The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

We made it; spring is here, says Indian Creek Nature Center director

In City Hall, Indian Creek Nature Center on March 22, 2008 at 12:25 pm

Spend a little time in Rich Patterson’s office at the Indian Creek Nature Center, and before you know it, he’s up on his feet, binoculars in hand, focusing in on some wonder of nature that has appeared in the timber or along the water out his window.

This is where Indian Creek meets the Cedar River, and this time of year, with the river high, the river actually is flowing backward, up the creek.

That’s one sure sign spring has arrived, says Patterson, long-time executive director of the Nature Center in Cedar Rapids.

In addition, the red-winged blackbird, which Patterson has pointed out for some years is one of the earliest and surest harbingers of spring, has been in Eastern Iowa for a week or more.

Have you seen one? Patterson might be able to see these things before most of us.

The red-winged, he says, moves north based on the amount of sunlight, not temperature or a year’s snow cover, and so it gets here as it always has. The male, he has instructed in the past, can take more than one mate, and so gets here to establish turf as early as possible.

Patterson says robins, some of which he says linger all winter, are now here in large numbers. Robins do not migrate great distances, but usually creep south, say to Washington, Iowa, or a little farther south, where the winter is a little milder, he explains.

In a flash, Patterson is on his feet, binoculars back in place, spotting on a blue heron, which had just appeared and is standing tall along the creek bed. That’s a sign of spring, he says.

And, he adds, the turkey vultures are back, too.

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