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Technically, it is spring. But I just saw snow falling and the wind feels more February-like. The line between the seasons can be wonderfully elusive, but we have been noticing indicators of coming warmth here in High Park.

Robins returning is one of the most familiar signs of spring, but many of these Robins never left Toronto at all actually. They simply lay low in thick vegetation. As long as there are berries around to eat, Robins can survive very cold weather. In spring they start singing, hunting worms and generally making themselves known.

Red-Winged Blackbird Male - photo by Jon Hayes

RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (MALE). PHOTO: JON HAYES

Some male Red-Winged Blackbirds have returned from the south. They can be heard jostling for breeding territory near most ponds with loud “conk-a-reeee” calls. Males are on their way north and the less-distinct looking females are still a few weeks away. Watch out for the dive-bombers once nesting begins.

Some trees are flowering! Not the showy blossoms yet, but still flowers. Silver Maples are one of the first trees to flower in spring. The pollen flowers are whitish but the seed flowers are brilliant pink.

Silver Maple Seed Flowers - photo by Jon Hayes

SILVER MAPLE SEED FLOWERS. PHOTO: JON HAYES

These are really common street trees in Toronto, so check out the Maples in your neighbourhood too. These flowers will become the maple keys (AKA “helicopters”) to be played with later in summer.

Even turtles were spotted basking for warmth on the logs this past weekend. After spending all winter in the mud at the bottom of a pond, they must really appreciate that first bit of sun. You can learn more about excellent citizen-science programs such as Turtle Tally, FrogWatch Ontario and Adopt-a-Pond on April 18.

This spring, one big way to help birds as they migrate north is to know what to do when you find a baby bird. It can be confusing to know how to help but Toronto Wildlife Centre has a user-friendly online guide to help you through the steps.

Why not go for a hike to see what signs of spring are emerging in your neighbourhood? Make your own spring scavenger hunt.

Is This It? - photo by Helen Spitzer

IS THIS IT? PHOTO: HELEN SPITZER

Photograph each sign of spring as you notice it. If you keep track for a few years you can compare the seasonal changes and look for patterns.

Jon Hayes is Family Programs Coordinator at High Park Nature Centre. He can’t wait to do some birdwatching with daughter Eleanor this spring migration.

Coming up at High Park Nature Centre

• APRIL 13: 1-3 p.m. SPRING HAS SPRUNG: FAMILY NATURE WALK$2 per person or pay-what-you-can. Sponsored by Ontario Field Naturalists.

APRIL 18: 7-8 p.m. CITIZEN SCIENCE WITH ADOPT-A-POND. Learn how to help Ontario’s turtles and frogs: this workshop will help you identify common species. With the help of Ontario Turtle Tally and FrogWatch Ontario, you and your kids can help conserve these animals in the Greater Toronto area by reporting your wildlife sightings. Please pre-register: Ages 10+. Donations accepted at the door.

• APRIL 27: 1-3 p.m. SPRING CREEK: FAMILY NATURE WALKFollow Spring Creek from the north end to the marshy south, and find evidence of an ancient underground river beneath our feet. Meet at SW corner of Bloor St. W. + Parkside Drive. $2 per person or pay-what-you-can. Sponsored by Ontario Field Naturalists.

High Park Nature Centre has truly excellent nature birthday parties throughout the spring. They’re perfect for nature-loving families who would like to celebrate in a fun and environmentally-friendly learning environment.

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