Beyond the Mud

Across the American Heartland, March is known for its muddy landscapes, cold rain, wet snow and raw, windy days.  But, to the naturalist, March has far more to offer than ugly weather and sloppy terrain.

After all, the month generally brings the first flowers of spring, including crocuses, hyacinths, snowdrops, early tulips, dandelions and the flowers of red maples and forsythia.  Greenery appears on our lawns, first as clumps of wild onion and then spreading to the grass itself.  As the soil thaws and the earthworms rise, American robins stalk those suburban carpets and, by the end of the month, the first young cottontails scurry between the shrub lines.  Out in the wetlands, waterfowl migrations are peaking and the first summer residents, tree swallows and eastern phoebes, make their appearance, serenaded by chorus frogs and spring peepers.  The hysterical calls of flickers echo from the woodlands where the drumming of their red-bellied, downy, hairy and pileated cousins has intensified.  Birdsong is also growing in intensity, lead by northern cardinals, mourning doves, Carolina wrens, robins and homesick white-throated sparrows.

We may have to slog through the mud to witness some of the gifts of March but the effort is always worthwhile.  Besides, the intense heat of summer will be here soon enough; by then, the chill of March will be but a pleasant memory.