It’s technically spring in Iowa

By Heidi Reams, Floyd County Conservation Naturalist

Spring?? The calendar says that it’s officially spring in Iowa, yet the weather doesn’t seem to agree. Should we really be surprised?

I recall on February 2 (Ground Hog Day), that Punxsautawny Phil saw his shadow predicting 6 more weeks of winter.

Against the odds, he may have been correct. How do we really know that spring has arrived? What are the signs that we look for?

There are many folklore tales on the arrival of spring.

– Seeing a robin – There are some robins that spend the winter here, especially if they have food, water and shelter. Commonly seen around evergreen groves which make excellent winter cover out of the wind.

– Needs to snow 3 times on a robin’s back. – As the non-resident robins return, sometimes they will arrive before the last snowflake flies. Since these are short lasting snows, there doesn’t seem to be a lasting effect on them.

– The “birdie, birdie” call of the Cardinal, means the backbone of winter has been broken and days will begin getting warmer. After a silent winter, the Cardinals will begin singing as the weather warms. Typically, the length of the days has an impact on the sounds made by birds.

– In the fall, the width of the brown on a wooly bear tells you how hard the winter will be. – This marking tells you the age of the caterpillar. The wider the stripe, the older the caterpillar. Wooly Bear caterpillars hibernate through the winter and in the spring make a cocoon and turn into an Isabella Moth.

Then there are the signs that we look for . . .

– In the prairie, the first flower to bloom is the Pasque flower. This low growing flower has “hairy” stalks to help insulate it from the late cold. It blooms in early to mid-spring for 2 weeks.

– The arrival of migrating birds. Depending on your area, it can be a surprise to hear a Killdeer or Meadowlark for the first time after a silent winter.

– Waterfowl moving through the area taking advantage of potholes of water. Many different
species, not Iowa residents, can be seen on their journey north.

Some seen recently at the and Prairie Park Preserve are Northern Shovelers, Scaup, Pelicans, and Hooded Mergansers.

Patience is a virtue. Spring will arrive no matter what the forecast shows. As Iowa residents, we have the pleasure of enjoying 4 seasons!

It won’t be long until the snow shovels are retired and replaced by lawn mowers and weed trimmers, enjoy the unique opportunity between seasons.

If the weather keeps you inside, take the chance to plan your summer outdoor adventures and make sure to include some of the Floyd County Conservation areas into that plan.

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