Early Signs of Spring

As we shovel snow and brace for cold north winds this week, it’s hard to feel very encouraged that spring is just around the corner. However, in looking at the Natural Events Calendar for the first half of February, it’s clear that several wildlife species are likely to begin feeling the approach of spring at this time. Here’s a sampling of natural events typically occurring during the first two weeks of February:

  • Groundhogs breed through March
  • The first birds song of the new year appears--chickadees
  • Great horned owls begin nesting
  • American goldfinches begin molting into breeding colors
  • Male cardinals begin territorial singing
  • Mink begin breeding
  • Screech owls begin nesting
  • Tiger salamander courtship begins

There will be several other signs of spring before February is over. By the end of next week, woodcocks should begin their courtship in southern Missouri counties and turkey vultures and flocks of returning robins will reappear (although some robins have been here all winter). Killdeer will return and the call of boreal chorus frogs will be heard from wetlands and ponds before the month is out.

Even the wildflower, harbinger of spring, may be blooming this month if we get even a few days of mild temperatures. It doesn’t take much warmth to get this small forest wildflower to emerge from the leaf litter and open its tiny white flowers.

Without the benefit of calendars, our plants and wildlife are beginning to take steps to be ready for the upcoming warmer temperatures. Perhaps, if we spent more of our time outdoors, we would also be able to pick up the subtle cues that winter is about to give way to spring. Maybe these signals of approaching spring will provide you with some encouragement as you shovel snow this week.

Key Messages: 
We help people discover nature.