Spring Sense

Bloodroot. Photo courtesy of Michael McDowell.

Most everyone probably has something from the first spring they can remember, even if only a fragment of a memory. One of my favorite is the smell of thawing ground combined with the moist decay of woodland. I suspect it’s one of my earliest memories I have learned to associate with spring‘s arrival. Such accumulated fragments fuel our ability to reminisce from spring to spring throughout our lives.

Though this winter continues to cast long shadows over fields and prairies, the afternoon breeze no longer delivers a cold sting. Soon, migrating Sandhill Cranes will once again grace the skies over southern Wisconsin. Even in winter, though, nature’s harbingers can be found during a visit to the woods. A fresh season of life begins to emerge as a female Great Horned Owl protects her recently laid eggs on a large stick nest. I enjoy how nature initiates her work slowly, a crescendo through April, and then a flurry of activity by May!

As a learned amateur naturalist, the accumulation of these memories matures over time into a phylogenic parade of reunion and rebirth. Whether a stream swelling with runoff, blossoming wildflowers, an insect hatching, or perhaps a recoiling earthworm, such “first of the season” observations can trigger a peculiar emotion that seems similar to déjà vu. Even if merely an anomaly of memory, it adds a kind of transcendent quality to spring’s glory as it unfolds through April and May.

Spring is also a time of reunion with fellow birders and friends I haven’t seen since fall migration. During this spring’s transition, rebirth, and reunion, remember let your binoculars rest against your chest once in a while and simply let your eyes, ears, and lungs collect the natural beauty all around you. Looking at the ground, you might decide to kneel in the grass and inspect the tiny lives residing there. To the sky, face south and feel the wind. If the breeze feels warm against your face, then perhaps millions of feathered promises will reunite with your favorite bird haunt the following morning.

Article and photo of Bloodroot contributed by Mike McDowell, an avid digiscoper, amateur naturalist, and Eagle Optics employee.