Waiting for the turn of seasons

Although the mountaintops are still snow-capped and ice still secures the lakes and ponds, there are already numerous signs that indicate the spring season will soon be underway.

Despite the ice jams that continue to obstruct many local rivers, there has already been been a lot of activity in the local sugarbush.

Barring the arrival of a New Ice Age, I fully expect to be fishing on the ponds when the trout season opens April 1.

In past years, I’ve usually enjoyed a long ski tour on the opening day of the trout season in order to check out the ice conditions in the backwoods. It appears that won’t happen this year.

After spending more than a half century working and playing in the local woods and waters, I’ve learned to recognize the signs that precede the impending arrival of spring.

It’s already evident in the woods, where beech whips still retain their faded leaves that tinkle and rustle with every little breeze. Eventually, they will finally fall off and give way as the new buds begin to burst out.

In the fields, pussy willows will soon sprout their velvet buds and a host of wildflowers will soon follow. The sweet smell of maple already scents the mountain air as woodsmoke mixes with the sweet steam bellowing from the sugar shack.

Daylight hours will gradually increase as the frogs begin to offer up a chorus from the bogs. First up will be the spring peepers, followed by bullfrogs singing a deep note of “jug-o-rum.”

Birds will begin to return daily, with loons being the most important. There will be robins, flickers, woodpeckers and finally the laughing call of a loon, which is the sweetest music to an angler’s ear. A loon’s mournful call confirms the ponds have shed their ice cap and indicates the winter season is finally over.

Soon, the melodic honking of Canada geese will mix with the loon’s tune, and their impressive V patterns will again be evident high above as they return on their annual northern migration.

The loons will be followed by a host of returning species that includes great blue herons, ducks and a host of familiar songbirds, of which the white-throated sparrow is one of the most notable.

Rivers and streams will continue to run high with snowmelt from the peaks. Although the ponds and lakes have yet to show signs of spider-webbing, a telltale sign that ice-out is imminent, is when the ice can no longer be considered safe. Currently, there’s open water on the Cascade Lakes, which have historically been one of the last to “ice out,”

Canoes and kayaks have already replaced skis and snowboards on the roof racks of many vehicles. Typically in this stage of the winter season, frost heaves appear to test the shocks and suspensions of vehicles that already look far older than their actual age. However, there wasn’t much of a frost this season, and as a result, there aren’t many bumpy roads across the region.

While we can no longer rely on frost heaves to usher in the spring, I expect we’ll know when the first trickle of blood drips off our ear. That will really confirm the change of season.