Illustration by Tim Nihoff
Enough already with the snow and cold! Spring arrives this month — something we’ve all been eagerly awaiting since, oh, last November. The vernal equinox falls on March 20 at 2:35 a.m. — but you don’t need a calendar to know that winter is kaput. Here, in no particular order, is our list of the top 10 signs that spring has sprung in the Valley.
1. The Dairy Queen in Wappingers Falls — whose Route 9 sign has read “closed for the season” since the end of last year — reopens for business. Who knew a chocolate sundae could taste so good in 35-degree weather?
2. Although we can’t see them (unless you’re crazy enough try scuba diving in freezing water), the shad return to the Hudson to spawn. A member of the herring family, these fish don’t feed while in the river, so they’re safe to eat. Look for shad and shad roe to start showing up on some restaurant menus.
3. Commuters across the area’s bridges will notice that the river ice is starting to recede. And that’s especially good news for those who use NY Waterway’s ferry service between Haverstraw and Ossining, which occasionally must shut down during the winter months due to the ice invasion.
4. Baseball is back! Yankees fans can hear (static-free) radio broadcasts of several of the Bronx Bombers’ spring training games on WKXP-FM out of Kingston. You’re a Mets fan? Catch grapefruit league action on WFAN-AM from New York.
5. Things get drippy this time of year — and if you’ve got a few maple trees on your property, you know what we mean. New York State produces more maple syrup than any other state in the Union (except for Vermont). Maple Weekend events (March 20-21 and 27-28) invite visitors to area farms to learn how maple sap is collected, boiled, and turned into the saccharine stuff we all know and love. (Check www.mapleweekend.com for area locations.)
6. Daffodils start popping up in your backyard — and maybe in your office or living room, too. “Daffodil Days,” the American Cancer Society’s spring fund-raising effort, begins delivering these cheerful yellow blooms around the middle of the month. Last year, more than three million flowers were distributed throughout the New York/New Jersey area. Why not send a bunch to someone you know, and help a worthy cause?
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7. The first sighting of red-breasted robins is a traditional sign of spring (although a flock of these hardy birds has spent the entire winter outside our office window here in Poughkeepsie). Red-wing blackbirds, eastern bluebirds, goldfinches, sparrows, chickadees — all will soon make an appearance at backyard feeders.
8. Don’t worry — you haven’t developed tinnitus. The high-pitched whistle you’re hearing is the mating call of Hyla Crucifer — more commonly known as the spring peeper. Barely larger than a paper clip, these tiny frogs are almost impossible to spot in the wooded areas where they live; but come spring, they make their presence known loud and clear.
9. Besides the return of birds, flowers, and frogs, nature provides one other surefire sign that spring has arrived — mud. Thick, brown, and lots of it… everywhere. On your shoes, your car, your driveway, the dog’s paws, and your kitchen floor. And — unlike many signs of the season, which seem to come and go rather quickly — mud hangs around, making itself at home, until Memorial Day.
10. Last, but hardly least — HV’s “Best of Hudson Valley” ballot appears, in this very issue in fact. Clip it out, fill it in, and send it back to us. By the time autumn rolls around, you’ll be able to read all about — and even party with — the winners of our annual poll. So brave the mud, and slip and slide your way to the mailbox today.