Exploring the Great Outdoors: Signs of Springtime in Canada

The start of spring sinks in slowly. My alarm clock jolts me out of sleep, and I draw open our curtains on a chilly March morning. Could it be possible that the early morning light filtering through our window has come to greet us a little bit earlier than the morning before?  Small, almost imperceptible changes draw us nearer to the first day of spring. As a parent of young kids, slowing down seems to be a part of this season of life. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of hectic moments in our day to day. But to-do lists and efficiencies fall by the wayside as my kids set the pace of our days. The world, through the eyes of a three-year-old, is something to be explored and investigated! Overturning leaves, picking up rocks, stomping in puddles, and noticing smells in the air – this becomes our new to-do list. These tasks cannot be rushed! Trust me, I’ve tried. So, with boots on our feet, and toques to keep us warm, we venture outside once again to take in the newness of spring and see what has changed in our neighbourhood. We may be inefficient, but together we’ve become astute observers of the delight that the spring season brings.

Galanthus – Snowdrops

Our first and most favourite sign that spring is on its way is the delicate snowdrop. True to its name, this white, bell-shaped blossom nods its head down to the ground and is often planted in large clusters. The snowdrop or Galanthus nivalis is very low maintenance and multiplies with ease if left undisturbed. They look perfect in a woodland area with the space to multiply and spread. After a long winter, these first delicate petals bring joy to anyone lucky enough to find them.

Narcissus Tete a Tete

An outdoor adventure does not go by without my toddler commenting on the sprightly green daffodil (narcissus) shoots emerging from our garden bed:

“Mom, look! Our bulbs that we planted are growing!”

“They are most definitely taller than yesterday!”

“I wonder what the flowers will look like?”

We investigated further and saw that the shoots are indeed taller than yesterday. We planted a small bed last fall, filling the open space with small Narcissus Tete a Tete bulbs, a classic yellow dwarf daffodil variety that grows to about 15 cm (6”) tall. Knowing that the perfect golden petals will emerge soon fills me with a secret joy. The slow and steady anticipation of something beautiful showing up tomorrow is one of the best parts of spring.

With our eyes and ears wide open, we always remain on high alert for wildlife stirrings. As the snow melts, and birdsongs start to fill the air, some of our favourite animals to look out for (or listen for).

Canada Geese (Branta canadensis)

These v-shaped flocks announce that spring is near! Canada geese follow the melting snow home rather than the change in seasons. So sometimes, with warmer temperatures, we see Canada geese fill the skies from British Columbia to the Maritimes as early as January. However, we make sure to keep our distance if any of them get too close. They are beautiful to observe, but Canada geese are fierce protectors of their space, especially in springtime.

Spring Peeper Frogs (Pseudacris crucifer)

In eastern Canada, the peep peep peep call can be heard from far and wide and is the Spring Peeper’s mating song. This small tree frog almost sounds like a songbird! Found in Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces, this full chorus of competing frogs means that spring is on its way.

Great Horned Owls (Bubo virginianus)

Contributing to the sounds of a spring awakening is the Great Horned Owl. The familiar hoo-hoo sound of these bright, yellow-eyed night flyers fills the air. By mid-March, these owls have hatched their young and keeping hatchlings warm and safe while winter thaws is a big job for the mother owl. Found in woodland areas and often in boreal forests, we keep our distance when we hear the familiar hoo-hoo sound in the vicinity. A sure sign that a nest is nearby, the call of a Great Horned owl in early spring reminds us that new life is near.

From coast to coast, spring manifests in various ways. In Canada, the timing of spring’s arrival varies significantly depending on the region. The last frost dates, crucial for gardeners and farmers, also differ across provinces and territories. Generally, the last frost occurs earlier on the West Coast and later in the eastern provinces and territories. British Columbia may experience its last frost as early as April, while in Newfoundland and Labrador, frost can linger until late May.

Today, my intrepid explorers and I feel lucky to live on the West Coast, experiencing small signs of spring first! Our unhurried walk around the neighbourhood reveals a new piece of spring beauty each day. Slowly, we peel off our layers of winter wear – first toques, then gloves, as sunshine warms our skin. Spring is here, and we are outside to witness it transforming the world around us! 


  • Marion Deer
    March 15, 2024

    Thank you for your delightful write-up on spring!!!
    With the sun shining brightly here today,
    I feel inspired to begin my list of “Signs of Spring in Calgary!”

    Question: Do you still have the fundraiser where students can sell bulbs in fall?
    Can they also sell them in spring?

    I wish so much that ordinary people like me could buy directly from you and not have to somehow find out who in my city carries your products. Do you have a list of who carries your product in Calgary?

    Looking forward to your reply!


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