Temperatures hit 70° yesterday. Like magic, gone was the heavy snow that blanketed the ground just 4 days ago. Folks shed down jackets and scarves in favor of t-shirts and shorts. Tennis shoes replaced boots. There was a fever in the air…. a spring fever. And I caught it, too.
I took a walk to look for evidence of spring in nature. I spotted the first eagle, the first flock of robins, red-winged blackbirds, two song sparrows, and two bluebirds fluttering around a fencepost. I stopped to examine a tight tangle of shrubs that, like most deciduous plants, did not have leaves yet. It had both male and female catkins and buds that were plumping along the stems.
Although there were no leaves, the pollen-bearing drooping male catkins and the cone-like female catkins revealed clues to the identity. I’m going to guess that this dense thicket is alder shrubs. They were about 6′ tall, growing along a low, marshy area next to the road. The bark of the shrubs was dark with white spots and covered with lichen.
Although these shrubs are undesirable for the home landscape, they are beneficial for wildlife. The seeds are a favorite of the common redpoll, a bird I’m patiently waiting to spot up here in New Hampshire, as well as dozens of other birds.
On the walk back home I spotted a genuine harbinger of spring…. the pussy willow, with its fuzzy catkins! Yes, I took a branch home for the windowsill. Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah… I think spring is here.