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George Little: birds of spring are back

March 20, 2011 at 11:40 AM

The State Journal-Register

We made it!

According to the Old Farmers Almanac, spring arrives March 20. That’s Sunday! We’ll have more and more daylight every day until June 21.

Winter has been a long time going. When the grass starts to grow, even mowing won’t seem so bad — at least for the first couple of months.

The signs of spring are all around. The goldfinches are turning green as they change colors from their dull, brown winter color to the brilliant yellow plumage of late spring and summer. Soon they will look like the birds the old-timers called wild canaries.

The male woodpeckers are hammering away to attract females. They’re a lot like teenage boys, believing the more noise you make, the greater your chances of getting a girl. At least for woodpeckers, it’s true. Don’t be surprised if a strong-beaked, hard-headed, red-bellied woodpecker male finds your downspouts and starts sending up an early morning Morse code.

I saw robins dancing on snowdrifts after this year’s “Blizzard of the Decade” in early February. That strong northeast wind might have blown some of those unfortunates back to Arkansas.

The robins we see every day now are here to stay. The male robins taking up residence for the summer have moved off by themselves and are big-time territorial. There’s a lot of squawking, flapping and pecking when one male tries to invade another guy’s territory. It’s a wonder some high school looking for a mascot hasn’t picked up on all that aggressive posturing and taken to calling themselves the Fighting Robins — at least for the spring sports.

Male bluebirds are on their way, if they aren’t here already. Bluebirds will return to the same house year after year, but they won’t use last year’s nest and they won’t wait around for housekeeping. If you had bluebirds last year and want them back, clean out your bluebird houses now. Nothing irritates those little guys more than going into a hotel room that hasn’t been cleaned.

Squirrels are building nests, too. Hauling the building materials up a tree one twig or leaf at a time, they are a marvel of perseverance. I’ve watched the same squirrel working on a nest for several days, wondering how they know when it’s done.

Kit foxes are on the ground now. Both parents take care of the kits. One of them will be out hunting every night, and sometimes during the day, depending on how many mouths there are to feed. When you see a fresh dirt pile on the side of a hill, or under a big brush pile, it could be a fox den, or even a groundhog that’s excavated his way out of hibernation.

It’s finally spring.

We’re all ready to dig our way out of hibernation. Get out and take a look around. You’ll see several of nature’s critters out there, just as glad as you are that winter is finally gone.

Contact George Little at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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