North country spring: beyond the robin’s return

Pileated woodpecker

Pileated at work.

When my son was little, we’d take a walk to look for signs of spring in late March or early April, with a basket to put treasures we found: bits of newly exposed moss, or a dropped bird feather, or a bit of green pushing through the softening duff. This in lieu of Easter egg hunts.


Wood chips below pileated work site.

Every year, there’s a moment when I really feel spring. It may be before March 20 (rarely) or weeks after the official start of the season. It hit me on Sunday when I saw a pileated woodpecker (the link includes a sample of its call). Well, first I heard it, then I explored the back side of the tree right across the road from my house and the bird, totally engrossed in its drilling let me watch it for quite some time.

Then, I was in Dale Hobson’s office talking about watching the pileated woodpecker and he said, “y’know, they have special cranial shock absorbers so they don’t kill themselves with all that pounding.” Of course. But I’d never thought of that before. Dale found a great link to fill you in on those piciforme crania. Oh, and while we’re at it, how about woodpecker tongues? Check out this two minute video:

Okay, we’ve got the spring return of the woodpeckers covered. Now, here are a few iconic spring images from my walk this morning, and from around our farm.

The fields have that striated spring dressing as the snow and ice crawl back into the ground.

Today will be a perfect day for the sap to run. Our neighbors Brian and Gary, on Blue Heron Farm, have had their sign out for the past few weeks as the syrup-making is in full swing.

Okay, this is not just another cute llama photo: check out our woodpile along the fence line. The question in the spring: how well did we do with estimating wood needs for the winter? We only had to “steal” one section of next year’s wood.

Get ready. Can’t talk about spring on our farm without talking about lambs. Here’s this year’s cute lamb photo set.

Lambs on the lam, a spring road trip romp, with the pug.

Bring in the real dog, Leda.

Captured! Time for a bottle.

Your turn. What tells you it’s definitely spring, no turning back to winter, the sun is on our side?

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8 Comments on “North country spring: beyond the robin’s return”

  1. Dale says:

    My favorite detail of woodpecker anatomy is the extra inner eyelid that prevents their eyeballs from popping out when they are pounding on a tree.

  2. Jim says:

    The surest sign of spring here on the farm is the “greening” of the southeast slope in the meadow below the house. It generally occurs weeks before anything else sprouts and often before the general snow-melt and the ice break-up on the ponds.

  3. Ellen Rocco says:

    Jim, My husband and I were just talking this morning about when we might see the first greening of the pastures and meadows. (We’ve cut it pretty close this year in terms of how much hay we mowed away for the winter.) Bill thinks we’re a couple of weeks away from that first “blush” of green. I’m less optimistic. Seems as if the groundfrost has to be gone and we need some warm rain. But, reading your post, maybe you’re right–there are south-facing areas that green up long before ground that does not south face. (Hmm…virtually all of our pasture does not have southern exposure.) We’ll see. Let me know when you see that early green. Thanks.

  4. Terence says:

    Lovely post!

  5. Ellen Rocco says:

    Thanks, Terence.

  6. Amanda Barnes says:

    Snow fleas are my favorite early spring greeting. Also known as spring backs, they are the tiny black flecks that appear on snow piles.If they move and jump, they are not just dirt.

  7. Jim says:

    Ellen, I am expecting to see the green burst any time now, a warm rain would clinch it, will keep you posted…..

  8. Kelly Trombley says:

    My favorite first sign of Spring is when I can hang out my laundry and not freeze to death in the process!

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