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Signs of Spring

Roger Urbaniak looks far and wide for early signs of spring in the Northwest

Each year, usually in March, I get fed up with winter. I suspect that I become sun deprived and yearn to be outside without needing protective rain gear. As thoughts of spring fill my head, I peek outside to see if by some miracle any early indicators of spring have arrived.

Anxiously I search for signs of spring; both near Seattle, and as I travel over Snoqualmie pass to eastern Washington. This is what I look for: Honest bright color from emerging flowers is a treat to my eyes and earns my smile. They are welcome sights after the dull drab of winter. Snowdrops, crocus and primrose are usually the first to bloom in our yard, followed by hellebores, daffodils, hyacinth, Dutch iris and tulip. Budding pussy willow, blooms from Indian plum and blooming witch hazel confirm that days are getting warmer and longer.

Wildflowers begin to show on my drives to eastern Washington. Soon phlox, lupine and yellow daisy will blanket whole hillsides with their blues, purple, whites and yellows. When daylight savings time begins in early March, I get excited. I will have a much needed extra hour of daylight to enjoy every single day. Birds returning from their southern migrations confirm that farmers have planted their fields.

Succulent plants are also beginning to emerge. Ducks, geese and swans make their way up our western

flyways and time their arrival to seed planting in the fields of the Skagit Valley. It is fun to drive between La Conner and Anacortes in March to see flocks of snow geese and swans; ducks and geese feed and gather strength for their push further north.

Smaller birds such as robins and sandpipers join them in flyways. Grouse make drumlike sounds with their wings in the woods while woodpeckers drum out their courting invitations on trees and chimney flashings. Frogs start to chorus with the many new bird calls. There is joyous noise to spring. Rivers swell with snow melt from mountains and foothills. Emerging green grasses act as a magnet for deer, elk and big horn sheep and they migrate to higher elevation to follow its progress. Births by grazing animals coincide with arrival of fresh nutritious grasses. Bull elk and buck deer shed their antlers and gatherers collect them. Predators give birth in the spring too, as food is now plentiful.

Cottonwood buds inform me that morel mushrooms should be emerging and nettles will be tender. Further north, tree tappers hang their buckets on maple trees to intercept the tree’s sap for syrup. May also is when gatherers look for wild onion, asparagus and Camus bulbs. Fishing season opens in many lakes to lure rain weary anglers to sporting good stores.

Sporting enthusiasts note Mariner baseball spring training begins and schedule their trips to Phoenix. NASCAR starts up their racing season. March Madness ends the basketball season with frenzy. The Masters Golf tournament at Augusta motivates local golfers into dusting off their clubs to prepare for a new season. Students celebrate this time with spring break. Sport shows and boat shows open their doors as a precursor to spring and fl aunt the year’s latest gadgets, styles and good deals.

So finish your taxes quickly this year and put off those nagging spring chores. Signs of spring are building up and the outdoors awaits your visit. Time spent having fun outside simply gets added on to the years we are expected to live anyway, and in the end we will be smiling with the memories.

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