The early birds are here, as well as less welcoming signs of spring

Who picked the middle of April to have federal taxes due? Probably the same sorry dude who wants me to multiply my employment income by .9235 and then by .124 and again multiply that result .029. It makes absolutely no sense unless the reasoning is to keep all of us outdoors folks inside for a week.

Well they messed up a little this spring. Instead of keeping me in the house to miss the last of the good snow, the weather fairy has kept it cold. The snow is still powder — and I am done with endless forms and tax worksheets.

It seems like April has been a little colder than average in 2023. Look at the past statistics; the daily lows rarely exceed six degrees below zero, and the highs are in the low 40s by the middle of the month. Delta Junction has seen some weather near minus 20 this month out in the Barley project. It was below zero in many locations on the night of the 12th. Daytime highs have not been officially above freezing. Precipitation is generally snow mixed with rain or sleet. We sure haven’t seen much rain.

That is a good thing. Rain on the top of snowpack isn’t much fun for anybody. Did you ever try to ice fish in the rain? You almost have to wear hip boots or rain gear to get on your knees to look down the hole. Normally, with 15 hours of daylight, the water beetles are up at the bottom of the ice. The little trout, in stocked lakes, come up in the water column to pick them off. The snow cover is keeping it fairly dark under the ice. Maybe that’s why there haven’t been water bugs in the hole.

Fish are starting to move through, and fishing is beginning to improve even in the shallower lakes. The only drawbacks are that lines still ice up during the day and holes freeze at night. It is another clear night at our place on this evening of the 13th; down to zero already. I bet there will be a good aurora at 1 a.m. My kids are grumpy when I wake them in the middle of the night to see northern lights. The grumps end when the lights dance and a cup of hot cocoa soothes. Sleep happens every night — it doesn’t trump nature.

You can’t stop nature. Creamer’s Field in Fairbanks saw its first Canada geese on the morning of the 6th. Paxson Lake had trumpeter swans on the 7th — and it looked like they had been there a day or two. Clearwater Lake in Delta Junction had geese on March 27. There is some water available on Clearwater, but it is cold. The snow buntings are still hanging around. New birds coming in every day. The earlier arrivals already headed to the Slope to claim nesting locations.

[Photos: In Anchorage, springtime is for the birds]


There are a few slate juncos arriving. There were a half dozen on the plowed road shoulder of the Richardson Highway, scrounging for seeds. The birds’ arrival is governed by daylight, not the temperatures. The lack of feed may modify their pattern somewhat, but they are coming along, never-the-less.

Folks who normally hardly notice a bird, other than the chicken in the grocery case, watch for spring birds. Even the gulls in Anchorage that poop on your car are welcome when they first arrive. You may hate them in July, but you’ll smile at them in April. The early birds are here. The seed eaters; sparrows and robins, will be the next avians we see. Tree swallows will push the season to late April, even without mosquitoes. You will see early swallows on the ground picking seeds if they get here before insects are available.

It is looking like another week or two of snowmachining before the garage needs mucking out, so the machine can be put up. Anchorage folks can park the snowblower. All who reside north of the south edge of the Talkeetna Mountains should wait a bit. When winter finally decides to loosen its grip, be prepared for a very quick thaw. The loose snowpack will see to that. Enjoy the long daylight hours and use care on any slopes. Avalanche danger will be high. Tired of snow? Take that tax refund and head to Hawaii for a week. When you return, it will be time to clean the garage.

John Schandelmeier

Outdoor opinion columnist John Schandelmeier is a lifelong Alaskan who lives with his family near Paxson. He is a Bristol Bay commercial fisherman and two-time winner of the Yukon Quest.