Sure Signs of Springtime
If that stinkin' wind is blowing and most folks are sneezing, it must be spring in southern New Mexico.
Would you believe that after nearly 21 years of living here in southern New Mexico, I've suddenly figgered out how to tell if it's spring outside?
As I write this, it is the third day of March and I believe that spring officially started about one week ago. And as I started to take note of such, I discovered that there were quite a few signs to signal that spring had begun.
For starters, I was out hiking about eight days ago, and I startled a small sparrow from the grass near my feet; it proceeded to stagger off as if it had a broken wing. Of course, I knew that it was faking the injury in hopes of luring me away from its unseen nest. And this was still in February!
My pair of mourning doves is back from their sojourn to the southern resorts, and I expect them to set up housekeeping very shortly, if they haven't done so already. Research and experience tell me that doves have the first of five pairs of nestlings starting in early March, continuing until late September.
That is the reason the dove population can suffer as much as a 70 percent mortality rate each year and still bounce back and even increase in numbers!
The jackrabbits are chasing each other, too. One poor little doe might have anywhere from one to four suitors after her at any one time — the poor thing.
Another sure sign is the blasted, stinkin' wind! When it blows more than a breeze for four to five days in a week, you know spring has come. And it has been doing such since the last week in February, too. I hate the stinkin' wind!
While I can see a reason for it blowing IF we've had a wet and cold winter, and the wind then dries the ground out for reseeding and planting, we haven't had a wet winter. So why does the wind have to blow so hard?
Most of us could handle the blow-hardiness if it was guaranteed to end come April, but nooo, it has to blow until the monsoon season starts in late June or early July. For you newbies to springtime in our fair state, that wind blowing until early summer is a fact etched in stone, and it never, ever varies!
A secondary downside to the stinkin' wind, and a sure indicator of springtime, is the stinkin' juniper pollen and the attendant allergies. My wife is in constant torment right now, suffering non-stop from itchy eyes, runny nose and scratchy throat. I should have stock in Zirtec, because I could be recouping some of that pile of money she is spending on the meds.
Virtually everyone I know has the juniper blues this year, even folks who have never had them before; one fella I know has even resorted to steroid shots to alleviate his misery. For my own self, I have never suffered from spring allergies, until now. But my plight is minor, having only the annoyance of full ear canals, slight lightheadedness and some sinus drainage into my lungs, which feels like heaviness when I hike hard. I can live with that if that is all I get.
For the ignorant and the uninitiated, if you peer about outdoors, you will see that about 50 percent of the juniper trees appear to be colored bright rust; that is the pollen of the male trees. If the trees are greener, those are the female trees that will bear those familiar silver-green-purple berries come fall-time.
I've counted nine male junipers within spittin' distance of our house and they are more loaded than I've ever seen them with pollen, which probably explains why everyone is suffering. My wife Jeri would love for me to cut them all down, but no way! Messing with pollen-laden junipers is a surefire way to contract the allergy woes!
The best way to get rid of all that pollen is to pray for a good soaking rain or a really heavy, wet snowfall; either would take the wet pollen to the ground. But alas, we haven't had a wet winter, and so all humans must suffer.
I even thought of taking a waterhose to them, but heck, I'd have to do that to 20 acres upwind of the homestead!
Turkey gobblers are talking their fool heads off right now in a prelude to the coming nesting and breeding season. But no matter how warm or cold the weather, it has no effect on the hens coming into heat; that is controlled by the amount of daylight.
I have spent many years studying this, and it appears that hens are ready to breed along about April 1, when they finally arrive at their chosen breeding grounds. But the warm weather does affect the amount of gobbling that the toms do.
Speaking of warm weather, I officially recorded a high of 81 degrees on March 2 at three o'clock. That's warm! And while I hate the stinkin' wind, I love these warm temps. That means spring is here, too. I even started to do my outdoor chores again — things like raking stones and digging out the drainage ditch from all the dirt that has accumulated all winter.
I officially quit hunting critters when I think spring has arrived. I give everything a rest until April 15, when spring turkey season starts. This is one of two sabbaticals that I take per year. The other begins after turkey season on May 10 and ends when bear season begins on August 15.
But that doesn't mean I become dormant; I limber up the old ATV and find new places to explore. This month I plan to go south to the Hatchet Mountains and check them out, since I've never been down there.
As always, keep the sun forever at your back, the wind forever in your face, and may the Forever God bless you too!
Larry Lightner writes Ramblin' Outdoors exclusively for Desert Exposure.