Although March 20th is the official first day of spring, the people of Glen Haven follow other indicators to signal the change of seasons. Here, the first bear sighting (or chipmunks and ground squirrels, or any other small hibernating creature) is a general tip-off that spring is around the corner. The ice begins to melt off the streams, and the light roar of the water below powered by spring melt is beginning to flow at its peak. Flowers generally begin to bud in late April and May. Aspens start to leaf out in early May. The onset of spring is a source of joy also because it is accompanied by warmer temperatures, generally in the 50-60 degree range. The snow has begun to taper off the forecast, replaced by sunshine and rain. The roads also hint at spring with residents spilling back into the neighborhood, fully occupying all residences, and getting out for walks to enjoy the warmer weather with their neighbors.
Local Fauna Slowly Shedding Wintry Skeletons to Reveal Fresh Growth
Spring comes to the higher elevation areas around Rocky Mountain National Park — elevations 8,000 feet to 9,500 feet — in late April, somewhat later than most of the rest of the country. Snowfall is not uncommon at this time of year, but it has begun to take a backseat to more spring-like temperatures and climate. Wildflowers begin to bloom at lower elevations in late April or early May, while snow continues to cover trails and hilltops at high elevations.
According to the National Parks Service, many small non-woody (herbaceous) plants, like potentilla, start to green up for a growth spurt when temperatures allow. Here in Glen Haven, we see the aspen buds swelling, and catkins bursting out. March and April are still considered high snowfall months in the area surrounding RMNP. Snowstorms are quite welcome as the snowpack and consequent melt-off provide a great deal of water to the area.
As the pictures indicate, the signs of spring are subtle in the higher elevations of Colorado. But! They are most welcome by the local residents who watch for signs of spring with a close eye after so many months of the stiff, brown skeleton-fauna of winter! Fortunately, most of the trees are evergreen and keep vigil for spring’s return.
The return of fresh fauna has coaxed back the songbirds that can now be heard singing their chorus around sunrise. Only a few weeks back we were heralded by only owls. Magpies are courting. You can often see them carrying sticks to spruce up old stick nests. Like many of us, they prefer to use existing nests rather than constructing new ones.
Local Wildlife Numbers Burgeoning with Migration and End of Hibernation
Deer, elk, and raccoons stay awake during the winter along with the chickadees. Many of our local fauna, however, take a long winter nap. The black bears that live around Glen Haven enter a near-hibernation ‘torpor’ state of prolonged sleeping with bits of wakefulness. They’re known to go scavenging for food during warm breaks in winter months.
Hibernation is necessarily an unbroken sleep. Ground squirrels and marmots qualify as ‘true hibernators’ lowering their body temperature and heart rate to sleep for as long as 200 days straight. Local garter snakes will sleep by the hundreds in a den together waiting out winter weather. Their hibernation state is called ‘brumation’.
Migration claims many of the birds we enjoy during the warmer months. Hummingbirds have begun their return from Mexico and Central America and are currently scouting sources of food/feeders. Prepare yours now if you hope to have the pleasure of hummingbirds frequenting your home this summer! Rufous Hummingbirds are filled with personality and can be downright possessive with feeders. Enjoy the slow drama of birdwatching from your front porch swing! The hummingbirds spend their summers in Estes Park area breeding and nesting.
Butterflies have also begun the return migration to the area after a period of absence. The varieties will shift as spring moves into summer.
Bear Safety Reminder
Put garbage out on the morning of collection
Keep pet food inside
Remove all food from your vehicle
Bears have great memories and return to placed where they’ve found food
Keep garage doors closed