Monday, March 14, 2011

Monday Phenology: March 14, 2011

Posted by Kirk Mona
Sunrise this morning was at 7:29 AM which seems like a step backwards because of Daylight Saving Time. The good news is that the sun now seems to stay up an hour later in the evening. I'm not a big fan. For one, it means I'm putting my kid to bed when the sun is still up which he finds confusing. Secondly, it means evening astronomy programs have to occur so late in the evening that kids have trouble staying up late enough for it to really get dark. I get the idea behind it, that we have more evening light, but by the time summer comes around we have more sunlight than we know what to do with it. Because of Daylight Saving Time, sunset on the summer solstice will be at 9:03 PM and it won't actually get dark until close to 11:36 PM.

Sunset today will be at 7:16 PM and the length of the daylight will be 11 hours, 46 minutes and 28 seconds long. Be sure to make use of those 28 seconds. Every day this week we add 3 minutes and 9 seconds of daylight.

If you missed the planet Mercury last month you still have time to catch it this week. This is one case where daylight saving time may actually help as you'll be home from work "earlier" relative to reality. Mercury is just 2° north of bright Jupiter in the evening sky on the 15th. Look about 45 minutes after sunset. Since we're back to getting up before the sun, look for Venus in the morning sky as well. She's that bright looking "star" in the southeast every morning.

This past week was full of interesting phenology. On Monday, our director spotted a migrating Broad-winged hawk near Scandia, MN. Naturalist Paul Smithson reported a flock of American Tree Sparrows as well. Tuesday we spent some of the day outside getting the sugar bush ready to tap for maple syruping. The buds were swelling on the trees and we heard a lone Canada Goose honking as it flew overhead. We also heard a red-tailed hawk call. Later in the day, I heard the first of the year red-shouldered hawk calling and poked my head outside just in time to see it fly over the building. I'm assuming this is the male from a pair that have nested here for years. Maple syruping is partly so much fun because of all the signs of spring you notice.

Wednesday morning I finally brought my camera along to take photos of all the horned larks along the roads on the way to work. Luckily, we missed the brunt of the big snow storm that day. Some people are probably disappointed that it hurts our chance of a record breaking winter snow total but I, for one, am done shoveling. I'm also not a big fan of hauling maple sap though deep snow.

Thursday morning there was sap in the Maple Syrup bags which means the sap run actually started late on Wednesday. I also received news on Thursday that someone spotted the first Red-winged Blackbird in the Twin Cities. Thursday was also when we discovered a Great Horned Owl had visited the deer carcass we have in the prairie. We caught photos of it carrying of the deer's leg.

Friday, Naturalist Kathy Feste heard the first Sandhill Cranes of the year flying over the nature center. This is earlier than expected. I wasn't thinking we'd hear them for another week. They returned to northern Washington county on March 20th in 2006, 2007, and 2008. This year seems colder than other years so I actually thought they might be a little delayed. Perhaps these were just early birds and we'll start to see larger numbers by the end of the week. I saw my first American Kestrel of the year on Friday as well while driving through Stillwater.

Saturday was colder than I expected and my ears nearly got frostbitten when I went out to the sugar bush with a group of kids. I stupidly didn't wear a hat and it was only about 20° F outside. The little bit of sap in the bags (maybe a half gallon) was all frozen solid and none of the five trees we tapped were running.

Next Week:

Spring should really start to show itself this week. The forecast calls for above freezing high temps for pretty much every day. We should see a dramatic decrease in the snow pack, perhaps helped along by a little rain on Tuesday and a flirtation with 60° on next Sunday. The freezing and thawing cycle from night to day should really get the maple sap flowing this week. I also heard this week that Wood Ducks are in Iowa already. I keep hearing reports of woodcocks peenting in Michigan but it seems a bit early here still. Keep ears and eyes open for Sandhill Cranes, we know they are in the area. If you haven't seen them already, keep an eye open for large flocks of Turkeys gathering in farm fields getting ready to dance.

What are you seeing? Leave comments in the comments section.

~Kirk

4 comments:

hellziggy said...

I'm the opposite. I LOVE the extra light at night. I'm not a morning person so I don't care if it's light or dark when I'm dragging my butt to work. I'm just excited that I can take my dog for nice long walks again after work now that it's lighter & warmer. :)
~Other Sharon

Kirk Mona said...

Oh there are advantages to be sure.

Penelope said...

Noted a lone lesser scaup on the Cannon River in Northfield yesterday, hanging out near some mallards.

Kirk Mona said...

Nice! Thanks Penelope.