It is early March and the days have been getting longer now for two months. On a sunny day the sun has now more power and it is now actually enjoyable to be outside, at least when it is sunny. At the Canoe Launch parking lot mallard ducks have been staying for most of the winter, especially when there is open water around and for the most part there is. Squirrels get active again. They don’t really hibernate but when it gets really cold they stay in their dens to avoid the cold. Foxes make their rounds as usual, always on the lookout for some morsels to eat. But now the snow has started to slowly melt and as the temperature keeps rising new guests arrive for a stopover. Ducks and geese on their way to their northern breeding grounds come to rest for a few days and feed before moving on to their final destination. The air is filled with the quacking. Sometimes, for no apparent reason, whole flocks of ducks rise into the air, fly a couple of rounds just to return to the open water once again. Something must have spooked them.
Further along the way other birds are surviving the cold. Woodpeckers can be heard digging their pointed beaks into the soft, decaying wood of cottonwood snags for their choice of bugs and their larvae, which spent their winter burrowed in the hope of survival. No such luck today. Chickadees feed on the sunflower seeds people have placed in several locations and the squirrels are helping themselves too. Other birds join in to the free-for-all. They are mainly migratory which have chosen the park as a stopover just like many of the ducks.
As March turns into April the snow is almost gone and only clings to the shadiest of places but with the climbing temperatures it also will be gone soon. The river has risen considerably from its winter level. Fed from the melting snow-pack the water level changes with the temperatures: low on cold days and high on hot days. The sun is now more powerful and coaxes the trees into budding. The odd leaf of grass shows itself and the pussy willows are in full bloom. The odd bear shows its face around the park, usually in the early morning. Hungry from the long hibernation he climbs up the tall cottonwoods in search of some food: leaf buds. The bear and several of his friends live on an island, which is part of the park but inaccessible without the aid of a boat.
After the arrival of May the buds on the trees are turning into leafs and the air is filled with the intoxicating smell of flowers as all the different plants offer their nectar to the bees and other insects in exchange for the pollination so they can produce the seeds necessary to procreate. The river has now risen quite high and flooded the low-lying parts of the park. Most ducks and geese have left now but the ones, which stayed behind now move in amongst the trees. They prefer the tree cover away from the prying eyes of the eagles to raise their families. The eagles used to have a nest on this side of the river but when it came crashing down several years ago they opted to move across the river and rebuild. But they come still over for an occasional visit.
With the arrival of June the water level starts to drop. Most of the snow in the mountains has melted and the run-off has found its way downstream. The flowers and their smells begin to fade and the temperatures keep climbing. Most furbearers have traded their heavy winter coats for a much lighter one. Beavers start working on their dam again to keep some of the water behind. Summer must be just around the corner.
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