Welcome to the muddy, sloppy and mucky season called spring.
Over the weekend our first storm of the season brought strong wind, thunder and rain, only making the yard soupier and ickier. The snow is scarcer but slushier, and the ground is squishier.
There have also been other changes going on outside that highlight the more pleasant signs of spring's arrival.
Before the rain came, so did the robins. A neighbor offered, "It's like they watched the weather report, and saw the rain was coming. They wanted to get here first."
Wednesday my errands took me down Highway 371 to Pine River, Jenkins and Brainerd and then up to Crosslake and back north to Longville. Dozens of red-breasted birds scattered from the sides of the roads as my car whizzed by them. They rose in such numbers that I began to wonder whether they'd been around for a while and I'd only just noticed them. A quick survey of family and friends in the area, however, revealed that they had only just begun to see them that day as well.
In a river near Deep Portage Conservation Reserve, two much larger white birds rested on the ice while a dozen smaller birds paddled nearby. I pulled onto the shoulder to get a better look with my ever-handy binoculars. The large birds were swans, and the smaller birds were Canada geese.
On a lake not far from a couple of diehard ice fishermen were several duck-like birds floating around. I double-checked my field guide to determine what the white and black waterfowl were. From the crescent-shaped white spot in front of the eye, I'm pretty sure they were common goldeneyes.
Another icy lake appeared to be a playground for an active fisher. Later a pair of beavers lounged lazily on a patch of ice while water moved slowly toward a well-dammed culvert. The water of a small creek rushed over a rocky bottom and under a tiny bridge as another beaver gnawed busily on a tree along the shore.
These feathered and furry creatures are just a few of those rejoining us as the weather becomes warmer, food becomes more readily available and open water reappears. Of course other wildlife resurfaces also I was reminded when Tom found a tiny deer tick crawling on the leg of his jeans last week. A pesky reminder to start the monthly flea and tick prevention routine on the dogs.
Spring returns each year with the busy and playful return of our northwoods mammals and birds, as well as another round of rain, mud and ticks. Bringing with it water-skiing, swimming and mosquitoes, summer can't be too far behind.
(Diane McCormack is a correspondent for The Brainerd Dispatch and a freelance writer living in north central Minnesota. Send comments or feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.