Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday Phenology: September 26, 2011

Posted by Kirk
I, for one, am having trouble getting up in the morning. Anyone else notice how late the sun is rising? The sun rose at 7:04 AM this morning and will set at 7:03 PM  giving us almost exactly 12 hours of day and night. This brings up an interesting point. Is today the equinox?  We tend to think of the equinox as the date with equal hours of light and darkness. This isn't true. The equinox, which was three days ago, is the day when the earth's axis is tilted neither towards nor away from the sun. The day of equal light and darkness is technically called the equilux but the day this happens depends on your latitude. So, happy equilux to all of you who live on or near the 45th parallel!  We're losing about 3 minutes of sunlight per day so that means this Monday is 22 minutes shorter than last week's. Make the best use of the light.

Your Phenology week in Review:

Monday as I drove to work I counted 150 geese flying over Snelling Ave in Roseville. These birds are not technically migrating they are staging. They group up in the small lake behind the MN-DOT transportation department building at the intersection of Hwy 36 and Snelling Ave N. The lake may also be part of Cedarholm golf course. The geese spend the night on the water and then fly to the corn fields at the University of Minnesota's St. Paul campus by day to fatten up. The numbers of geese seem to grow every day. At work we also had the first bird banding of the season. There were 63 birds caught and a total of 21 different species. Here's the list of what's hanging around or migrating through.

Chestnut-sided warbler 2
Magnolia warbler 1
Nashville warbler 6
Tennessee warbler 3
Common yellowthroat 2
Black and white warbler 1
Myrtle warbler 2
Orange-crowned warbler 1
Western palm warbler 10
Ovenbird 2
Eastern phoebe 2
Black-capped chickadee 8
Ruby crowned kinglet 1
Downy woodpecker 2
Song sparrow 1
Swainson's thrush 1
White-throated sparrow 7
Gray catbird 8
Rose-breated grosbeak 1
American robin 1

Tuesday was a wildly windy day. In the last hour of the day we decided to try to do some monarch tagging at work. Some readers may have seen the monarch tagging video I posted during the week. We caught about 25 monarchs in the nets but some escaped as we tried to catch more. In the end, we had 18 we were able to tag and release.

Wednesday morning I noticed that there seem to be a lot more crows around. Maybe it is because tey are staring to form their larger winter groups. It will be something to watch for. At work we had the second banding of the year and caught the following birds.

American redstart 2
Chestnut-sided warbler 2
Magnolia warbler 3
Nashville warbler 5
Tennessee warbler 3
Common yellowthroat 2
Orange-crowned warbler 1
Northern waterthrush 2
Green heron 1
Eastern phoebe 1
Black-capped chickadee 8
Ruby crowned kinglet 3
Downy woodpecker 2
Swamp sparrow 1
Song sparrow 3
White-throated sparrow 2
Scarlet tanager 1
Gray catbird 2
Rose-breated grosbeak 1
Brewers blackbird 1

banding numbers were a little smaller.

American redstart 1
Chestnut-sided warbler 2
Magnolia warbler 1
Nashville warbler 1
Tennessee warbler 2
Ovenbird 3
Black-capped chickadee 3
Ruby crowned kinglet 3
Blue-headed vireo 1
Song sparrow 2
Swamp sparrow 3
Gray cheeked thrush 1
White-throated sparrow 5
House finch 3
Gray catbird 3

Friday I noticed my asters are finally starting to bloom in the garden. It is always so fun to have that end of the summer color arrive.

Saturday I taught a birthday party for a Kindergartner at work and decided it would be fun to try to catch some more monarchs. There were still a few hanging around. I saw four of them and was able to catch two. We tagged them and sent them on their way. I taught canoeing in the afternoon and watched three young bald eagles hanging out at the lake. A turkey vulture came migrating through and the young eagles caused a ruckus and chased it a little when it swooped too close to where they were. The trees were about 5% changed on the lake but it was sunny so hopefully we'll see more color soon. We seem behind on our colors this fall and my suspicion is that the lack of sunlight is to blame. We need sun to create the anthocyanins in the leaves that give us the bright reds.

Speaking of sunshine, Sunday was a beautiful sunny day. We slept in and then hiked along the Mississippi at Fort Snelling State Park. The trees were still fairly green down at the river but you could tell things were drying out. We ate a late lunch outside and probably finished around 3:00. It was getting chilli by then. This fall sun certainly doesn't pack the heating power it did in the summer and I've noticed it chills down pretty quick in the afternoons now.

What to expect this week:

I'm looking for color this week. We're finally getting some sunshine which is doubly important for fall color. Sunlight helps the trees produce sugar though photosynthesis. Sugar is a key component needed to make the anthocyanins necessary for the reds and purples we see in the fall. The process that creates anthocyanins is also driven by sunlight. I think this is the week we'll really start to see a big change in the trees. Keep your fingers crossed, we seem to be a little behind schedule.


Anonymous said...

I love these posts! I've recently started posting weekly phenology updates on my own blog - they're technically part of a required project for a graduate class I'm taking, but I'm enjoying doing them so much I keep forgetting that I'm also getting class credit for them! For the project I have to return to the same exact spot and record changes, but once the semester is over I might switch to a more general weekly list of observations like what you do.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and I was going to add and forgot - almost all the warblers I've been seeing pass through here (east of you, on the WI/MI border) have been Black-throated Greens, so I'm intrigued that they're totally missing from your tallies.

Kirk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kirk said...

That's cool you are seeing so many black-throated greens. I rarely see them. I'm sure the great lakes effect their migration patterns so they are funneled into some areas and funneled out of others.