A Sand County Almanac | Study Guide

Aldo Leopold

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A Sand County Almanac | Part 1, May : A Sand County Almanac | Summary



Back from the Argentine

When dandelions begin to bloom in Wisconsin, one can listen for the "final proof of spring"—the song of the upland plover, which migrates far to the Argentine during the winter. The plover can be seen flying overhead or alighting gracefully on fence posts. Over the next several weeks the hens nest; the chicks hatch out and grow quickly; by August the chicks have learned to fly.

The plover has adapted well to the changes human agriculture has wrought on the landscape—it lives as easily among cows and farmland as among buffalo and prairie. They have also benefitted from federal migratory bird laws that protect them from hunters.


After the dramatic descriptions of flooding and the forest-prairie battle in "April," this more peaceful description of a Wisconsin May brings a sense of comfort. The upland plover's return to Wisconsin means spring is in full swing. As a result its song is reassuring. Even the most doubtful resident can rest assured spring has really come again. The entire life cycle of the bird is described with a sense that everything is as it should be. The birds nest; the chicks hatch and learn to fly.

Leopold uses the plover as an example of humans and animals both doing their part to conserve nature. On their side the plovers adapt to the presence of humans and human habitation without fuss. They happily accept the new landscape of cows, farms, and fences as a substitute for the prairie and buffalo. On the human side people have had to pass laws that protect the plover and other migratory birds.

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