You know it’s spring in Ontario Parks when…
you see moose
Moose are salt-depleted by the end of winter. Early spring runoff and salt from winter highway maintenance form mineral pools in roadside ditches which moose love to feed in. One of the best parks to spy moose in early spring is Algonquin Provincial Park along Highway 60. Please ensure you drive with care and don’t stop on the highway to view the moose.
you hear owls
By mid-March, great horned owls have hatched their young and eastern screech owls are breeding. The call of the great horned may be familiar to anyone who has camped in Ontario Parks – ho hoo hoo-hoo. The eastern screech call is different- more like a high-pitched rolling of the R’s with the tip of your tongue. http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Eastern_Screech-Owl/id Guided owl prowls are planned during March Break at Rondeau and Pinery Provincial Parks. http://www.ontarioparks.com/events
you see mourning cloak butterflies
Even before the snow melts, large velvety black butterflies with pale yellow wing margins known as mourning cloak butterflies race through Ontario forests on sunny days. The butterflies overwinter as adults inside dead trees. In spring, the butterflies emerge on mild days in search of sap to drink.
you spot spring tails
Spring tails are wee insects filled with a natural anti-freeze that give them a strange sticky belly button and an ability to catapult their bodies away from danger. In early spring they swarm and look like black powder on patches of snow and downed wood.
you hear spring peepers
Listen for spring peepers on warmer April evenings. These tiny frogs are the only ones in Ontario that have a darker X -shaped marking on their backs. Here’s what a chorus of them sounds like.
you see sap flow
Sugar maple trees get their name from the sweet sap they produce. At Bronte Creek Provincial Park’s annual Maple Syrup Festival, costumed staff show how maple syrup, maple candy and taffy-in-the-snow are traditionally made. The festival takes place on March weekends and during March Break. http://www.brontecreek.org/bronte-creek-maple-syrup-festival.htm#.VOnZvbDF9Ko
you hear chickadee sing
Singing is a sure sign that black-capped chickadees are starting to establish territories and pair up for their breeding season which begins in early to mid-April (conditions permitting). This spring call is not the familiar chicka-dee-dee song. Listen to chickadee songs on this All About Birds web site http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/black-capped_chickadee/id
you see the tundra swans returning
Migrating tundra swans make stops in provincial parks along Lakes Huron, Erie and Ontario. One of the most impressive sights is Thedford Bog beside The Pinery on Lake Huron. Every March, 80,000 tundra swans rest here enroute to their Arctic breeding grounds. This past tundra swans post on the Parks Blog offers more detail: http://www.parkreports.com/parksblog/?p=5187
you see the trees bud
You can’t help but notice new tree buds on a spring park hike. Buds get big and fat before opening into leaf. Ashes look like chocolate chip. Yellow birches have pretty two-toned buds. beech buds are long and elegant and bitter hickory buds are noted for their distinctive sulfur-colour. The Ontario Trees website is a helpful source for identifying Ontario trees, http://www.ontariotrees.com/main/alien_native.php?type=N
you see ice-out adventurers
Experienced paddlers on an ice-out adventure are another early spring tradition in Ontario Parks. While water safety at Ontario Parks is paramount, especially in spring, higher water levels allow experienced paddlers to explore park areas not accessible by canoe or kayak in summer months. Countless outfitters across Ontario add spring ice out alerts to their web sites so paddlers know when to head out.
March Break events are planned at Ontario Parks too. For details, see this Parks Blog post, March Break 2015 at Ontario Parks.