies.
Spring is just around the corner. Paying attention to these various signs of the upcoming season can make this dreary transition period more manageable. When the winter weather breaks, get out and look for signs that spring is on its way!
Spring is nature’s way of saying, “Let’s party!”
– Robin Williams (1951–2014)