This is not a drill

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Spring is here!

This first winter way up on a foothill of the Green Mountains has been an education. The valley where we lived before was in a cold spot—we got the coldest lows in town on winter nights. But we did not get the kind of snow we get up here, and we had the benefit of open, south-facing fields. So I’ve been on the alert for every little sign of spring, squeezing every drop of joy out of it.

But last week, the birds started singing, and there was more spring joy than I could possibly soak up—despite there still being a foot of snow covering most of the lawn. (I did try, though, and got a sunburned face and ears for my efforts.) Purple finches showed up—the first migratory birds I’ve seen up here since fall. Goldfinches, which are not migratory, still prefer the climate further down in the valleys, but they showed up last week, too. And an enormous flock of juncos made it look like the ground in the liminal space between our yard and the forest was alive and moving. A week after many of these pictures were taken, the only snow left is in snowbanks on the shady side of the house.

Note: Black bears are awake, active, and very hungry now. Most wildlife agencies advise taking down bird feeders on April 1, to avoid luring bears into a situation that may lead to their becoming nuisance animals, and eventually killed. However, spring is the hardest time for many birds, especially from early April to mid-May. One way to support the birds while also protecting bears is simply to take your feeders in at night and put them up again in the morning.

First signs.

First signs.

Two juncos on a log.

Two juncos on a log.

Purple finch in the hemlock tree.

Purple finch in the hemlock tree.

Artemisia and Remedios foraging.

Artemisia and Remedios foraging.

The catkin buds of the quaking aspen resemble pussy willows.

The catkin buds of the bigtooth aspen resemble pussy willows.

Chunks would really like to be out there. With the birds.

Chunks would really like to be out there. With the birds.

The cats--in this case, Soph--are allowed out on a leash for short excursions.

The cats–in this case, Soph–are allowed out on a leash for short excursions.

A migratory evening grosbeak (right) tries to figure out the feeder's cage.

A migratory evening grosbeak (right) tries to figure out the feeder’s cage. Note that there is no snow in the background!

Crocuses on a grave in the cemetery down the road.

Crocuses on a grave in the cemetery down the road.

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How’s spring coming along in your neck of the woods?

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