Outdoor Discovery Program at Kearney

Layla Mlnarik looks at furs, skulls and antlers in the wildlife display at the Outdoor Discovery Program at Fort Kearny State Historical Park. Similar activities will be available at the Wild Adventure Day at Pioneers Park to celebrate the arrival of spring.

ERIC FOWLER

"Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!’"

This quote by Robin Williams pretty much says it all about Nebraska’s springtime.

Nebraskans have the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of all four seasons. We might not always appreciate that fact when we are knee-deep in snow or sweating out the 103-degree temperatures, but with each season we experience boundless change, and change is not always a bad thing. Now is the time when we witness many natural changes as the winter melts away and spring pops up. Take a break from the doldrums of winter and your routine hustle and bustle. Step outside and enjoy these changes firsthand.

Frogs and toads calling: Late March through summer

Nebraska is home to 11 different species of frogs and toads. By late March you will begin hearing the males, in the early evening or during the night, calling to attract a female. Amphibian “symphonies” occur anywhere there is a body of water. Holmes Lake, the pond at Pioneers Park, Wagon Train Lake, I’ve even heard them in my own backyard! When you are out at night, open your ears and listen for the “jug-o-rummmmm” of the bullfrog, the “glick … glick … glick” of the cricket frog, or the “waaaaah” of the Woodhouse’s toad.

Wild turkey courtship: Mid-March through April

Male turkeys have a distinct, fierce gobble that attracts females and warns competing males to step back. An impressive show of their dance moves includes fanning their feathers, lowering their wings and a great deal of strutting their stuff. They punctuate their display with hums and chump sounds for good measure. Toms will mate with multiple hens, and then gather in bachelor turkey groups called a rafter or gang. The hen turkeys raise the chicks and combine with other extended family groups of one or two adult hens to care for the young.

Mourning cloak butterflies flying on warm days: early March

Most insects spend winter as eggs or larvae. Mourning cloak butterflies are different. They spend their winter as adults. When it is cold, they seek shelter under decomposing leaves on the ground, loose pieces of bark on a tree, or a rotting log. In the warmth of an early spring day, the adult butterflies will emerge from their warm hiding spots in search of food — tree sap. The spring foraging expeditions of mourning cloak butterflies are a definitive sign that summer is just around the corner.

There is so much to observe in nature this spring. My challenge to you is to step outside and participate in some of the activity. If not the ones I have listed above, then follow your “springstincts,” even if it is in your own backyard. Find a spot, get comfortable and watch spring unfold before your eyes and ears.

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