Winter wasn’t merciful. It came early and it wasn’t interrupted by many chinooks compared to some winters. However, there have been many signs this past week that prove winter is losing its grip.
As I’m sure you remember, winter first reared its head in October when it dumped a lot of snow. Fast forward to early December and temperatures were quite nice, but then winter attacked us before Christmas and during the holiday season. In fact, we measured our coldest temperature of the entire year on Dec. 31 when the mercury dropped to -41C.
Since mid-February, the days have gotten noticeably longer and recently we enjoyed a run of several consecutive days with warm temperatures and strong sunshine. Since the weekend, the snow in my yard diminished noticeably everyday. More and more grass is showing as the ice and snow melt.
Saturday marked a turning point in the transition from winter to spring. Not only was it the first day I saw an insect buzz past me, it was also the first day the sun made the interior of my truck hot. I had to roll down the window when I sat inside. But most importantly, I saw my first gopher on Saturday.
To me, there are three signs it’s spring. I call these indications the Triple Crown. Although spring officially arrives every year on or around Mar. 21 (this year it’s Mar. 20 at 10:15 a.m.) I don’t believe it’s spring until I see my first gopher, robin and crocus.
I was doing groceries Saturday when I ran into a friend who told me she’d seen many gophers around Piapot. That prompted me to take a drive out of town with the hopes of seeing a gopher for myself. I figured my chances of seeing one were pretty good because I heard on social media that the gophers had been out for about a week already.
After leaving the grocery store, I drove south of town and was pleased to see how much snow and water there still is. After this summer’s drought, we need plenty of moisture. Because of the amount of ice, snow and water in low lying areas, I didn’t bother to look for any gophers there. Instead, I kept my eye on the hilltops where the snow already melted and where there’s less groundwater.
Sure enough, after driving about half a mile south of the water plant I saw a furry creature sunning itself on the top of a hill next to some sagebrush. The animal was far enough away not to be scared I stopped the truck. I peered at the gopher through my binoculars and thought to myself, ‘One down, two to go. Bring on the robins and crocuses.’
Next, I drove west of town to look for a few more gophers. It’s not that I really needed to see more to qualify for the Triple Crown, but if nothing else I wanted to see how many gophers were out and, perhaps more than anything, I wanted to finally be able to drive with the window open after months of winter.
I didn’t see many gophers west of Maple Creek. In fact, there was only one. It was busy chewing grass on an approach. When I slowed down to get a picture it dove into its hole. Maybe the gopher hid because it was worried I’d make it wear Justin Trudeau’s hand-me-downs from his recent trip to India. I’d hide, too.
While looking for gophers, I also kept my eyes open for robins, but didn’t see any. However, I did see a horned lark. Although it’s good to see a migratory bird, horned larks are very hardy and return to the Prairies earlier than most songbirds, often much earlier, so seeing one isn’t a definite sign of spring compared to a robin.
Spring is definitely on its way. I have one part of the Triple Crown complete and am waiting for the robins and crocuses. If you see either of them, please drop me a line.