Surveillance Season

March is the month when Midwestern naturalists, including myself, begin our daily surveys of the changing flora and fauna on our property. The lengthening days, milder temperatures and thawing soil trigger a range of events that lead from the demise of winter to its resurgence, late next fall. Over the coming weeks, greenery will spread from the lawn to the treetops, flowers will increase in number and variety, insect populations will explode, summer birds will return from their winter haunts, toads will trill on balmy nights and newborn mammals will leave their dens to explore an inviting yet dangerous world.

Each day brings a subtle change as we watch the season unfurl and anticipate the luxurience of May and June. For now, we are content with the flowers of bulb plants, forsythias and early magnolias and welcome the fragrance of warming soil. We relish the intensity of bird song, watch the robins build their nests and take note of courtship behavior in our other avian residents. Tree swallows appear overhead, pregnant bumble bees move among the early blossums and the first potent thunderstorms of spring rumble across the Heartland.

Our daily surveillance will continue until the oppressive heat of summer dampens our enthusiasm for outdoor activity. Even then, relatively mild evenings, alive with the buzz of insects, will coaxe us from our air conditioned homes and ease us toward the glorious days of autumn; it is then that our enthusiasm is rekindled as we observe the steady but colorful demise of summer's bounty.