The following fun fact was published March 14, 2005.
An unusually mild February and warm temperatures last week at Rocky Mountain National Park encourage thoughts of spring and start the annual game of "who can see signs of spring first." Park staff have reported numerous sightings of mountain bluebirds and robins from both sides of the park. A Wyoming groundsquirrel and a red-wing blackbird were reportedly seen in the Estes Valley about a week ago, and open water has been reported in the Upper Colorado River.
Next we look for blooming flowers at low altitudes in the park. Mountain candytuft (Noccaea montana) and pasqueflowers (Pulsatilla patens) are our earliest bloomers, frequently being reported from mid- to late March. Aspen (Populus tremuloides) display their fuzzy catkins in late March to early April. The aptly named stemless Easter daisy (Townsendia exscapa) usually blooms in early to mid-April on sunny, sandy lower altitude slopes in the park. These are soon followed by mountain ball cacti (Pediocactus simpsonii var. minor) and pink springbeauties (Claytonia rosea) in mid-April. Wax currants (Ribes cereum) come into bloom shortly thereafter and predict the arrival of broad-tailed hummingbirds (Selasphorus platycercus ) who depend on them for sustenance until a wider array of flowers come into bloom.
A few more snow storms would still be welcomed, though. While the winter of 2004-2005 started out with abundant precipitation, there has been little accumulation in recent weeks. The snow water equivalent in the snowpack in the South Platte River basin, the headwaters of which are located in the east central part of the park, was only at 81% of normal on March 10, 2005.
Park staff and visitors are torn between looking for signs of spring and hoping for more snow. Late winter is a complicated season full of hopes of spring in Rocky Mountain National Park.