While birdsong has steadily increased since mid February, snow geese have departed for their summer home and crocuses have brightened the flower beds for the past week, it is in March that the tide of spring begins to accelerate. Longer days and a higher sun take a toll on winter's grip, thawing the soil, greening the lawns and drawing sap into the expanding buds of shrubs and trees.

Robins reappear on our suburban carpets, cottontails produce their first litter of the year, forsythias and red maples start to bloom and great horned owlets peer from their bulky nest. As the month progresses, migrant waterfowl fill our lakes and ponds, Canada geese nest in our marshlands, the purple haze of henbit adorns our floodplains and the greenery of spring climbs from the shrubs to the treetops.

This annual recovery from a frozen landscape is a welcome sign for winter weary humans; but, while many view this season as nature's rebirth, her cycle has never shut down. The colder months may have been relatively quiet and the spectacle of growth and reproduction may have faded from sight but the circle of life continued; predators culled the weak and old, scavengers fed on the victims of winter and, beneath the leaf litter, beetles, worms and fungi recycled the nutrients of death. Without that season of decay and preparation, the vitality of spring could not unfold.