It is worth celebrating the many signs of spring in Southwest Florida.
One sure-fire sign along the Gasparilla Island coastline is the changing head colors of laughing gulls and royal terns, two birds seen abundantly along the beaches and shores.
In fall and winter the birds lose the black head color but it returns in March.
Laughing gulls already have black heads, which turn this distinctive color during breeding season.
It was surprising to see many royal terns along the Southwest Florida coast Feb. 28 already had their black breeding caps.
Laughing gulls also had their black heads, which are distinctive during breeding season. The bill of the gull was still black, meaning its change to a reddish color is yet to come
Once you have mastered these various seasonal cues, you can peg an approximate date without access to a calendar.
William Dunson, Ph.d., professor emeritus of biology at Penn State University, splits time between Southwest Florida and his farm in Galax, Va. He can be reached at email@example.com.