Having returned to Colorado after ten days on the Gulf Coast, I decided a visit to South Platte Park was in order. On this sunny, crisp morning, one month past the winter solstice, the ponds had begun to open and an excellent variety of waterfowl graced the preserve.
But the highlight of the morning was provided by one of the least admired residents, the lowly but seasonally abundant red-winged blackbird. Responding to the lengthening daylight, the males were singing from the frozen marsh, anticipating the onset of their breeding season.
Of course, many cold days and frigid nights lie ahead and the heaviest snows of the "winter" will not likely arrive until March and April, when upslope storms rake the Front Range. But the red-winged blackbirds are not meteorologists and pay no attention to the human calendar. They respond only to solar signals and the longer days unleash their hormones. We humans notice the higher sun as well and, despite memories of fickle weather in February and March, sense the early tide of spring.