Horned larks keep alighting from the road shoulder. In the 15 miles of rural roads since I leaned off the four-lane I’ve seen 19 horned larks. It seems they always show up too early, when there is only a sliver of grass and gravel between blacktop and snowbank; horned larks are the first birds to get us thinking about spring.

It’s easy to think about spring on this day. March is acting like April, so I’ll play along and address the state of fields and woods in an earlier-than-normal inspection of what winter left behind. I’m looking for trees the winter winds finished off. I’m checking that bluebird houses are clean and closed for seasonal visitors making their way north. And I’m renewing a feel for the land while imagining full-blown spring with its newborn fawns, ruffed grouse nests, wood violets, and bobolinks in undulating flight over greening hayfields.

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