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Spring in Southeast Minnesota

Bud on end of branch

By Tarryn Hanson, Rochester Maples Field Crew Leader / AmeriCorps Member

Spring comes early down in the Southern part of Minnesota. Just a few weeks ago in February there were snowstorms and temperatures below 0˚, and now the snow is gone, and days can be in the 60s. We have had rain, snow, and shine all in one day. Besides the obvious changing of the weather, there are many other signs that spring is starting if you know where to look.

Bud on end of branch
The buds of a boxelder tree on the banks of the Zumbro River.

Plants and animals alike are all becoming active and returning to the area. Trees and shrubs that have been dormant over winter are experiencing bud burst, which is when sap and nutrients begin flowing to dormant buds preparing to bloom. Some of the earliest forbs and herbaceous species may even be starting to green already. Migratory birds are beginning to travel through the region, either to return here to their summer breeding grounds, or continuing farther beyond to a more northerly home. Some species I have noticed returning to our work sites are sparrows, robins, red-winged black birds, finches, swans, geese, and ducks. Some less than pleasant species we will soon have to deal with are ticks and mosquitoes, we even saw our first mosquito of the season in the past week. While we may not like the insect populations, they are a main food source for many amphibians in the state. Many frog, toad, and salamander species are going to become active soon, and nights will be filled with the chorus of frog calls.

grass on forest edge
Grass growing on the forest edge.

Spring is a time of change, new life, and regeneration. Plants seemingly dead spring to life, and the air is filled with birdsong and the smell of rain and wet earth. The weather will be hot and cold, we may have thunderstorms or blizzards yet in store, but the first signs of spring are clear to see and here to stay, at least until we get to the heat of summer.

river and prairie
A prairie also along the Zumbro River. All these were taken at Oxbow park a site we occasionally work at.