Monday, April 4, 2011

Monday Phenology: April 4, 2011

Posted by Kirk
The sun rose this morning in St. Paul at 6:48 AM not that you could tell though through the thick clouds. By the afternoon the sun came out and it turned into a sunny day. The sun set at 7:44 PM giving us 12 hours, 55 minutes and 43 seconds of daylight. Since we're gaining three minutes a day, that means on Wednesday we'll for the first time have 13 hours of daylight. Incredible to think we just crossed the 12 hour mark back on March 21.

This past week was an exciting week for phenology!

Monday, the first Eastern Phoebe returned to the nature center and we quickly turned on our nest camera. We're already streaming data to Cornell so we can capture first nesting behavior should they choose to re-use the same site as previous years. A Barred Owl showed up at the building Monday and was there all the way through Thursday. It sat in the same spot in a tree just 20 feet from a window as it watched for mice on their way to raid our bird feeder seed storage area. Also on Monday, fellow Naturalist Paul Smithson heard the first Chorus Frog of the year in Stillwater on Monday evening. Common Mergansers were reported at Lake Byllesby in Dakota County but no reports in the metro. Art in Chisago heard an Eastern Meadowlark in an saw Common Grackles as well. Neither species is being seen widely at this point.

Tuesday, Carol in Golden Valley reported Wood Ducks on Basset Creek.

Wednesday, the Mississippi River was supposed to crest at 1:00 PM but it actually crested earlier in the morning. While technically at "major flood" stage the city is very well prepared and the flooding wasn't serious. On my way, to work I noticed that the Ring-billed Gulls have returned to Har-Mar shopping center. Maybe not the same as the swallows returning to Capistrano but phenology none the less. Down in Carver County, John reports Canada Geese, Mallards, Canvasbacks, Lesser Scaups, Ring-necked Ducks, Common Goldeneyes, Trumpeter Swans, Redheads, American Coots, Wood Duck, Gadwall and good numbers of Rusty and Brewer's Blackbirds. Great sightings!

Thursday, I noticed Wood Ducks and Hooded Mergansers in small ponds on the way home from work. They have been spotted earlier along the rivers but are now starting to move inland as ponds begin to open up. I was thinking Loons should be close behind when I saw a report from Rochester. Gael reported the first Common Loon I have heard of this season. Since they need lots of open water to take off we don't typically see them until ice out. They often arrive the exact day the ice disappears off lakes. On the same drive home I got a wonderful look at my first of the year (for Minnesota) Turkey Vulture feeding on a small animal on the side of the road.

Friday, Kirk in Rochester reported a flock of Cormorants (double crested I assume) on Silver Lake. This is the first report I've seen of cormorants. John in Carver County sent in some eary reports of American Wigeon, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Great Egret, and Herring Gulls. Expect more of these to show up around the metro next week.

Saturday, Elizabeth in Hugo reported a Belted Kingfisher. and Sunday were nice days. I headed down to Curtis Field in Falcon Heights to play with my son and a Killdeer circled overhead much of the time while Black-capped Chickadees checked out possible nesting sites including an old Bluebird house. John in Carver County again turned in great reports, a Western Meadowlark and a Bonaparte's Gull. For sure first of the year reports for both. Fellow Naturalist Paul Smithson went for a walk along the St. Croix in Stillwater on Saturday and saw both a Common Loon and Great Egret.

Sunday, Deanne reported the first Yellow-bellied Sap Sucker of the year in here yard in Burnsville. Sapsuckers tend to show up at the same time as the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds so this was an early bird. Most of the Ruby-throated hummingbirds are still south of Missouri. Dan Tallman spotted another Common Loon at Lake Byllesby as well as a Red-breasted Merganser. There was also a report of Ruddy Ducks in Carver County. Tim reported good numbers of Red-breasted Mergansers on Lake Harriet in Minneapolis as well. While there he spotted the first of the year Black-crowned Night Heron and Hermit Thrushes in the Robert's Bird Sanctuary. Those were the first reports of both species in the Metro.

This week:
Watch for Bufflehead coming to local ponds and lakes. I've seen only a hand full of reports from just south of the metro but their numbers should increase this week. With them will come increased numbers of other waterfowl. April is World Astronomy month so get out there this first week of April and enjoy the night sky. You can download the free program Stellarium to have your own virtual planetarium. You can get an exact view of what will be in the sky every night. Watch for smaller lakes to be completely ice free by the end of the week with temperatures in the mid 50 degrees all week. Deeper, colder lakes will hold ice longer but even they won't be much match for the warmer weather. It shouldn't get below freezing all week, even at night.