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Nature & You: The first sign of spring has feathers

Watching the behavior of the Harris’s sparrow could help determine winter's end. [PATRICIA VELTE]
Watching the behavior of the Harris’s sparrow could help determine winter's end. [PATRICIA VELTE]

First sign of spring has feathers

A change in the seasons is upon us. There comes a time when the daylight hours become exactly equal in length to those of total darkness. It's the advent of the spring season.

As for me, however, I choose to rely not on a stopwatch but, instead, place much more faith in observations of one wild songbird in particular: The Harris's sparrow.

The treeless expanses that are far north of the U.S.-Canadian border play host to the nests of this feathered sprite. Not surprisingly, that region of the Canadian Arctic is locked in snow and ice during the winter months. Eventually, however, winter comes to an end and the Harris's sparrow quits its central Oklahoma winter stay and heads back north.

I enjoy keeping track of such things. When the last Harris's sparrow has departed and they are nowhere to be found hereabouts, I take it as an excuse to rejoice as Ol' Man Winter's back is finally broken.

As far as I am concerned, you can forget what the calendar says. When these little balls of fluff bet their lives on when winter's brutal death knell is no more, it is a clear indication of when the spring season is here to stay.

Backyard gardeners, for example, would do well to play this little nature game that I propose. It is a sure-fire way to figure out what goes in the ground and when.

— Neil Garrison, NewsOK Contributor

Neil Garrison was the longtime naturalist at a central Oklahoma nature center.

Neil Garrison

Neil Garrison is an outdoor nature enthusiast. He is a graduate of Oklahoma State University/Stillwater; he earned a B.S. degree in Wildlife Ecology. Prior to his 2009 retirement, he was the Naturalist at a central Oklahoma nature center for 30... Read more ›

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