Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday Phenology: March 28, 2011

Posted by Kirk
Sunrise this morning was at 7:01 AM so we're almost back to having sunrise before 7:00. Daylight Saving Time messed us up in that regard. The last time sunrise seemed this early was back on February 23. Sunset tonight will be at 7:35 PM. We get 12 hours, thirty-three minutes and forty nine seconds of daylight today in St. Paul. Your mileage may vary depending on your latitude. Let's recap last week.


I hiked down to the lakes at work and there was still ice covering them. You could see slushy spots though. I saw my first Bluebirds at the lake shore. Both a male and female were present and they were checking out an old wood duck box. On Monday I also got a report of the first Turkey Vulture in the Metro on the previous Saturday (3/19).

Common redpolls showed up at feeders in the rain. This was quite a treat on such a dreary day. The winter finch forecast had not been good for redpolls and I didn't see any all winter. On Tuesday I received a late report of both American Woodcocks and Killdeer at a private residence in Hugo back on March 19th! Those were the first reports I's seen of these birds in the metro. Unfortunately, the weather to come was awful and it was a hard week on early migrants. The wind was incredible all day and into the night. It even knocked down the 2000 foot tall TV antenna for WEAU in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. In spite of the awful weather, Kevin in Hastings reported the following species on Lake Rebecca. Canada Goose, Mallard , Northern Shoveler , Canvasback , Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup,Greater/Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser, Pied-billed Grebe, Great Blue Heron,American Coot,Ring-billed Gull, and Herring Gull.

It snowed all night and through much of the day Wednesday. Accumulation varied widely in a north south pattern. North of the Twin Cities there was over 12 inches of fresh snow. I measured 7 in northern Washington county but only about two inches at home in St. Paul. The biting cold and snow can be hard on early migrants but I did hear that at least on Wednesday morning there were still woodcock poking around and people in the state are even hearing them peenting and seeing them do the sky dance in spite of the cold and snow. I still don't like their odds. I also saw the first report of Fox Sparrows in the metro (in the Lino Lakes area.) They were reported further south over the weekend.

Hello Sun! Elizabeth in Hugo reported Song Sparrows, American Tree Sparrows, Pine Siskins and Purple Finches at her feeders as well as a Tree Swallow flying over Plaistad Lake in northern Washington County. There are slow but growing reports of song sparrows around the state. The forecast called for only a high of 28° but the actual temperature in the shade at work was close to 40. By the sunny afternoon there was sap running of out the trees in the sugar bush and I found the first of the year Straight-toothed Sallow (Eupsilia vinulenta) moth feeding on maple sap.

Another beautiful sunny day. Hearing reports of grackles in Dakota county but nothing widespread yet. Bill in Rochester reported a kettle of Turkey Vultures heading north.

Saturday and Sunday
Flooding is the word of the day this weekend. On Saturday evening water on the Mississippi River started to run onto Harriet Island in St. Paul. The good news is that the cold weather has been locking up a lot of the moisture and the predicted crests are being lowered on many rivers. In St. Paul, the predicted crest is down something like three feet. I saw reports of the first Eastern Phoebe, Swamp Sparrow, Rusty Blackbird and Brown-headed Cowbirds on Sunday. They were along the Minnesota River in Carver County.

The Week Ahead

Flooding will be a big story this week as rivers continue to climb. The Mississippi in St. Paul should crest at 7:00 pm on Wednesday, March 30. Reports of birds will increase this coming week. The birds use the rivers as flyways so those living along the rivers tend to see species a week or two ahead of everyone else. Birds make forays from the river to check conditions inland and start to stick around more as the like what they see. Especially watch for Fox Sparrows and Phoebes this week.

Each day this week will be warmer than the one before it and spring should really feel like it is making a comeback after that snowstorm. April will bring a taste of 50 degree weather by the weekend. Speaking of April, it will be Global Astronomy Month. As a little teaser, look to the East-Southeast this week. In the evenings, Saturn is there for your viewing pleasure. With steady hands and a pair of binoculars you can just barely make out the rings. In the mornings before sunrise, Venus hangs out with the crescent moon all week also in the East Southeast.