A Whiff of Spring

I’m learning how seasons transition in my new home in Vermont.

The past couple of weeks, every time my dogs and I ventured outside, I heard new bird song. Nothing says spring more vociferously than the happy songs of migrating birds!

Over the deepest part of winter, I was lucky if I heard a crow’s caw. Even they, and the the jays, seemed to hide somewhere, waiting out the worst of the wind and frigid temperatures. Mostly, the over-wintering birds were silent. Recently, though, some black-capped chickadees fluttered around my deck for a few days, making me realize that prior occupants probably had an early-spring feeder out for them. I felt bad. I didn’t know!

Another sign that winter and spring are wrestling for domination is the wild variations in temperature. Within 24 or 48 hours the temperature can swing 50 degrees (Fahrenheit). Daytime temps might climb close to 50F, then drop to minus 4F overnight. Sometimes there’s snow, other times there’s sleet or rain, and when I’m lucky, there’s sunshine. The drastic changes give me weather whiplash.

Yesterday, it truly felt like spring was nigh. I was able to forego my snowshoes and simply walk on bare ground or the small layer of remaining snow in the nearby fields and woods. The wind – the seemingly constant wind – had pushed the snow off the knolls in the fields, exposing the frozen ground underneath. In the trees, the snow had consolidated with the warm temperatures. When temperatures dropped below freezing again, the snow provided a nice, firm surface for the boys and me to walk upon.

Watching the landscape and wildlife change with each season is a treat, a way to learn about my new home. I can’t help but compare Vermont’s seasons to those I experienced in Idaho’s mountains. Finn’s aging and waning endurance provide the perfect excuse for me to slow down, as well, to pay close attention to the finer details of seasonal changes.

forest landscape in snow, two dogs
Firm snow through the woods makes for easy walking, for canines and human.

It was a treat to venture into the fields and forest without snowshoes. While snowshoes are wonderful when the snow is deep, they’re noisy (especially on ice or if the snow has a layer of crust), throw my gait off, and require the use of poles. I prefer quiet, easy walking, without poles. I prefer my feet be as close to the ground as possible.

pine cone in snow
A small pine cone, blown from a tree, nestled in fresh snow, dreaming of becoming a tree some day.

As Finn and I followed Conall’s meandering lead through an open field, I noticed some odd tracks in the distance. I told myself they must be the snowshoe tracks we’d left several days earlier.

As we got closer, I realized I was wrong.

animal tracks in snow near a pond
The odd tracks, leading to and departing from a frozen pond. The dark areas are shadows, not indentations.

They were clearly animal tracks, but left by what animal? With the recent wild temperature variations, lots of melting and freezing had occurred, making the tracks challenging to decipher. Rather than indentations in the snow, they were bulges, protrusions left atop the snow. I imagined a deer, or maybe a moose, walking through here, the snow sticking to the underside of their hooves, clumping and leaving behind condensed piles of snow. Those clumps then were sculpted by wind and melting.

animal tracks in snow next to a dog
Finn next to the tracks, for size context. And because he’s adorable.

There’s always something new and interesting to observe and hear.

Snow melt, part of spring’s natural chorus.

As the boys and I made our way toward a path leading through another section of forest, I noticed some shrubs (saplings?) with buds just forming.

sapling with early buds, rabbit tracks in snow
A budding shrub near rabbit tracks in the snow.

Another sure sign that spring is near.

The shrub/sapling just happened to be in an area I now call the Rabbit Runway because I always see rabbit tracks in the snow here. I’ve yet to see a rabbit, but that’s just as well, as I don’t want either of my dogs to chase one.

As we made our way through the trees, Conall suddenly stopped, cocking his head to listen to something under the snow, right in the middle of the trail.

dogs on snow-covered path in forest, one listening intently
Conall listening.

I figured Conall’s interest in digging for a vole was a good excuse to give Finn a rest. Finn and I watched Conall listen, dig, smell, dig, listen, dig some more…. I’ve learned that Conall knows what he hears and often his digging results in success (in his mind, not necessarily in mine). I let Conall be Conall to the extent I can.

Dig, Conall, dig!

The critter Conall heard was not surrendering. Neither was Conall. Finn and I became bored, waiting.

Waiting.

Ultimately, I had to start walking away while saying, “Conall, treat!” to get him to give up.

My wistful dreams of an early spring, fostered on that walk, were harshly dashed a few hours later.

A new storm front moved in. Temperatures dropped. When I woke up this morning, it was snowing. Nice, light flakes – it was 10F outside – but falling thick and furious, quickly covering the ground and accumulating. But for the near-zero visibility, I would have joyfully taken the boys for another romp in the fields and woods. Even in snowshoes.

Instead, I hunkered inside. The boys kept trying to convince me I should join them outside, even if just in the yard.

two dogs in fresh snow
The boys, giving those guilt-inspiring looks dogs are so good at.

At least six inches of new snow fell today. Temperatures will fall below zero tonight.

Spring, you’re a tease.

But I like you for that. You keep things interesting, while promising so much.

19 thoughts on “A Whiff of Spring”

  1. I’m getting the same astonished reports from my daughter. sixty one day, snow the next. Around here we’re in a steady climb out of winter and I can’t wait for back to back to back sixty degree days.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t think so, Kim. There aren’t any horses around here, which is odd to me, but for whatever reason, they’re scarce in this part of Vermont! Given the size of those clumps, I’m thinking maybe a moose. Road signs all around warn of moose crossings, but I’ve yet to see one. I like the idea they’re moose tracks 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Conall thanks Bear for her compliment and says he’s sure if Finn and I hadn’t been so impatient, he would have succeeded eventually.

      I’m bummed I have yet to see a moose. If highway signs are any indication, they’re plentiful in these parts, but I have yet to see one. I like to think that now, at least, I’ve seen moose tracks.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Good way to describe the weather here: keeps you guessing!

      The guy who plows my driveway, born and raised here, told me this evening that this had been one of the weirdest winters ever, with colder-than-normal-for-longer temperatures, and more ice. He’s done more sanding than ever before. Apparently there’s no more “normal.” No predictability. Keep things… interesting!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thrilled to see Conall digging and sniffing. A fun post with the running spring spring under the snow and the crunch of snow. Thank you!!! We’ve got the tulips popping up but freezing temperatures for the last couple of days. Spring is near!! Beth sends greetings. shelle

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I’m remembering seeing tulips and crocuses blooming in February in the Seattle area. Not here! This will be my first spring here, so I’m eager to see what buds and blooms when. I hope your early blooms survive the freezing temps.

      I never tire of watching Conall dig for whatever it is he hears moving under the snow! It’s like watching a wolf in the wild, if that makes sense. He didn’t want to leave, and had I given him enough time he probably would have been successful, but it was cold and Finn was bored so we continued on our way.

      Hugs to you and Beth! Miss you both!

      Like

    1. Thanks, Siobhan!

      Conall constantly entertains me. I’m sure he heard something – field mouse, vole – under the snow, as I’ve seen him behave in that exact manner many times in the yard, digging and digging until he comes up with one. I love how he tamps his paws hard on the snow, an effort to scare the critter into moving so he can use his hearing to home in on it. I was surprised he came up empty-pawed this time!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I enjoyed your great photos and narrative and thought how I’d react if I were in your snowshoes. Well, first of course they wouldn’t fit. Aside from that I realized, who am I kidding? I’d be standing in your living room waving to Conall and Finn from behind the double pane wndow with the heater on the blast furnace setting. So I think I will simply continue enjoying your posts vicariously.

    Liked by 1 person

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