Unhinged Alaska: When does spring really arrive?

Everyone seems to have their personal definition of when spring officially arrives.

Some stick with the “official” March equinox designation that claims it occurs when the Sun crosses the celestial equator on its way north along the ecliptic. In the Northern Hemisphere, the equinox is known as the vernal, or spring, equinox, and marks the start of the spring season.

These strict definition devotees also consider dusting off old basement book cases as an electrifying adventure and have been known to put family members to sleep by joining in on dinner conversations.

My friends and I are a bit different when it comes to feeling it’s that time of year to drag out a weed whacker capable of denuding an old growth forest and prep its close cousin, the fuel injected, lawn-mulching beast.

Willie is a wannabee birder and goes a slightly bit psycho when the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival rolls around.

W didn’t get into all things avian until his friend Mort invited him along on a bird spotting safari during the festival several years ago.

Until then, he had never taken anything in life seriously and thought it was about time to try something he couldn’t do time for.

The change in Willie after their expedition was phenomenal.

The experience transformed him into a fowling fiend and he now anticipates the commencement of the official birding event with the same verve and eagerness as he does the arrival of the holiday seasons.

The next time I ran into him, after his initial outing, he came thundering up in what he claimed to be a pickup and leaped out looking like a maniacal characterization of Ted Nugent.

He was sporting full camo attire, an Aussie styled hat, had armored coated field glasses strapped around his neck and was back packing a spotting scope that could pick out individual hairs on a mountain goat five miles away.

The ole boy was brandishing a thick paperback book full of bird pictures and declared to be thunderstruck that so many of the featured critters actually passed through our area during their northern migrations.

Willie had finally found an aspiration in life that genuinely meant something to him.

His transition over the years into becoming a reasonably proficient birder has been amazing especially when his preliminary excursion had him claiming sightings of exceptionally questionable species such as spotted thighmasters, horned geeks, a sumbitcher, two black oyster suckers and a herd of sandpiddlers.

He can now proudly point out northern shovelers, tufted puffins, pigeon guillemots, black-legged kittiwakes, glaucous-winged gulls and common murres along with various visiting raptors and sundry other airborne beasties some of which I still think he makes up.

It really doesn’t matter, because when migrating fowl start to arrive it is offically springtime for Willie and he’s estatic to be able to pursue a hobby that gives him a sense of pride. Which is nice, because now his nieghbors don’t have to worry about keeping a close count on their smaller livestock and egg production.

As for Turk and I, our spring offically kicks off when the fish pens are set up  in the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon on the Homer Spit and that occurred on the last day of April.

Yes, we realize that the cranes are back along with robins singing their annoying renditions of Louie Louie outside bedroom windows at four o’clock in the morning. But even with the swans and eagles already on their nests, moose calves swinging low in their mothers’ tummies and businesses unshuttering on the spit, it just doesn’t seem to be seriously springtime until the Fish and Game throws out the anchors on those floating smolt cages and officially recognizes that it’s time for them to plant and for us to get ready to harvest.

Nick can be reached at ncvarney@gmail.com if he isn’t busy knocking rust off old lures and preparing a salmon killer batch of a new secret bait that was recommended to him by a Canadian piscatorian guide visiting from Vancouver Island, B.C.

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