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There are many signs that spring is near

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One or two days of warm weather are all it takes to renew a person's hopes that winter is not eternal. Spring will once again return to the earth.

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I look for signs from nature to tell me that spring is here or at least just around the corner. Not all of the signs are extremely accurate, but it still sparks that hope.

An old farmer once told me, a sure sign of spring was the return of the buzzards. Turkey vultures do not like to be cold and they will not migrate north until the weather has turned permanently warm. I remembered this and for several years I thought I had received some really sage advice. Those buzzards had it all figured out. When I saw the first buzzard, I was ready to plant a garden.

One late March day, while driving down a gravel road in a blinding snow storm, I noticed something large and dark in a small tree in the ditch. Curious as to what it could be, I stopped and backed up for a closer look. All hunkered down in a tree about six feet tall sat the most miserable buzzard I had ever seen. He was wet and cold and looked extremely unhappy. Close up, a turkey vulture is not attractive on a good day. It was obvious this was not a good day for him. The old farmer was right about buzzards not liking cold weather, but I do not think they have a clue when the cold weather might be permanently gone any more than our weatherman on the television. At least the weatherman can put on his coat and go home when he is wrong. This poor bird had to live with his forecasting mistake.

This spring, my wife and I have seen bluebirds and robins. This is a good sign that spring is closer but not a sure sign it is here. Many times I have seen robins hopping around in several inches of snow looking for worms that are not there. I have also seen bluebirds at the bird feeders eating seeds since there usual food source of insects are not out and about. They really show up at the feeders when my wife puts out the seed that contains assorted dried insects and fruit. It costs a small fortune, but makes the birds happy that have gotten overly zealous on there migration and depend on bugs and berries for their survival.

Last weekend, we also saw five trumpeter swans. There is something about swans that give a person that feeling; they probably know what they are doing. The trumpeters are huge magnificent birds, requiring open water and a lot of food to survive. They surely are not misguided enough to travel a thousand miles or more to starve to death in a snow storm. If the swans are back, perhaps spring really is here. The group of swans consisted of two young ones, slightly smaller and gray. The three adults may have been a mated pair and a two-year-old offspring, or perhaps just a friend that decided to fly along, since one or more of the group seemed to know where they were going. None of the five had neck-bands, so they were not raised in captivity. They were in a large puddle in the middle of a cornfield, apparently just taking a break in their flight. By the time we went home to get the spotting scope and camera, they had continued on their way.

I am sure I am no more tired of winter than everybody else. Most people have had all the fun they can stand in the cold and snow. Wildlife that has to live the weather everyday has to be more exhausted from fighting it than we as people are.

Before long, warm weather and green grass will return. Until then, we can watch the changes around us as nature prepares for a new season. Just do not bet too much on everything in nature knowing exactly when spring is here.

Walter Scott is an outdoors enthusiast and freelance writer from Bloomfield, Iowa.

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