Tiny green leaves are appearing on tulip poplars as the blossoms on cherry and pear trees fall like snowflakes to the ground.
The pale greens, bright reds and muted yellows and rusts of early spring leaves are just as spectacular, though shorter-lived, than autumn leaves.
Bloodroot, Virginia bluebells and tiny violets have already bloomed along creeks and mountain trails as spring slowly works its way up the mountains.
The deep purple of redbuds are turning dark pink, which means dogwoods won’t be far behind.
The first tiger swallowtails have joined the earliest butterflies to appear — morning cloaks, commas and cabbages.
Lizards, snakes and frogs are finding sunny spots to warm their cold-blooded bodies. Spring peepers are holding their evening concerts.
Rabbits are nibbling on tender new grass, while deer are shedding their dark winter coats for a lighter spring wardrobe.
Bluebirds, chickadees and other songsters are already nesting and will soon be feeding their hungry offspring.
Flocks of robins are pulling worms out of the warming soil, while bird lovers are on the lookout for the first spring migrants. Blue-gray gnatcatchers and Louisiana water thrushes are among the earliest arrivals in our yard.
Bears are hungry after a long winter’s nap, and one came back to our bird feeder last week, but we scared him off before he could knock it down again.
There is much happening at bird feeders as longtime backyard birders await the arrival of the first hummingbirds, usually in mid-April.
Birds are careening through the air in pursuit of each other, and while it may look like a fight, it’s courtship on the wing. I watched as a white-throated sparrow with a bill full of nesting material was suddenly chased to the ground by three other white-throats. Were they competing for her?
Mourning doves puff out their chests and strut to impress potential mates.
Some birds are still putting on their mating plumage. Most noticeable are the American goldfinches, which turn a drab olive during the winter but grow bright yellow feathers as the daylight hours exceed the dark.
By May, their bodies will be brilliant yellow with a shiny new black forehead. Some people mistakenly think goldfinches leave for the winter, but we have them year round. They just look quite different without their yellow garb.
All birds molt, often twice a year. A molt may be partial and replace just some of a bird’s feathers, or complete.
After a winter in dull plumage, new feathers attract potential mates, and studies have shown that birds with brighter plumage have better breeding success.
Reproduction, after all, is the driving force of life. Whether a cardinal is singing from the top of a tree or a wild turkey is strutting and displaying his impressive tail feathers, birds remind us that life must go on.
Now is the time to keep your eyes and ears open. Spring is transforming the landscape, and in just a matter of days, everything changes. Don’t miss out.