I spotted the first robin of the year on Wednesday, hopping about in the neighbors yard, and have since noticed several more each day. Alycia is of the opinion (gleaned from one of her bird watching books) that Spring hasn't truly arrived until there are flocks of robins bounding about in every yard and peering down from every tree branch. We can't be far off from that scenario.
Friday marked the arrival of the first blackbird and grackle, they look similar - small black birds, but the grackle is slightly larger and lankier, with a longer tail and has iridescent feathers along its head and neck. The grackles are quite entertaining, noisy chatterers that nest in the tall shrubs and raise their young in Spring. By June there are significant numbers of young/juvenile grackles (they're a mottled brown color at this stage) cheeping loudly from various nests throughout the yard.
Along with the fantastic weather comes a large dose of hesitation. Even though this is only my third year here in North Dakota and I only have a sample size of two winter/spring transitions under my belt, my years in New England also give me some insight into Spring's arrival. Usually there's a half step backward for every step forward, a 50 degree triumph one week leads to freezing temps and an April snowstorm the next week, and the first ambitious tulips breaking through the earth get covered with a dusting of snow. It's easy to get caught up in the frenzy to banish winter to ancient history and Mother Nature seems all to willing to remind us not to get ahead of ourselves. And even though it seems so far off in the distant past, we did have snow in May just last year (see North Dakota Snow in May).
We should (emphasize should) have another month of winter, and another 4-6 weeks of nighttime temps below freezing. I'm not dumb enough (though I am getting increasingly tempted) to start anything in the garden and will stick to our mid-May target of setting out seedlings and plants we've started indoors into the garden. But I am concerned that this unprecedented warm weather is going to cause my apple trees, blueberries, and strawberries to leaf out, maybe even flower, and than get hit with a hard freeze. Tender leaves and flower buds getting hit with a hard freeze or significant snowfall could set the plants back a whole season. I've got my fingers crosses that this scenario doesn't come to pass, but we shall see.