It seems like the grey, cold days of winter have slipped away as if a frosty veil has been pulled across the globe. The unveiling has revealed what lay dormant below thick covers of fallen leaves through the solemn days.

In these unprecedented times, I’m sure many of us have felt the same way. Like crawling under a thick blanket hoping what is taking place outside our doors will just go away. Radios and televisions are constant reminders of impending doom. It doesn’t have to be this way. You do not have to stay indoors. This is the perfect time to take advantage of being home during the day. Look outside that window and see what happens in your own backyard.

Right now, tree buds are bursting and hungry squirrels are scampering all around hungry for these fresh new tasty bits. I just watched a cinnamon-colored Carolina wren splashing in the birdbath. She seemed so happy that the sun was out and shining, but what do I know.

Forest spring ephemerals are blooming with pale pink Dutchman’s breeches hanging upside down, as if hanging out to dry. Spring beauty, one of my most favorite, is popping up all over – such a delight!

I also watch and listen for the returning birds. American goldfinches have molted and the males are sporting their bright yellow duds. My, do they look fine and dandy. The redheaded woodpeckers are still here; perhaps they’re thinking of staying and nesting here this year. Now that would be a treat.

We’ve lived in this forest for over 15 years now and I’ve only seen a yellow-bellied sapsucker twice – once about 10 years ago, and once this winter. Now, I see him almost daily. My husband and I are thinking he and his Mrs. just might be nest-building, too. There are a lot of good trees here for sapsuckers. The towhees have returned, as have the phoebes and peewees. Seems like they all come back about the same time every year.

Of course, we see the red-bellied woodpeckers year-round, but just this week they decided they needed another hole in our eaves. Pesky critters, they are! The raccoons have been getting better about staying off the porch, and the squirrels have gotten worse. Who can figure this out?

White-tailed deer have been coming around the house quite a bit. I’m sure they’re coming for the fresh, sweet grass and it’s always fun to see them – that is until I think about all of the flowers they’ll soon be eating. Last year, I planted a number of white dogwood trees throughout the forest edges and they nipped all of the buds off. No flowers this year, darn beasts.

Don’t let a virus get your spirits down. Just go outside and walk around your garden. Or take a drive to your closest conservation area or park. They’re open– the buildings are not, but the countryside is. Get some fresh air, stretch your legs, and feel the sun on your face. Don’t let kids play on equipment, walk around others. Don’t forget what your mother always said: “Go outside and play!”

Lynn Youngblood is the executive director of the Blue River Watershed Association in Kansas City. Reach her at