“Spring” in Montana is a weeks long exercise in frustration. Gray skies, wind-blown dust, snow storms, driving sleet…it drives me nuts.
But when I hear the snow geese honking overhead as they make their way north, or see “my” eagles fixing up their nests I get a glimmer of hope that change is really on the way. One by one, the birds return: first, of course, are the huge flocks of snow geese and tundra swans. Then one day a mountain bluebird streaks from a fencepost, followed by a western meadowlark singing from another post. Redwinged blackbirds are suddenly everywhere, and the ducks! Northern shovelers, buffleheads, and hooded mergansers suddenly appear in ponds and rivers where just last week there were only lonely mallards. The gorgeous pelicans come back, and the grebes are changing into their silly breeding hairdos. The osprey usually take longer to show up, but I did see an industrious fellow last week, busily repairing his nest.
When I hear the rattling call of the sandhill cranes, and see them gliding into their favorite stubble fields…that’s when I know that winter is truly over. They’re here. It’s spring.