Black-billed magpies stay here year-round, but here's one with a bit of vegetation in its mouth, presumably for a nest. It can take them up to 40 days to make their large nests.
Magpies, with their long tail and strong contrasting black and white feathers, are an easily recognizable sign that you're not in Kansas anymore. Actually, they do live in Kansas--but they don't live east of the Mississippi. This member of the crow family only lives in western North America.
Less conspicuous in color but noisier are the yellow-rumped warblers. All of the warblers head south for the winter, and the yellow-rumped is one of the first to return, often before it is warm.
The little patches of yellow on its rump, under the wing, and under the chin make it fairly easy to identify.
And along with the birds decorating the spring landscape, the snakes have left their dens. This is the common garter snake, the most widespread reptile in North America. They are harmless and eat everything from insects to small mammals to fish. In the West, they are often found near water.
Garter snakes have fascinating life histories. Well, it's time to head back outside and see what else is going on!