Celebrations of Spring
Connecting with Nature

     Spring might seem the furthest thing from reality as I contemplate this article. As of February 17th we have endured 36 straight days of temperatures below the freezing mark. This, off course, matters little to birds like Cardinals and Chickadees. They began singing spring songs earlier this month. The woodpeckers and nuthatches are full of spunk. Dashing and chasing about the woods and dancing circles around the trunks of birch and maple, the nuthatches seem very optimistic. Woodpeckers of several varieties are also getting in the mood. Performing drum solos that can be heard for a mile or more over field and forest, males court their ladies and defend territories. Soon the gold will come back to the finches we thought had left us. We watch each day and the small brown birds at the thistle feeders gradually molt into their familiar breeding plumage. The Gold Finches return! These are some of the earliest signs of Spring. Signs that raise our spirits and carry us through the last bitter cold weeks when winter has worn out its welcome. Come March spring gets down to serious business. Officially relieved of its duties, winter relinquishes control on March 20th.
     By the time the Spring Equinox arrives the first Bluebirds have returned to the southern and central regions of Minnesota. They will claim the nest boxes they occupied last year if they are available. If the real estate market is tight they will search for housing near the old neighborhood. Waterfowl migration is in full swing. Wood Ducks are back and looking for nesting sites near water. Unlike most ducks, hens lay their eggs in cavities just like Bluebirds and House Wrens do! In the absence of large natural cavities like those made by Pileated Woodpeckers, a Wood Duck hen will readily accept a nest box made of cedar. Attracting Bluebirds and providing for Wood Ducks is largely a matter housing, habitat, and timing. Choosing the right house and placing it in the proper habitat is the first step to success. Wood Duck houses should be made available in March and early April. Bluebirds may begin selecting nesting sites by mid March. First year Bluebirds arrive later and may not make up their minds until the end of May!
     I enjoy getting out and taking in all the new sites and sounds of Spring. Sometimes the going gets a little tuff on the trails between the last gaze ice and the first muddy ruts. I take to the bike trails at this time of year. The skiers have abandoned their course and all but the most extreme off road bike enthusiasts will wait just a bit longer before committing rubber to asphalt. Area bike trails provide easy passage through some very productive but otherwise inaccessible wildlife habitat. After the bicyclists return, get on your bike and join them. These trails are wonderful places to observe nature all year long.
     I start my inner celebration of Spring with walks such as these beginning in late March. Each new discovery feeds my soul another spoonful of joy. The bark of Red-oiser Dogwood shrubs turn a stunningly vivid red. Red-winged Blackbirds, mostly males, arrive in marshes and take up intense displays of bravado. Flashing red wing epaulets, they strike an aggressive pose and sing their challenge atop the rattle of last years cattails. Mosses bloom (yes, moss does bloom!) along southern facing slopes protected from sharp wind. I anxiously anticipate the drumming of Ruffed Grouse. The sound, made by their beating wings, can be heard for miles. If you are very lucky, you may encounter this beautiful game bird performing a drumming display. Even watching the ritual performed it is still hard to comprehend the sound that is produced. At night I wake and listen for other treasures to announce their arrival. I listen for the tumultuous trumpeting of swans or the plaintive cries of a lone Killdeer searching in the night. I stand under the stars, despite the cold, to have the raucous rattle of Sandhill Cranes drift down and affirm the sanctity of nature. No matter which creation mythology or branch of science attempts to define it, nature retains her wonder for clerics and scholars alike.
     The full glory of Spring breaks forth. May, a crescendo of color, sounds and smells. May, a month to short for any of us to fully embrace all its gifts. The month that I have been dreaming of each night since the first Cardinal sang “What Cheer!” May calls to each of us to reconnect with the dance of life. It sings in triumph of the promise kept and the world redeemed. The Celebration is on! The invitation is open! Pick your partners and join the dance...
     There are many ways we can celebrate the return of Spring, and many ways to connect to nature. Some will be solitary pursuits while others are joyfully shared with friends and family. Community events are important in defining our culture and strengthening our vision and commitment. This spring, take time to engage the natural world with others. Share the celebration, learn, connect and transform. Here are a few Spring events that encourage you to share and explore.

Some dates are not current and may change!

Minnesota Birding Events List
An extensive online list compiled by Bob Ekblad Go There

A Few Examples...

May 13-14-15
Mississippi Flyway Birding Festival
Join us at the Mississippi Flyway Birding Festival in the La Crosse/Onalaska area of western Wisconsin. SEE ... the fantastic flyway spring migration in progress Contact: Bonnie Koop Audubon - Upper Mississippi River Campaign 608-784-2992 couleeaudubon.org

May 6-7-8 2005
Northwest MN Birding Festival
Headquartered at Lake Bronson State Park (about 45 miles north of Thief River Falls).
Field trips to Agassiz NWR, Wetlands Pine to Prairie Audubon Sanctuary and Old Mill State Park
Phone: Kris Rynning 218-674-4259 or
E-mail - kkr@wiktel.com

May 2006
Great River Birding Festival
!! Cancelled for 2005 !!
Sponsored by Minnesota Audubon's Upper Mississippi River Campaign and Mississippi Valley Partners. Over 18 guided birding events. Birding by boat, birding by railcar and birding by bike. Afternoon seminars and workshops are planned and author/naturalist Stan Tekiela will debut his first audio field guide.
Phone: 877-525-3248
Online at www.mississippi-river.org

May 14-15-16
Bluff Country Bird Festival
Sponsored by Houston Nature Center, Zumbro Valley Audubon, Coulee Region Audubon and SE MN Historic Bluff Country Inc. Headquarters in Houston, MN with field trips to South Park in Houston, Money Creek Woods / Vinegar Ridge RecreationArea, Mound Prairie Marsh/WMA and Beaver Creek Valley State Park. Contact: 800-428-2030
Online at www.bluffcountry.com (click & scroll down)

May 14-15-16
Oak Savanna Birding Festival
Sponsored by Friends of the J.C. Hormel Nature Center and the Austin Audubon Society
The event will be held in Austin, MN. Pre-registration is required. Guided birding tours will be offered both Saturday and Sunday. There will be a viewing of the film "Winged Migration" on Friday evening. A buffet banquet with entertainment will be held Saturday night. For more information: 507-437-4563

Sometime in May
Great Minnesota Morel Festival
Red Wing, MN
Learn the art of hunting the ellusive morel mushroom and take the Myco Challange! Mushroom hunting contest. Exhibits, music, food and fun. Phone: 800-498-3444
Visit the Red Wing VCB at www.redwing.org

May 19-20 2005
Detroit Lakes Festival of Birds
Sponsored by Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce. Hosted by the Historic Holmes Theatre. Trips to Tamarac NWR, Hamden Slough NWR, Itasca State Park and Rothsay WMA. Includes speakers, workshops and birding by boat.
Contact the Chamber: 800-542-3992
Online at www.visitdetroitlakes.com

May 26-27-29 2005
Waters of the Dancing Sky Wildlife Festival
Opportunities to bird by boat, canoe or kayak in Lake of the Woods county in Northern Minnesota
Contact: Lake of the Woods Tourism 800-382-3474

June 4-5-6 2005
Boreal Birding Festival
Sponsored by Grand Marais Area Tourism Association, the North House Folk School, Community Education and the US Forest Service Headquarters at Grand Marais with field trips to Lake Superior, North Shore Hardwoods, Lima Mountain Road, The Gunflint Trail, night owl trips, and more. Includes speakers and evening presentations.
Contact: The North House Folk school at 888-387-9762
Online at Grand Marais Website

Kelly Larson
Northern Flights Wild Bird Store
Bemidji, Minnesota 218-444-3022