Conservation Minnesota

Sentinels of Spring

Thumbnail-Dave-DTwo sounds have always lifted the heart of this almost-lifelong suburban dweller as the snow fades – and this year comes back, again and again.  As winter relaxes its grip on 2013 at a tortuously slow pace, I have awaited them more eagerly than ever.

One sound is the trilling of red-winged blackbirds, described by the Audubon Society as conk-la-ree.  That’s not quite the way I hear it, but no matter – the day I first hear it is a day of elation.  Red-winged blackbirds, who often hang out around wetlands and other moist areas, are among the first migrating birds to return to their breeding grounds.

One year, living in Michigan, I heard them on February 27.  That was extraordinarily early, just as this year they seemed to be extraordinarily late.  I heard my first on April 2.  I was thrilled and grateful.

The second sound is the raucous cries of hundreds of small frogs known as spring peepers.  The Minnesota DNR describes the peeper’s music, usually offered in the evening during breeding season, as “similar to the trill of a young chicken, only louder and rising slightly in tone.”  Again, that doesn’t quite capture the audio for me.  Any way you hear them – and usually it’s on the first really warm day of spring – it’s a day to celebrate.  In fact, a chorus of spring peepers sounds much like a successful party.  Something to look forward to when that first 70-degree day finally happens.

Spring peepers also thrive in and around moist habitats – another reason to hang onto and restore wetlands, ponds and other small water bodies in these suburbs, as well as rural areas.

These sentinels of spring are not only a reminder of the cycle of seasons, but a barometer of environmental health. Two reasons why I will be overjoyed to hear both of them them in 2013.

About Dave Dempsey

Dave Dempsey
Dave Dempsey is a resident of Rosemount and author of three books on environmental subjects. He formerly served as Conservation Minnesota's communications director.
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