Marshes and Wet Shrublands
Spring's emergence is slow; it takes a long time to thaw the snow and ice. Especially when more snow and ice are easily added to the mix with frequent storms. Warming temperatures in the southern United States, permits more moisture availability for frontal systems, which can result in very heavy precipitation events as the season progesses.
The first places to show signs of spring are wetter areas. These places get assistance in the thaw from below. Flowing or seeping water will melt the accumulated snow and ice from two directions. Plants and animals take advantage of these spots. Our first blooming plant, the skunk cabbage, is a seep specialist. The pussy willow is the first tree to bloom. Wet shrubland and marsh birds, such as Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, and Song Sparrow are among the first to arrive and set up territories.
For the naturalist, there are hundreds of places to explore. Find local areas with public access, which have streams and seepy areas. Places with alder trees will many times harbor skunk cabbage. Look for the ubiquituous cattail, because most marshes will have pussy willows around the edges. The awakening of the marshes and wet shrublands will follow a progression north. Many of the species first seen in mid-March in the south may not be experienced until mid-April in the far north.