First hints of spring

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What is it after a long winter that gives you a first hint of spring?

As surely as no two of us can entirely agree on just what kind of winter we had, the anticipation of spring manifests itself to us in different ways.

I suspect a skier might see it in the patches of bare ground that seem to show up almost overnight on the slopes of Mount Werner.

My wife proclaims its arrival after seeing the first crocus poking its leaves above the last trace of snow on the south side of our home.

Children find it in forgotten treasures, rediscovered from under a blanket of backyard snow. For me the sudden reappearance of certain animals, out of sight and mind from last fall, are my first clues that a change is in the air.

My first hint of spring is the sound of Canada geese and Sandhill Cranes returning to the valley.

Logic tells me that Canada Geese aren't a sure bet. After all any animal from Canada and covered with goose down isn't worried about a little snow and cold.

But Sandhill Cranes now there's a warm weather bird if I ever saw one. No down, no winter coat, not a hint of fat on that body. Spring can't be far off if they're back.

While geese and cranes may be fair barometers of impending spring the mating rituals of our native grouse is what finally helps me shake off the winter blahs for good.

Three of Colorado's seven native grouse species inhabit the Yampa Valley. Sage and sharp-tailed grouse males show up each spring on historical display grounds called leks where they engage in elaborate breeding displays.

Leks may contain as few as a half-dozen males to as many as 80. However, by the time females arrive on leks from mid-April to early May, only a few males will have established themselves as dominant breeding birds.

Blue grouse are the loners of our local grouse and don't attend communal leks.

Males of this species establish territories and engage in solitary displays in the hopes of attracting local females.

These are just a few of the species that welcome the arrival of spring with exciting changes in behavior.

Why not break up one of our gray mud season days with an early morning trip to see some of springs' spectacles? If you are interested in viewing sharp-tails and sage grouse on leks this month, please contact either the Hayden Chamber of Commerce or the Walden Chamber of Commerce for information on upcoming trips.

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